Concert Review – Slayer (Sound Academy, Toronto, ON, 09/12/2016)

When you have the iconic Death Angel, Anthrax and Slayer playing together in Toronto, you know it’s going to be an action-packed night of demented headbanging, beer drinking and brutal slamming.

OPENING ACTS: Death Angel and Anthrax

img_1784Anytime a concert is scheduled for a weekday that’s not Friday and there are a few bands on the lineup, I believe the organizers should push the whole event one hour later than planned to give more time to several fans that do not live right beside the venue to get there before the first band starts. And when the opening act is a band like Thrash Metal masters DEATH ANGEL, that extra time should be mandatory. The doors at a completely revamped Sound Academy (which will soon change its traditional name to Rebel, the most generic thing you can think of) opened at 6:30pm yesterday, and right after that Death Angel began their concert. Was I there to witness the amazing band led by Mark Osegueda fire their classics and new songs from the superb The Evil Divide? Of course not, nor hundreds of other fans who due to work or school could not get to the venue before 7:30pm. Is it too difficult to take into account the fact that most people do not live only five minutes from the venue, especially on a Monday night? We paid good money for the tickets, we deserved to see Death Angel, but it looks like some people just don’t care if you’re attending the full concert or not, right?

Setlist
The Ultra-Violence
Evil Priest
Claws in So Deep
Thrown to the Wolves
The Dream Calls for Blood
The Moth

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

img_1787And if you arrived after 7:30pm you might even have missed the beginning of the excellent concert by Thrash Metal titans ANTHRAX, simply proving how early the whole event started. Despite playing only nine songs in total, our good friends Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante kicked fuckin’ ass, with half of their setlist being comprised of songs from their latest album, the classy For All Kings. And let me tell you that those new songs worked really well live, especially Evil Twin and Breathing Lightning. Obviously, all fans got really pumped up when they played some of their biggest classics such as Caught in a Mosh, Antisocial and Indians (including a war dance), with Joey and Scott (“Do you love Thrash Metal?”) igniting some flammable mosh pits with their endless energy and unique charisma. I hope they get back to Toronto soon, and next time they have to be the headliners and play their full set, because I lost count of how many times I’ve seen Anthrax as the opening act only in the past few years, always having to cut down their setlist due to time restraints.

Setlist
You Gotta Believe
Monster at the End
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
Evil Twin
Antisocial
Breathing Lightning
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums 

SLAYER

img_1796One very positive thing I have to say about the revamp at the Sound Academy is that they fixed all past issues they had with their sound system, turning what once was a muffled and tangled noise into detailed and crystal clear sounds. That, my friends, was what made the cataclysmic performance by Thrash Metal behemoths SLAYER, the most badass and heaviest band on earth, even heavier than what we were used to, in special the demolishing drums by Mr. Paul Bostaph. He sounded bestial the entire concert, louder and heavier than a construction zone working at full force, making our chests pump hard with his beats as if he was using a stone crusher instead of regular drum sticks behind his drums. Simply amazing.

Obviously, the rest of the band also had a fantastic performance, with Tom Araya leading the band with his deranged screams while Gary Holt and Kerry King showed us how a guitar duo should really sound in heavy music. After the devilish intro Delusions of Saviour ended and their new bone-crushing hymn Repentless started, it was a feast of old school classics the likes of Postmortem, Mandatory Suicide, War Ensemble and the demonic Seasons in the Abyss mixed with new material from Repentless (five new songs to be more precise, including the awesome You Againt You and Vices), generating some sick mosh pits and rabid screams from all fans at the Sound Academy.

img_1808A few songs from their setlist hit me like a stampede so heavy, dark and amazing they were played. First of all, it’s always a pleasure to see Tom reciting the chorus for Dead Skin Mask before the song starts, inspiring every fan to sing along with him. As Tom said, we love Slayer’s music and they love to play it, so it’s like a love affair, right? And what to say about the brutal Disciple (I bet you were bursting your lungs out screaming “God hates us all!” together with Tom during the song, just like I did), the chaotic Born of Fire, and the really old school Fight Till Death, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy? This one crushed me like an insect so fantastic it was.

I have no words to describe the apocalyptic aura generated by the last batch of classics played by Slayer, starting with one of the most demonic songs of all time, Hell Awaits, followed by the also obscure South of Heaven, my favorite Slayer song of all Raining Blood (where Paul Bostaph gave a lesson in drumming from the very first beat until the end), the classic Black Magic and finally, paying homage to the legacy of Jeff Hanneman, the unparalleled Angel of Death. That was the last song of a pure Thrash Metal night on a perfect day in Toronto, leaving us all eager for more Death Angel, Anthrax and Slayer in a not-so-distant future. Add to all that the excellent Dystopia by Megadeth and the upcoming releases by Testament and even Metallica (at least their new song sounds good, let’s wait for the rest of the album), and you know 2016 is the year of Thrash Metal. And, of course, Toronto couldn’t be left out of such an awesome party.

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
The Antichrist
Disciple
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
When the Stillness Comes
You Against You
Mandatory Suicide
Fight Till Death
Born of Fire
Dead Skin Mask
Seasons in the Abyss
Pride in Prejudice
Vices

Encore:
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

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Album Review – Anthrax / For All Kings (2016)

A classy and electrifying Thrash Metal album especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.

Rating3

anthrax_for all kingsFor All Kings, the eleventh studio album by American Thrash Metal titans Anthrax, is definitely not just another ordinary Thrash Metal album. It truly feels like a classy and passionate tribute to heavy music and to their longtime hardcore fans, who have never turned their back on these Ney York City metallers and kept flying the flag of old school Thrash Metal high no matter what. Actually, I shouldn’t be calling those people as just “fans”, but as real kings according to Anthrax themselves when explaining the title of the album. “The meaning, to me, for this title is that everybody can be a king.”, said the iconic guitarist Scott Ian. And you know what? We should indeed feel like kings being honored by Anthrax with such a beautiful album.

After the superb Worship Music, released in the distant year of 2011 when Anthrax emerged from the ashes like a metallic phoenix, I had no idea if they would be capable of maintaining (or even surpassing) the extremely high level of quality and energy flowing from now classic songs such as “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” and “The Devil You Know” in their future albums. Especially after the departure of the amazing Rob Caggiano (who joined Danish rockers Volbeat in 2013), being replaced by Jon Donais on lead guitar, that uncertainty grew even more as Rob used to be one of the masterminds behind the band’s unique musicality. Well, I said once to a friend that if they were able to deliver maybe just half of what they did in Worship Music I would be extremely happy, and fortunately for all of us For All Kings is more than that, sounding just as electrifying as its predecessor.

Are you ready to get caught in a breakneck Thrash Metal mosh? This is what will happen in the opening track, the fantastic You Gotta Believe, where after an imposing intro (featuring background noises from probably Anthrax fans during their live performances) we are treated to 7 minutes of the purest and finest Anthrax. Scott Ian and Charlie Benante are already on their beast mode, while “newcomer” Jon Donais does a superb job with his guitar solos providing a nice balance between violence and melody to the song. The following chant, Monster at the End, is not only a melodious ode to Thrash Metal similar to some tunes from Worship Music, but also an irreproachable option to sing along with the iconic Joey Belladonna. And what can I say about the great riffage by Scott in the title-track, For All Kings, especially during the chorus? In addition to that, the thunderous bass guitar by Frank Bello adds a lot of power to this amazing hymn, putting a smile on the face of every fan of old school Thrash Metal.

anthrax 2016You might not agree with me, but in my humble opinion the superb Breathing Lightning is a masterpiece, and I simply cannot wait to see them playing this live. Thrilling and electrifying from the very first second, its classic rhythm is flawlessly complemented by its simple but beautiful lyrics (“You always have the chance to do the right thing / Until the right thing comes undone / And with a thunderclap I’m breathing lightning / And this world has moved on / I look inside myself is this the right thing? / Is this the right thing, I don’t know”). Besides, Joey’s performance is beyond outstanding throughout the entire song, not to mention the soulful guitar solos by Jon. Suzerain is another kick-ass traditional Anthrax chant, showcasing precise beats by Charlie and tons of riffs by Scott and Jon, and sounding as if it was recorded back in the 80’s but with a fresh vibe; while Evil Twin, inspired by events like the 2015 attack on the offices and staff of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and various other mass shootings (Scott mentioned the song is about the actions of people “who feel they have become judge, jury and executioner over their fellow man”, calling this mindset the “evil twin” of humanity), has that perfect rhythm for having fun inside a circle pit with your friends. The band once again shows all their passion for Thrash Metal through the song’s heavy riffs and acid lyrics (“You represent your discontent slaughtering the innocent / Insolence, you’re no martyrs / The arrogance to reinvent / The holy words their meanings bent / Evil twins, you’re no martyrs”), with the riffs and bass lines at around three minutes being fuckin’ awesome.

After so much destruction and shredding, it’s time for some classy and passionate Heavy Metal entitled Blood Eagle Wings (Anthrax surely don’t need to be fast all the time to be awesome), where you can feel the entire band is putting their hearts and souls into the music; followed by the fighting chant Defend Avenge, which despite being heavy as hell it’s still very melodic, with Anthrax demanding us fans to bang our fucking heads nonstop and scream its chorus together with them at the top of our lungs. The good All of Them Thieves falls flat after a while due to its repetitive lyrics, despite the great job done on both guitars and bass, whereas in This Battle Chose Us it feels like Anthrax are paying a tribute to themselves, with Frank kicking ass on bass while Charlie provides his always groovy and pleasant beats. Moreover, it’s indeed incredible how Anthrax still sound crisp and alight after so many years on the road.

for all kings poker edition

For All Kings Poker Edition

Now just grab a beer and head to the mosh pit to the sound of the insane riffs and nonstop adrenaline flowing from one of the best songs of the album for sure, entitled Zero Tolerance. This is the perfect way to close this solid album, with Joey and Scott leading this fiery hymn which will undoubtedly please all fans of good Thrash Metal. But wait, there’s a lot more Anthrax if you purchase the limited edition of the album (or even better, the jaw-dropping POKER EDITION) in the form of four high-octane bonus tracks recorded live in Tokyo, Japan, with my favorite being obviously their most recent classic Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t.

What are you waiting for to keep worshiping the unique music crafted by Anthrax in For All Kings? Featuring a stunning artwork by American comic book writer and artist Alex Ross, this is one of those albums that without even noticing you’ll be listening to nonstop at home, in your car, at work or anywhere else where first-class Thrash Metal is needed to fight our biggest enemies and fears. For All Kings is classy, electrifying and, more important than that, especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: You Gotta Believe, Breathing Lightning, Defend Avenge and Zero Tolerance.

Worst moments of the album: All of Them Thieves.

Released in 2016 Megaforce/Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. You Gotta Believe 7:32
2. Monster at the End 3:55
3. For All Kings 5:00
4. Breathing Lightning 6:33
5. Suzerain 4:53
6. Evil Twin 4:40
7. Blood Eagle Wings 7:53
8. Defend Avenge 5:13
9. All of Them Thieves 5:14
10. This Battle Chose Us 4:53
11. Zero Tolerance 3:48

Poker Edition/Limited Edition Box Set bonus tracks
12. Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t 6:11
13. A.I.R. 6:38
14. Caught In A Mosh 5:18
15. Madhouse 4:06

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums