Anthrax, Exodus, Municipal Waste – Live Review – Fillmore Silver Spring 4/14/13

Metal Alliance Tour – w/ Municipal Waste and Exodus

Anthrax sure don’t seem to be afraid of hard work. This must have been the 3rd or 4th time I’ve seen them in the last 18 months and they played this same stage at the Silver Spring Fillmore about 16 months back, supporting Testament. The fact that the venue was packed (but not quite full, let’s be honest… but it was a Sunday…) just goes to affirm that Anthrax are still a strong draw. However, the overall bill for the Metal Alliance Tour is strong all the way down the order, which opened with Holy Grail, followed by Shadows Fall, Municipal Waste and Exodus, and topped off with Anthrax. Now I admit I know absolutely nothing about Holy Grail and Shadows Fall, so aside from noting that Holy Grail impressed us enough to buy both CDs they had on their merch stand, I’ll concentrate here on the final three.

This show was as near a home-game for Municipal Waste (MW), short of being in Richmond VA itself, so there was a good turnout of MW fans ready to thrash it up. Keeping it honest here, this was my first time seeing or even hearing anything from the band, but I had previously met Ryan (guitar) at a Death Angel show late last year and had him tagged as a “good guy” from the get-go. The band didn’t disappoint. From the moment they hit the stage it was clear they were there to have a good time themselves, and this naturally spread to the crowd without any hint of resistance – I’ve seen the band labeled as a “party thrash band” and from what I saw that’s not an unfair label.

I didn’t keep a close eye on the set list but recall songs with fun titles such as “The Thrashing of the Christ”, “You’re Cut-off”, “Beer Pressure”, “Headbanger’s Face Rip” and “Born To Party” (disclaimer here… I am certainly missing at least an equal number of songs, and may have some mixed up in my thrashed up head). No matter what, they were tight, made me laugh between songs, and bang my head during. Good metal. They also got a pretty big ol’ mosh pit going, which is certainly not my thing (too old for that game), but everyone taking part seemed to have riot. Definitely worth seeing again.

Next up was Exodus, another band that amazingly I have never seen before – good grief these guys have been together since 1980, that was some nifty avoiding on my part! I have no idea how that happened, but I can assure you it was not intentional. Now I have a lot of respect for Gary Holt as a guitarist, and I was lucky enough to see Slayer last year (Mayhem Fest) with Gary standing in for Jeff Hanneman, with Gary doing an excellent job – Slayer were awesome. Another thing – I definitely need to catch up on the Exodus back-catalog.

Anyway here they were in front of me, and the set opened with “The Ballard Of Leonard and Charles” which was the only song they played from the most recent Exodus album Exhibit B: The Human Condition. The remainder of the set was drawn from the older material with three tracks from their debut Bonded By Blood (1985), these being “A Lesson In Violence”, “Bonded By Blood” and “Strike Of The Beast”, “War Is My Shepard” and “Blacklist” from Tempo of the Damned (2004) and “Fabulous Disaster” and “The Toxic Waltz” from Fabulous Disaster (1989). All in all this was a tight set that seemed to be just spot on with the fans.

My impression from the moment they hit the stage was Exodus were here to deliver and were tight with everything sounding sharp. Almost immediately the mosh pit was in mad thrashing form and it was full scale assault all round, with much crowd surfing to boot. Having heard some mutterings before, I was paying attention to the vocals, but there was nothing to complain about here with Rob Dukes delivering a vicious performance. It was just right. I can’t really point any particular highlight, but the overall impression for me was like some turbocharged earth-moving machine that was cranked up and running at full speed ahead – crushing all before it. I really enjoyed Exodus and have them on my list as a must-see-again.

Now it was headliner time, and while The Fillmore had certainly been less than full earlier in the evening, I guess the bars and restaurants in the locale had emptied out, and the venue was now comfortably filled. Anthrax had decided that the 26th anniversary was a good point to celebrate the release of Among The Living, which is one of my all time favorite Anthrax records, but I’m still not sure why they choose this moment to do this? Was it a reflection on missing the 25th anniversary or a sign of impatience they couldn’t wait until 30? Anyway, the intent was to play the entire album through the course of the night’s set and ultimately that was exactly what they did, though not without interleaving the odd other track in here and there. Take a look at the photo below for the set list!

There have been some ‘ructions’ in the Anthrax line-up over the last few months with Rob Caggiano (guitar) leaving in early January. Despite words from the band indicating there are no hard feelings, the fact he first stated his departure was to allow him to focus on producing was soon turned on it’s head with him joining Volbeat a short four weeks later. On reading the story it could be entirely coincidental and just a result of circumstance, but it all seems very convenient. Anyway Anthrax quickly reacted and recruited Jon Donais (who is the full-time Shadows Fall guitarist and founder member of that band) as a temporary replacement for the tour dates. Quite what this all has to do with the addition of Shadows Fall for the last leg of the Metal Alliance tour and the dropping of High On Fire I don’t know, but it all seems a little iffy to me… The ructions don’t stop there in the Anthrax camp, as Charlie Benante (drums) was reported to be unable to tour Australia in February, with the band citing “personal reasons”. To cover this loss, Jon Dette (of Testament/Slayer fame) was brought in to fill the drum stool. How Charlie is now back in on the drum stool, but it seems a bit confusing…

As soon as the first cords of “Among The Living” rang out, two things were clear to me; the first was indeed that album is excellent and a lot of fun, and second Anthrax were determined to have a blast delivering it live. I have always been a fan of Joey Belladonna and tonight he was right on song and commanded the stage with a ton of energy and presence. Scott Ian of course is iconic in look and performance, and was clearly having a great time, as was Frank Bello on bass, but what of new boys Jon Donais and Charlie Benante? Starting with Charlie, his first appearance was standing on the shells of his double bass drums saluting the crowd; so check that box, here’s a fella set to deliver and deliver he did! Turning now to Jon Donais, who happened to be directly in front of my second row position on stage-right, I can’t really say the same thing. To be clear, Jon’s playing is exemplary and I believe he nailed every solo and song. But… was he enjoying it? Well, put it this way; he was rather serious. I understand the desire to get the playing right, but there’s definitely a trade-off in entertainment, and he came over a bit somber. This wasn’t the first or second show in the tour, so I would have thought any nerves that might have served as an excuse would be well dispersed. Anyway, not to dwell, a smile here or there would have gone a long way.

So the band was off and running and basically played all of ‘side 1’ of the LP, which was a pure riot to see and hear. There was a (slightly less) significant mosh pit, lots of crowd surfing and loads of signing along. See below for a picture of the set list. Now, the latest CD release from Anthrax is the “Anthems” EP, which contains six cover songs, but oddly they are all played nearly exactly the same as the originals, which for me is not the most exciting approach to a set of cover songs – if I want to hear the originals, I can. I would much prefer to hear “Anthrax-ed” versions of the songs, but that is not what they did. Odd. So from this recording we got a version of AC/DC’s “TNT” which is a great song. It was fun live and I took a recording with the iPhone. Assuming the audio is half-decent, I will post it to YouTube.

Following “Madhouse” it was back to Among and they tore through side 2 of the LP up to “Horror of it All”, at which point they snuck in another cover, this time Joe Jackson’s “Got The Time” (which is much more an Anthrax song now), finishing off ‘Among’ with “Imitation of Life”. We were treated to “I’m The Man” to close the set, followed by a well planned encore of “Antisocial” which is yet another cover song…

No matter what, I really enjoyed the set, and despite my gripes regarding Jon Donais demeanor, I had a blast. Quite sensibly, everything was done and dusted by just after 11PM, which was smart for a Sunday evening show.  So my score for the show was a solid, but not crazy, 7.5/10. Worth seeing if the show runs through your town, but not one to necessarily drive 300 miles to go see.

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Anthrax setlist – 4/14/13

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Municipal Waste giving some!

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Exodus

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Scott Ian = METAL

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Anthrax in a pretty shade of blue…

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