Anthrax at First Avenue, 4/4/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Metal Alliance Tour III
featuring Anthrax, Exodus, High on Fire, Municipal Waste and Holy Grail
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, April 4, 2013
In the live music world there are two major ingredients: nostalgia and catharsis. There was a heaping helping of both last night in the form of a sweaty, swirling mass perpetuated by this year's Metal Alliance tour.
While the main attraction of headliners Anthrax and their legendary counterparts Exodus no doubt brought the older crowd out on a school night, it was the droves of metallic youth that kept the mosh pit in constant motion all night. With relative newcomers Holy Grail, Municipal Waste and stoner metal staples High on Fire, the variety and spectacle of all five acts quite effectively united the generations of metal fans for an evening of monstrous riffs and spectacular speed-driven music. It was the powerful combination of aggression and volume that treated the sold out Mainroom to an endlessly pleasurable headbanging experience.
Slideshow: Anthrax at First Avenue
"We're fucking High on Fire!" grunted a shirtless guitarist and front man Matt Pike ripping right into the thunderous "Rumors of War" that set the tone for the Oakland power trio's abbreviated fiery set.
With echoing howls, mounds of power chords and drummer Des Kensel's propulsive talents and rapid-fire cymbal work, High on Fire cut to the chase and barely took a breather between songs. Leading right into Pike's snaking leads of "Frost Hammer" and the 2/4 punch of "Fertile Green" the singer's Les Paul took much abuse with pounding progressions.
The slow, sludging groove mixed with Pike's signature caterwauling makes High on Fire stand out above the rest of their class and had rows of headbangers in arms and flailing with one another in unison. Pike voiced his appreciation, "Thanks for coming out and thanks to all the other bands!" He then engulfed his guitar with scrambled shredding and the AC/DC-like intro of "Snakes for the Divine," eventually wrapping up their short but sweet contribution for the evening with a squall of feedback.
Thoroughly tenderized after the previous three acts, the room had filled to capacity as inexplicably Prince's "Purple Rain" came through the speakers with the screen rising to show the five current members of '80s thrash titans, Exodus.
Having not seen the band since I was a teenager, it was hard to make out who was still a member of the band. But as would be revealed, long standing original drummer Tom Hunting and guitarist Gary Holt have carried the torch of the Bay Area band's colossal sound three decades running and they sounded rip-roaring amazing.
"Minneapolis, How are you doing? We were like 'Holy shit, this was where Purple Rain was filmed! We got to use that as our intro tonight!" confessed lead singer Rob Dukes. "'Jungle Love' would have been my second choice!"
Brandishing their highly influential twin lead harmonies and intense brand of speed metal, Exodus had the crowd enraptured and moving faster through each of their blistering classics.
"We came here to teach you a lesson in violence!" Dukes instructed as Holt and co-lead Lee Altus exchanged lines amid the precision double bass drums that propelled "A Lesson in Violence." Leaping through Exodus' catalog of annihilating anthems, the band never let up and treated the crowd with "War is My Shepard," "Blacklisted" and ultimately a pair from their signature '85 debut Bonded By Blood with "Piranha" and the title track.
It was the band's MTV near-hit "Toxic Waltz" that had the crowd in a raving frenzy setting up walls of bodies facing one another and slamming face first towards each other in shocking metal revelry.
"You guys fucking rule!" Dukes would sigh as he thanked the crowd and passed out set lists to those taking the most punishment up front closing out the set with "Good Riddance."
Finally as the screen rose to show the enormous and unmistakable Anthrax logo the band fiercely took the stage and delivered an enormous set of their own.
As was anticipated Anthrax have followed the current trend of performing a classic work in its entirety for this tour, playing their 1987 masterpiece, Among the Living. The crowd who at this point had grown to a groundswell with fists and devil horns in the air couldn't be any the more eager to witness the thrash veterans deliver the goods.
Wringing out the vocals, lead singer Joey Belladonna and guitarist Scott Ian incited the eventual sing-along for the title track as the volume and sheer intensity of Anthrax rattled every inch and fiber of the monstrosity that was now the mosh pit. Churning in rhythm with replacement drummer, Jon Dette's triggering and tommy gun-like relentlessness "Caught In a Mosh" further stirred up the audience giving the quintessential record a renewed strength.
Photos by Erik Hess
With everyone in the packed house shouting along and raising fists in the air there was a truly communal and shared inwardness with the band that amplified the music as much as the giant stacks on stage were doing all night. But alas, for Anthrax it wasn't good enough.
"You can do better than that on your birthday, First Avenue!" Belladonna teased the sweaty mass as Ian and the band's latest addition, guitarist Jonathan Donais played the unmistakable riffs of "I Am the Law," the band's ode to their comic book hero, Judge Dredd.
"26 years of Among the Living, can you believe it?!" shouted Belladonna, giving the pit a short break. "I imagine there's some skeletons in the closet!" as the band broke into the next and final song from the first side of the famed LP.
Moving into some newer Anthrax material that further featured Donais' understated guitar work and bassist Frank Bello on "I'm Alive" from 2011's Worship Music. Guitarist Ian also took a moment to plug the band's newest EP. "We wanted to record a bunch of songs we wished we would've written. You can sing along to this one, if you don't know the words at least sing 'Oy,'" leading the band through AC/DC's "TNT" which really got fists pounding.
Eventually Anthrax would return to the flip side of Among the Living as Belladonna, not showing his age one bit gave props, "I don't know why I love Minnesota so much. Yes I do actually, I just really really love the Minnesota Vikings." which not surprisingly elicited a mixed reaction from the steaming crowd. "Are you fucking ready to war dance, Minnesota?!" he pleaded as Ian and Donais broke into "Indians" whose breakdown and pounding drums turned the entire Mainroom floor into a roiling cypher of bodies.
"Now it's time to separate the boys from the men, First Avenue. Now we see who really knows the record. It's time for the deep tracks," Scott Ian joked. "Nothing's really changed. When we recorded this song everyone was freaked out about the Russians dropping bombs on us. Now we're worried about some crazy North Koreans dropping bombs." Then they ripped into "One World."
After succinct versions of "A.D.I./Horror of it All" and "Imitation of Life" Anthrax finished up Among the Living and returned for an encore with the perhaps the first rock/rap song "I Am the Man" and their unforgettable cover of Trust's "Antisocial" that ultimately had everyone in the packed house, despite fatigue, shouting at the top of their lungs.
Sort of a fan for life and personally very nostalgic for me as Anthrax were the first show I'd seen at First Avenue on their Spreading the Disease tour in 1986 when I was 12. Totally freaked out, my Mom sat in the car outside the club waiting the whole night. Thanks again Mom!
The Crowd: All caught in the mosh.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I love these shows! It's always the least pretentious crowd at First Avenue ever."
Random Notebook Dump: Had this been 20 years ago I'd have been there for the doors opening and sat through the 5 hours of metal but I just don't have it in me these days. Definitely recomend all the bands as this tour is not one to be missed.
High On Fire
Rumors of War
Madness of an Architect
Snakes for the Divine
The Ballad of Leonard and Charles
A Lesson in Violence
War Is My Shepherd
Bonded by Blood
The Toxic Waltz
Strike of the Beast
Among the Living
Caught in a Mosh
I Am the Law
A Skeleton in the Closet
In the End
March of the S.O.D.
'Among the Living' B-Side
A.D.I. / Horror of It All
Imitation of Life
I'm the Man
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