Anthrax/Testament/Death Angel - October 3, 2012 - State Theatre, Portland, ME
By: Matt Coe
Heading up north to Portland, ME it was a 2 ½ hour drive to witness this incredible triple bill of thrash. The State Theatre is located in downtown Portland and was a fairly easy venue to find - the parking situation was another story entirely (one-way streets and many no parking signs surrounding the area). Finally we located a parking garage and got in 20 minutes before Death Angel hit the stage promptly at 7:30 pm. At least 700 fans were there for the early start - many of them adorning shirts from the mid to late 80’s (I especially loved seeing a Hall of the Mountain King tour shirt from Savatage)- proving the timeless quality of classic thrash.
Bursting with energy, vocalist Mark Osegueda had the dreadlocks whirling about with their all-too-brief 35 minute set. “Mistress Of Pain” from The Ultra-Violence was a pleasant surprise for the old-school people in the audience- along with Mark’s stage banter regarding the fact that Death Angel have been playing thrash ‘for a long time’ as if to let people know that the opening slot on such a heavy bill does not mean they lack finesse or experience. Concentrating on their latest studio album Relentless Retribution with four songs, including the impressive “Claws in So Deep” and pit-worthy “Truce. The five-piece gave the early arriving fans what they desire for a Wednesday night of metal, and seemed to appreciate every rhythm and double-bass part they heard.
After a quick 30-minute changeover, Testament entered the stage amidst a sea of red lights and liberal use of the strobe lights set up behind Gene Hoglan’s drum riser. Opening with the perfect call and response starter from the new album Dark Roots of Earth, “Rise Up” gave the sea of fans a chance to raise their collective fists and voices in unison to Chuck Billy’s call to arms - shouting ‘WAR’ as exuberantly as guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson who provided most of the background vocals.
Their 70-minute set featured three songs from The New Order, including the expected “Into the Pit” and appreciated “The Preacher," as well as a number of tracks from The Gathering in the encore – “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” and “3 Days In Darkness." Billy twirled around his glow in the dark microphone stand incessantly, often using it during the instrumental sections as if he were the third guitarist in the lineup. Skolnick's effortless soloing ability wowed the crowd during “Practice What You Preach” and new number “True American Hate." Other favorites included “Over the Wall” and set closer “The Formation of Damnation”. The band know how to place the emphasis on thrash at fever pitch, and are one of the rare bands willing to keep one eye on the heavier prize while challenging themselves to maintain their studio output on a high level.
Like clockwork again 30 minutes later, the house lights fade and the intro music plays for Anthrax. Drummer Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall) is filling in for Charlie Benante on this tour, but it never detracts from the band’s ability to stir the pit and crowd surfing from the floor. Joey Belladonna has an engaging presence, never intent to relax and willing to even don an Indian headdress an audience member brought during “Indians." Tackling “Deathrider” from the Neil Turbin/Fistful Of Metal debut album is a welcome addition to the set list, but performing two of their well-known covers (“Anti-Social” and “Got the Time”) could be one too many in this journalist’s mind.
Three songs from the new album Worship Music go over very well with the diverse crowd, as I witnessed kids as well as adults into their 50’s enjoying “The Devil You Know”, “In the End” and “Fight ‘em ‘Til You Can’t”- as Joey, guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Frankie Bello carry the bulkload of the furious stage action racing from end to end. The lion’s share of back catalog attention is given to Among The Living- “Caught In A Mosh” the earliest at second song in all the way through to “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) and set closer “I Am The Law” – but you also get “Be All, End All” from State Of Euphoria and “In My World” from Persistence Of Time sprinkled in their 70 minute allotment.
I was very pleased with the overall audience behavior and friendly security/theatre staff at the venue. I would gladly attend more shows here if the bills are as strong as this one. Thrash is alive and well, and these veteran acts are proving that they can crush at loud volume, so do not miss any of them when they hit your market again.