House of Blues Boston February 5, 2023 by JD Cohen
Anthrax just wrapped up their 40th Anniversary tour, which kicked off in Mansfield, Massachusetts on September 8, 2021 and concluded at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA. The tour was originally scheduled to begin in 2020 but had to be postponed due to Covid.
Formed in Queens, New York in 1981, Anthrax has been at the forefront of the heavy metal genre for over four decades, and their influence on metal cannot be overstated. They were one of the first bands to combine elements of punk rock and hardcore with thrash metal, creating a sound that was entirely their own. Their technical proficiency and musical innovation helped set the standard for future generations of metal bands. Anthrax has remained relevant and have been touring continuously since their start.
The band’s sense of humor and willingness to experiment also helped pave the way for other bands to explore different styles and genres. Anthrax’s collaboration with Public Enemy was a groundbreaking moment in music history, bringing together two very different genres and cultures. The band’s willingness to push boundaries and explore new musical territory has influenced countless musicians who have followed in their footsteps. Their influence can be heard today in the music of popular metal bands including Pantera, Lamb of God, and Slipknot, among others.
They released their debut album, “Fistful of Metal,” in 1984, which received critical acclaim and helped establish the band as a force to be reckoned with in the metal scene. However, the band’s lineup went through several changes over the years, with vocalist Neil Turbin leaving shortly after the release of their debut.
It was not until the arrival of vocalist Joey Belladonna in 1984 and the release of their second album, “Spreading the Disease,” in 1985 that Anthrax truly found their signature sound. Belladonna’s powerful vocals and the band’s intricate guitar work helped create a unique sound that set them apart from their thrash metal peers. Their third album, “Among the Living,” released in 1987, is often considered their masterpiece and is regarded as one of the greatest thrash metal albums of all time.
The 40th anniversary tour featured Belladonna and the band’s classic lineup whose members have all been playing together since 2013. The current band members are Jonathan Donais (guitar), founding members Scott Ian (guitar) and Charlie Benante (drums), as well as longtime members Frank Bello (bass) and Joey Belladonna (vocals). The final leg of the US tour included two bands along for the ride, supporting 80’s California thrash pioneers Exodus and former lead guitarist for Ozzy Ozbourne Zakk Wylde with his heavy groove metal band Black Label Society.
On February 5th the tour made a stop at Boston’s House of Blues and the venue was packed with a variety of metal fans who came to see not only Anthrax but the supporting bands. Both fans of Exodus and BLS (Black Label Society) could be seen in large numbers.
The band Exodus opened the show and was the most unexpected surprise of the evening. Delivering a furious, no frills, blistering set of thrash metal that included classic songs like Piranha, Toxic Waltz, Lesson in Violence and one of the greatest thrash songs of all time, Bonded by Blood. Guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus, bassist Jack Gibson, drummer Tom Hunting, and lead vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza all looked to be having a grand time on stage and the set concluded with the song “Strike of the Beast.” The band’s finale included bringing a 12 or 13 year old kid on stage, strapping a guitar on him and letting him share in the fun.
Zakk Wylde and BLS followed with a much larger and grander stage performance and a more traditional style of metal music. As the lead guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter for Black Label Society, Wylde has established himself as one of the most talented and innovative guitarists in the genre, known for his powerful riffs, blistering solos, and unique playing style.
The most notable aspects of Wylde’s music is his use of heavy, grooving guitar riffs, often built around simple, repetitive chord progressions. Played with intensity and precision Wylde’s riffs become incredibly compelling and memorable. In addition to his riff-driven songwriting, Wylde is also known for his virtuosic guitar solos. His solos are often complex and technically demanding but also played with emotion and passion. Wylde’s playing is complemented by his powerful vocals, which range from soulful, bluesy crooning to full-throated screams.
Another defining aspect of Wylde’s music is his use of guitar tone. He is known for his signature “bullseye” Les Paul guitar and his use of high-gain distortion, which gives his guitar tone a thick, heavy sound. Wylde is also capable of creating a wide range of tones, from clean, bluesy sounds to searing leads and crushing power chords.
Like each of the bands performing on the Anthrax 40th Anniversary tour, Wylde has been playing a similar set list from show to show. The one hour plus set only slowed briefly mid way through when Wylde set his guitar aside in favor of a piano for the song “In this River”, a tribute to the late Pantera band members Darrell “Dimebage Darrell” Abbott and Vinnie Paul. The highlight of the set was an explosive, balloon and pyrotechnics filled “Trampled Down Below” and closed with rousing versions of BLS crowd favorites “Suicide Messiah” and “Stillborn”.
After a short intermission the lights went off and a curtain came down at the front of the stage. A video was projected on the curtain introducing the band. Although the video only lasts about 10 minutes, it seems to take forever as musicians and celebrities including Gene Simmons, Keanu Reeves, Henry Rollins, Rick Neilson, Dee Snider, Rob Zombie, Chuck D and Slash, discuss the magic, excitement and influence of Anthrax. The intensity of the anticipation is almost too much to bare, especially for anyone who has never seen the band before.
The band kicks off the 12 song set with the song “Among the Living” from the 1987 album by the same name. Although they have played the same set for virtually the entire tour, the music sounds fresh and powerful and the band is tremendously energetic and enthusiastic on stage. Guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Frank Bellow rarely stops moving thought the entire concert. Lead singer Joey Belladonna also has tremendous energy, and his voice is in great form. It’s easy to understand through his delivery why Anthrax has such tremendous crossover appeal among various metal fans. Although the music of Anthrax is played at breakneck speed, Belladonna’s vocals are more melodic, with a more classic 80s metal feel than the typical growling and barking of thrash metal bands like Megadeth, Slayer and even Metallica.
It can’t be overstated how tight and sonically proficient Anthrax is delivering their classic hits and some of their most notable material. Most of the songs they played dated back to the early and formative days of the band but sounded freshly impactful. The set included Anthrax’s most recognizable and most often played songs, “Antisocial”, “Caught in the Mosh”, “Madhouse”, “I am the Law”, and “Keep it in the Family”. The mood at the filled House of Blues was very similar to the Circle Jerks concert several month earlier in the same room. A joyous mayhem mixed with a strong sense of nostalgia pervaded. The mosh pit never let up and bodies surfed above the crown from the very start of the show until the last notes of ”Indians” rang through the venue.
If Anthrax set out to pay tribute to their legacy and celebrate their continued relevance in the music industry, they certainly accomplished their goal. It’s hard to imagine anyone left unsatisfied or unimpressed with a band that has created some of the most iconic music in rock and roll history.
Among the Living
Caught in a Mosh
Metal Thrashing Mad
Keep It in the Family
Antisocial (Trust cover)
I Am the Law
In the End
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
Bring the Noise (Public Enemy cover)
Black Label Society Setlist
The Beginning… At Last
Destroy & Conquer
Heart of Darkness
A Love Unreal
You Made Me Want to Live
In This River
Trampled Down Below
Set You Free
Fire It Up
The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
A Lesson in Violence
Blood In, Blood Out
Bonded by Blood
The Toxic Waltz
Strike of the Beast
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