Humanity Hallows Issue 5 Out Now
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By Kim McLelland
Veteran New York thrashers Anthrax still have what it takes to whip up a crowd, as they proved when they came to the Manchester Academy this week.
The gig was opened by The Raven Age, a band notable for being the band formed by George Harris, the son of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. While it’s true that their soaring vocals, melodic guitars and, at times, galloping rhythms are reminiscent of Maiden’s sound, they also have a modern twist with an almost alternative metal vibe and a sometimes melancholic feel.
But it was Anthrax who everyone came to see. From the moment Joey Belladonna, Scott Ian et al took to the stage, the room was packed with metal fans, eager to see the New Yorkers deliver their brand of melodic but heavy, socially conscious thrash metal. Last year’s album For All Kings was definitely a return to form for the band, following 2011’s frankly mediocre Worship Music.
They opened with ‘AIR’, the same song that starts off their 1985 album Spreading the Disease, and other material from the album also formed the core of the early part of Anthrax’s set. ‘AIR’, ‘Madhouse’ and ‘Medusa’ were all solid, enjoyable performances but the atmosphere really took off when the band launched into ‘Be All, End All’. The slow, heavy stomp of the song, together with a truly rousing, anthemic chorus, was a definite highlight of 1988’s State of Euphoria. It certainly worked its magic again here, working up the crowd to raise fists and devil horns in the air while joining in the infectious chant of the chorus.
What followed, though, was even better. After a short interval, during which the crowd got some much-needed refreshments from the bar, a ghoulish red light lit up the stage and the dramatic opening chords of ‘Among the Living’ announced the beginning of something truly wonderful. The atmosphere in the room was immediately palpable as this rip-roaring tune got the crowd fist pumping and head banging with joy and enthusiasm.
The band then played their classic 1987 Among the Living album in its entirety, albeit in a slightly different order than on the record. The crowd could not have been more receptive and appreciative of ‘Caught in a Mosh’, a thrash classic which notes the infamous sub-cultural phenomenon of moshing, and ‘One World’ was a satisfyingly energetic thrasher.
‘I am the Law’ saw audience participation, encouraged by the ever charismatic frontman Joey Belladonna. The killer riff and shout-along chorus of the song still feels like a thrilling shot of adrenaline. Particularly effective were the blue and red flashing lights during the breakdown, which, given the Judge Dredd theme of the song, seemed aptly reminiscent of police lights. The Among the Living track ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ was heavier than I remember, despite often being overlooked. However, it certainly struck a chord with me on the night.
Then came a truly special moment. I have always been a fan of ‘ADI/The Horror of it All’ and I was not disappointed. The slow stomp of the song was really heavy in the stop-start crunch of the breakdown. With the emotionally affecting lyrics about death and mortality, hatred and violence, it was every bit as glorious as the moment I first heard it.
‘Indians’ is one of the highlights from ‘Among the Living’, and the crowd lapped up those gloriously tribal rhythms and fighting lyrics. Almost the entire room had their hands raised in the air for the chorus.
Before launching into ‘Imitation of Life’, Scott Ian made the inevitable Trump comment: ”If anyone tries to take away your freedom as a human being, they’re an imitation of life.” The comment reminded us of how politically and socially prominent this band are, setting them apart from their thrash metal peers. The song itself was wonderful as always.
During the encore, they played ‘Antisocial’, with Belladonna again whipping up the crowd to singing along with the chant of “Anti-social”. Although a cover, it has nevertheless become a signature Anthrax tune.
Anthrax are as awesome as they have always been. Joey Belladonna, now 56 years of age, still has the charisma and energy that made him such an engaging frontman in the first place. The whole band have a great live presence, always making full use of the stage. Scott Ian’s recognisable bearded, grinning face also adds to the band’s undeniable charisma. Anthrax gigs still manage to stir up the crowd up into a frenzy, encouraging the audience to wave fists in the air and chant along with the lyrics. Thrash certainly isn’t dead, and is, in fact, undergoing a revival at the moment, with Anthrax still being among the best of the best.