When I was in fifth grade I started staying up until 2 a.m. every Saturday to watch MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball.” I’m not sure what led me to this late night discovery other than “Headbanger’s Ball” aired the newest videos by bands I saw during the Top 20 Countdown (your Motley Crues and Poisons) and directed me toward other artists. It was there watching from under a blanket on the living room couch in the middle of the night that I first saw “Welcome to the Jungle.” It was there I discovered artists like Warlock, Iron Maiden, and Anthrax.
As a kid Anthrax served as a gateway for me between hair metal and heavier stuff. I bought “State of Euphoria,” which is largely panned by fans and critics today, after hearing “Antisocial” - Anthrax’s cover of the Trust song. I hadn’t heard that opening guitar line in a good twenty years until Anthrax’s show at the Fillmore in November. I forgot what genius that intro is, plus the cheerleader-like chanted chorus was like candy to my elementary school ears.
After a few years of watching “Headbanger’s Ball” I’d moved on to “120 Minutes.” I heard most of my metal from boyfriends’ car stereos after that. I never left it behind entirely. There was always Gwar, Clutch, and heavy music with metallic tendencies, but I no longer considered myself a metalhead (which I sheepishly confessed to “That Metal Show’s” Don Jamieson last week during an interview). I wasn’t reminded of how much I loved metal as a kid until the Anthrax/Testament/Death Angel bill at the Fillmore.
The same bill hits Asheville’s Orange Peel tonight - Monday, January 30. If you missed the Charlotte show (or even if you didn’t and loved it) I highly recommend making the drive.
I’d always had a soft spot for opening act Death Angel anyway. “Headbanger’s Ball” played its single “Bored” to death. While I didn’t get it at first, after weeks and weeks of seeing that video it grew on me. We saw them last January at Tremont and I couldn’t believe they didn’t draw more people, so I was happy that a couple thousand got to witness its live show. Hopefully some of those folks will come back next time Death Angel headlines here. I only remember Testament through their videos as well, but Chuck Billy is one of those iconic metal guys that has been around forever.
It wasn’t just the nostalgia of the triple thrash bill that made the concert memorable though. Anthrax’s latest album, “Worship Music,” is one of the best records of last year. The single “The Devil You Know” (video above) is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard in recent memory. The band reunited with vocalist Joey Belladonna for the record, so it sounds like classic Anthrax at its best.
Live they pulled the best from “Worship Music” (“Devil,” “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t,” “Earth on Hell,” and “In the End”) with the classics you’d expect (“Indians,” “Got the Time,” and “Caught in a Mosh”). Bassist Frank Bello played the inexhaustible hypeman - a lanky charismatic figure who quickly became our favorite person to watch on stage. The group encored with five songs, including “I Am the Living,” “Metal Thrashing Mad,” Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist,” and “I Am the Law.” There were a few more I’d like to have heard, but I really didn’t have any complaints.
I shared the experience via text messages with two childhood friends from home and urged my husband to see the tour if it came back. Luckily with this second leg, those who missed it get a second chance.