By Mark Gromen
Yo Vinny, AARP Metal Night in Jersey, what with a trio of classic US thrashers banging in out in Atlantic City, while less than an hour north, ACCEPT and KREATOR were also onstage. Gotta love that tour routing! Thus with split allegiance, many old-school metalheads headed to the House Of Blues, located in the Showboat Casino for the final night of the month long tour. Fans and bands alike might be older but wider (with less hair), myself included, yet these bands can still teach the younger generation a thing or two about playing live!
Had seen both co-headliners put on enjoyable, but abbreviated shows this summer: ANTHRAX on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem fest (here
), TESTAMENT at Wacken (here
), . No such stage disparities tonight, each afforded 70 minutes. Old BW&BK friends DEATH ANGEL kicked things off. The next day, they were to begin their own headlining tour, where they're playing The Ultra-Violence debut in its entirety. Since this wasn't "their" show, the set in Jersey was more of a career spanning retrospective, hitting high points with 'Mistress Of Pain', a 'Thrown To The Wolves' finale and that classic, aforementioned title track. The remainder of the set came off Relentless Retribution, including the 'I Choose The Sky' opener, 'Truce', and the titular selection. Working both sides of the stage, Mark Osegueda whipped his pruned dreadlocks (still hanging to his knees!) throughout the evening, singing from crouched and impossibly bent positions. Just in case there was anyone unfamiliar with the band, he announced, "We're from San Frisco. We play thrash metal and have been doing so for a long time." Guitarist Rob Cavestany now has long flowing hair, similar to the old days. 'Claws In So Deep' began with a rainbow of red, yellow and purple lights. Osegueda left the purple and white lit stage for the start of 'The Ultra-Violence', the musicians churning out the noise. Although the final night, the band was energetic, particularly Cavestany, who seems reinvigorated. If you have the opportunity to see one of the headlining shows, go!
Expanded, but similar to the show witnessed in Germany, Testament included a healthy dose of their latest, Dark Roots Of Earth, early and finished with classics. In fact, the first four songs off the new platter were aired almost uninterrupted, 'The New Order' backed with 'The Preacher' breaking up the sequence, following the opening 'Rise Up'. In T-shirt emblazoned with ghastly Indian chief in headdress and black leather biker vest (with "Chief" name tag), the massive Chuck Billy played air guitar, stuck out his tongue and bellowed his voice from hell, clearly having a good time. Since there was no hospitality for them backstage, the Death Angel guys came out into the audience to watch their Bay Area neighbors, and score a round of drinks on BraveWords.com. Since coming back to the band, guitarist Alex Skolnik understand the importance of eye contact and interacting with the band. 'More Than Meets The Eye' was highlighted by blues and reds. 'Into The Pit' saw Skolnik and fellow stringbender Eric Peterson trading riffs, center stage, under a hail of red and white lights, while 'Practice What You Preach' was lit in aqua and greens. The proper set concluded with 'Over The Wall' (Billy mentioning it as their first video). Unlike most venues, where that tune is a non-sanctioned call to stage-divers, there's no crowd surfing in AC. Lots of other vices: gambling, drinking, prostitution, but no jumping over the barricade! The encore was a bit strange, featuring a pair off The Gathering (certainly not a definitive Testament release): the nearly death metal heaviness of 'D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)' and quixotic '3 Days In Darkness'. Over missing numbers like 'Disciples Of The Watch', 'Electric Crown', 'Souls Of Black' or anything else from the debut? The finale, was a crushing 'The Formation Of Damnation', sending the faithful away happy.
I have to believe that during drummer Charlie Benante's absence, mainstay guitarist Scott Ian and re-discovered singer Joey Belladonna grew closer. Translates to the stage too. Beneath a backdrop of the Worship Music artwork and two encircled pentagram scrims, Anthrax storm through a trio of biggies: a lightning storm of strobes for 'Caught In A Mosh', 'Antisocial and 'Indians', in succession, following the opener 'Fight 'Em Til You Can't' (one of four off the new CD). Belladonna wore a black band T-shirt (with '81, the year of their inception, on the back), throwing horns and getting the crowd to sing along repeatedly. Continuing the trend of their last few tours, where one Fistful Of Metal number gets aired, was nice to see 'Deathrider' back in the set (after too long an absence) even if some in the audience seemed stumped. In his trademark knee-length shorts, the bald, goateed guitarist worked his corner of the stage, rarely getting close to the center, preferring to skank and stomp in circles. Even introducing the green and red lit 'Deathrider', Ian did so from the mic in front of him. After 'In My World' they left the stage, a bit early by most estimations, but the four-song encore 'Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)', 'Got The Time', 'Madhouse' and 'I Am The Law' was like a several hundred strong karaoke party, a smile crossing Belladonna's face more than once, as he thrust his arms overhead. Ian and bassist Frank Bello walked out first, nonchalantly, gradually joined by the rest of the band, as blue lights were peppered with flashing strobes, although most of 'NFL' was tainted red. 'Madhouse' proved prophetic and the singer really didn't need to be plugged in for the 'I Am The Law' finale, the crowd knowing every word.
Check out more photos from Atlantic City here