Whatever possesses two 40-something males to drive three hours to the capital city of the wee kingdom of Denmark on a Monday evening, pick up an old mate on the way, and four hours later drive back home to catch next to no sleep before the next working day begins?
I’ll tell you what.
The 30th anniversary of an certain album called Among the Living by this band called Anthrax, that’s what! We’re so there and so ready to get chewed through the old school mill tonight and, as it will turn out, New York’s finest are ready to do the chewing.
Before that happens, the young British hopefuls The Raven Age have landed the supporting gig. This is the second time I’ve seen The Raven Age who also supported Iron Maiden and Ghost during the summer. No coincidence, I reckon, since one of the guitarists is the son of one Steve Harris.
Not that it means that TRA sound anything like Iron Maiden. There’s perhaps one instance where the young folk in front of us have included a guitar harmony piece that sounds a bit like Smith/Murray, but that’s it. TRA are more than anything modern metal with both melody, breakdowns and full throttle doublebass drumming. I like what they do, although their singer, Michael Burrough, doesn’t impress. He simply doesn’t sound good. It’s as if he isn’t really making an effort or has a hard time getting in the zone. Unengaged probably best describes the way he comes across. Too bad, because the rest works quite well, and it’s not as if the audience is disapproving.
By the time Anthrax enter the stage, there’s certainly no one in the now almost full venue who seem to disapprove. Nor is there a cause for doing so. The five gentlemen on stage are ready and fired up, as are the audience when the first notes of the title track from that wonderful piece of thrash metal history, Among the Living, flow into the room. This is a Monday evening, yes, but Amager Bio is almost full and the audience spans from mere children to guys and girls at 50+, all clearly with the one thing in common that they love this seminal album and Anthrax. There’s quite simply a great and warm atmosphere tonight. Not crazy, not over the top, just a big bunch of people who appreciate the same music.
Joey Belladonna is as always the natural centre of attention, constantly moving around, smiling, pointing, jumping and creating contact with the audience. His voice isn’t always coming through as powerful as it could (he’s mixed a tad too low in a few songs tonight), but he remains one of the most entertaining and lovable frontmen in metal.
Scott Ian is the boss. No doubt. The authority. When he speaks, you listen. And you kind of want him to tell more about the time when Anthrax recorded this album. This experienced musician who kept driving one of the most influential bands of the genre forward, and a guitarist who even has a great, dry sense of humour (“Back in 1987, we thought America was weird when we had an actor as president…”). Also, there’s still that passion for the music, the passion that makes it interesting to still listen to it. Just listen to the intro to ‘A Skeleton in the Closet’ right here:
Frank Bello is a sight to behold. His constant grimassing makes you consider for a second or two if he’s on drugs or whatever, but I suppose he’s just enjoying being where he is. The guy never stands still. How people can do what he does for so many years and keep the fire, that’s just amazing. And his bass, by the way, sounds fabulous tonight.
The same can be said of Jon Dette behind the drums. I’m still not sure what it is that’s keeping Charlie Benante away from the European stages, but Dette’s a worthy stand in no matter what.
The new kid, Jonathan Donais, who joined in 2013 after Rob Caggiano left Anthrax to join Volbeat, has come more into his own in the band since I saw him the first time at Wacken. He’s definitely the more quiet one, but hair is flying and, wait for it, there’s a guitar solo! How old school is that! Sound nice too.
The Among the Living album is naturally played in its entirety, however not quite in the same order as on the CD. Title track first, then ‘Caught in a Mosh’, and then ‘One World’, which is really later in the sequence. Then the legendary ‘I Am the Law’. After that, ‘A Skeleton…’ and ‘N.F.L’ have swapped places. ‘Horror of it All’ makes its way in there before ‘Indians’, which creates a total party (see snippet below). ‘Imitiation of Life’ concludes the Among setlist as it concludes the album.
Luckily, this is not all we get, although the majority of the audience isn’t quite as familiar with what follows. I still think that ‘Fight’em ’til You Can’t’ is an excellent piece of thrash metal. ‘Madhouse’ is recognised by more, that’s for sure, but ‘Blood Eagle Wings’ from ‘For All Kings’ is in my humble opinion the better song, and the same can be said of ‘Breathing Lightning’, also from the latest outing from the thrash veterans.
I’ve never quite understood why the Trust song ‘Antisocial’ became such a big hit for Anthrax, but they played it the first time I saw the band in 1989, and they end the evening with it tonight, and, well, people are having a ball, and it’s the loudest response of the evening.
What can I say? A fantastic evening in the company of Anthrax – still one of the Big 4, one of my all-time favourite bands and five guys who know how to create a party on a Monday evening with their instruments and voices.