June 3, 2018, 10 months ago

Mark Gromen

gallery heavy metal slayer behemoth anthrax lamb of god testament

A cynic would say the other four bands were lining up, to ascend the throne abdicated by Slayer. Wiser heads realize both Behemoth (my choice for likely successor) and Lamb Of God supported the Reigning champs last year, even before their announced retirement, while contemporaries, Anthrax and Testament are stylistically a far cry from the Araya/King clan. Here's a brief synopsis of June 2nd, in Holmdel, NJ.

TESTAMENT: Strange to see a band whom I've witnessed play to 40-60,000, at Wacken, relegated to a 35 warm-up slot, with only about half the seated bowl occupied. Then again, all are headliners today. Seven songs almost evenly split between the ‘80s and modern day. "Rise Up" sees green lit Chuck Billy, on the central riser, between two of the vertically erupting smoke columns. "Electric Crown" is the first oldie aired. The two guitarists, Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, get together, of a rare moment, on "The Pale King". As smoke plumes shoot skyward, the concluding "Disciples Of The Watch" sees Billy continue to traverse the stage. His final roar of "disciples" echoing as the band leave the stage, but not before the beefy frontman goes to the stage edge, to distribute some souvenir picks (what does he care, they're not his!).

BEHEMOTH: Like Testament, Nergal and his Polish black metal machine mix old and new material, beginning with "Ov Fire And The Void". Despite temps in the ‘90s, the cowl wearing corpse-painted cancer survivor/guitarist/singer/mastermind is as frenetic as the description I just authored. He moves about the stage (up and down on the risers), interacts with the audience and still has time to return to his double snake adorned podium, to deliver the lyrics. Nice to see the blue lit "Demigod" return to the set, drummer Inferno pin wheeling his hair, as he plays. "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer" follows, melodic, but heavy as Hell (an ode to its denizen). Strobe flash in time to the thunderous drums. Tailgaters must be hungry, or trying to stake out a spot for Anthrax. While the seating bowl is still half filled, the lawn is densely packed. Bassist Orion sits blood (planned), as Behemoth heads towards the end. Know it's about presentation, but after such a ripping start, the slower, orchestrated "O Father O Satan O Sun!" finale (especially for a crowd that's not 100% cure of your material anyway) is anti-climactic. Would have ended with another raging number. 

ANTHRAX: Hard to believe but Joey Belladonna claimed the NYC natives never played PNC Arts Center before. Anthrax opted almost exclusively for the hits (whether or not they wrote them). "Caught In A Mosh" getting everyone in party mode, from the word go. Surprised to see "Got The Time" in a seven song set, but not as shocked as the beer drinking fan who got a mid-song selfie with Joey, when the singer ran into the wings. "Madhouse" is a massive sing-along, crowd handling the titular chorus. When Scott Ian goes center stage, for "I Am The Law", Belladonna steals picks from the guitarist's mic stand and flicks them into the audience. It's three across the stage, with "other guitarist" Jon Donais taking the lead. Gene Hoglan, who already performed with Testament, was subbing, on low profile drums (no cymbals, so you can see his face). Ian talks, prior to "Evil Twin", the lone inclusion from the last 28 years, as Joey gets everyone to throw fists into the air. Bassist Frank Bello is out front, leading the charge, for "Antisocial". As he gallops and leaps about, for the closing "Indians", Belladonna dons a baseball cap, but it has nothing to do with Cleveland.

LAMB OF GOD: Doing themselves no favors w/ photographers (already restricted to the soundboard) with deep reds for opening "Omerta". Not really supporting any release, strong set of established favorites. Stage arranged with staircase ascending to the pure American metal flag LOG has adopted. Up early in the running order, "Walk With Me In Hell" sees dreadlocked Randy Blythe frequently atop the wire cage riser, center stage. By the fourth song, it's dark enough that the Jumbotrons either side the stage, are visible. "Now You've Got Something To Die For" is emphasized with both hands, simultaneously, thrust overhead. First song into the encore, Blythe asks for a circle pit, on "Laid To Rest", despite concrete and seats in the arena and standing sardine-like out on the grassy lawn. "Redneck" finale was appropriately lit.

SLAYER: A full report is available on the main page of BraveWords.com Suffice to say that at some point someone will hopefully commit this fiery visual spectacle to film, to relive again and again, in the band's absence.  

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