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When you think of thrash metal, there are always four names that come to mind. They have been known as “The Big Four,” and they are Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. Still to this day each band carries that legacy proudly. Anthrax specifically has been celebrating being a band for forty years now. To celebrate this monumental accomplishment, Anthrax set out on their 40th Anniversary Tour. Bringing with they two other heavy hitters in the metal community, that of Black Label Society and Exodus. Originally the tour was supposed to end in Oakland, CA, but we were fortunate that Anthrax added one last date to the tour, instead ending at the City National Grove in Anaheim, CA. And what a way to end the tour with a sold-out crowd!

Opening this night of thrash chaos was Exodus. This was the only band of the night that I had not had the opportunity to see before. I was very excited to experience them live finally. Opening the night with “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves),” Exodus was full of energy ready to unleash it unto the crowd. Just hearing guitarist Gary Holt & Lee Altus shred those classic thrash riffs got the crowd already roaring with excitement. Hearing singer Steve “Zetro” Souza gritty voice just layered into the instrumental perfectly. It was full of grit and tenacity that just fuels the energy of the fans in the crowd. Bassist Jack Gibson and drummer Tom Hunting held down the low end and kept a steady beat for the fans to be pumping their fists in the air too. Not to be hidden in the back, Hunting would frequently stand up over hit kit to feel the energy of the crowd. Playing songs like “A Lesson in Violence,” “Blood in, Blood Out,” “Blacklist,” “Piranha,” “Prescribing Horror,” “Bonded by Blood,” “The Toxic Waltz,” and ending the set with “Strike of the Beast.”  Exodus is one of my friend’s favorite thrash metal bands, and after seeing them live, I completely understand why. The ferocity that Exodus brings can not be mistaken, as they will pull you in and there’s no escaping.

Up next is one of the most technically proficient bands I’ve ever seen, while also being one of the most entertaining bands in the metal scene. Of course, that would be Black Label Society, helmed by the immeasurably talented Zakk Wylde. Opening the night with “Funeral Bell” BLS was in prime condition at the end of the tour. Zakk Wylde pulls triple duties by being the lead singer, trading off lead & rhythm guitar, and being the showiest member of the band by head banging in a kilt while not being able to see hit fretboard while playing. Not to be out shown by the lead man, fellow guitarist Dario Lorina carries himself right up next to Zakk with ease. Blasting through solos and headbanging himself throughout the set. Bassist John DeServio can be slapping the bass across the stage, getting up close and personal with the fans. In the back, drummer Jeff Fabb can be seen with the biggest grin across his face, as he just enjoys every second he is on stage. Playing through songs like “The Beginning…At Last,” “Destroy & Conquer,” “Heart of Darkness,” “You Made Me Want to Live,” “Trampled Down Below,” “Fire it Up,” and “Suicide Messiah.” One song that always sticks out in BLS’s set is “In This River,” which is dedicated to Dimebag Darrell & Vinnie Paul. Zakk takes to the piano, and drapes to portraits of the Abbott brothers across the amp stacks in a touching memory to these legends. Ending their night with “Stillborn” BLS always puts on one of the most consistently solid sets every time I see them.

As a white curtain was raised to block the view of the stage, the audience eagerly awaited their headliners to start. A short 10-minute documentary was projected onto the white screen, showing musicians, celebrities, and some fans talking about the history of Anthrax and how much this band has meant to the scene over the last forty years. Right as the video ended, the curtain dropped, and Anthrax blasted into “Among the Living.” Rhythm guitarist, and one of the most famous beards in metal, Scott Ian hit the stage with a flood of energy oozing out into the crowd. As Charlie Benante came in with the drum line, you could feel the need for a mosh pit to open up immediately! Vocalist Joey Belladonna has one of the best voices in thrash, and a need to make a connection with every fan in the crowd. Even getting up close and personal with some of the photographers, screaming into their cameras. Bassist Frank Bello is like an over excited puppy running across the stage. Screaming, pounding his fist into the air, rocking next to his cohorts, all the while finger picking at his bass. Lead guitarist Jon Donais shredded each lick with precision and finesse. Playing songs like “Caught in the Mosh,” “Madhouse,” “Metal Thrashing Mad,” “Keep it in the Family,” “Antisocial,” which is my favorite song and I couldn’t keep myself from screaming my voice out during it, “I Am the Law,” “In the End,” “Only,” “Got the Time,” “Bring the Noise,” and ending their set with “Indians.” I love hearing Joey’s vocals on “Indians” as he just gets to scream as well as belt out to the audience. It’s the perfect song to show off his vocal talents in my mind.

Hearing such classic thrash and metal bands like Exodus, Black Label Society, and Anthrax live felt like coming home. When I was growing up, 80s metal was the first genre of music I truly felt like I discovered for myself. And getting to see these bands still touring today and carrying with them the same energy and quality 40 years later is just amazing. My first experience of Exodus really showed me why these guys are as beloved as they are. Zakk Wylde and the boys of Black Label Society are untouchable when it comes to the quality of their musician ship. And Anthrax, after forty years of being a band, seem to be showing no signs of slowing down in quality. Here’s to another 40 years of Anthrax!


Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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