Review and photos by Justin Richardson
Anthrax, Testament, and Death Angel on the same bill, you say? Only an hour and a half drive away, you say? Consider me there. But an unexpected delay at home forced my hand and I was running extremely late. Worried that I would miss the start of the show, I sped down the highway at 90mph to make it there on time. Charlotte is about an hour and a half away; I got there in an hour and was nearly pulled by a cop. Walking briskly to the entrance of The Fillmore (not to be confused with the venue of the same name in San Francisco), I managed to slide in right as Death Angel began their set.
Although I’ve had a few opportunities to see Death Angel, it just didn’t fit my schedule before. They’re a band I’ve wanted to see for years, even before the reform in 2001; but I thought it wasn’t going to happen. So I was really looking forward to finally seeing these guys live. The name of the game that night was “short and sweet.” With limited time on their hands, they had to appease their old fans while making new ones. With Anthrax headlining, it’s very likely that many in the audience were only familiar with Anthrax and perhaps Testament. While the set missed one of my favourite songs, the energy of the band more than made up for it. There’s no doubt in my mind that Mark Osegueda is one of the more emotive and energetic frontmen in thrash. Even more amazing is the fact that the band isn’t exactly a bunch of kids at this point, as they were when they started. Mark ran around on stage, bounding from one end to the other, and getting on the ground for some guitar worship. With his dreads slinging side to side, he commanded the audience to mosh and thrash. Even though Death Angel were openers, they arguably had more energy than Testament or Anthrax. Although they were just openers tonight, they played as if they were headlining. It’s disappointing that they don’t get more time, but I’m sure they’ll have another chance to play soon. Mark thanked Raleigh multiple times throughout the set, and that’s always appreciated, isn’t it? But hey, we were in Charlotte. He was corrected later in the show, and he apologized profusely to the crowd for getting the city wrong. I suppose after riding around in a tour bus for awhile, one starts to forget exactly what city they’re in. At the end of the show, to make it even, he asked the audience to yell ‘Fuck You, Matt!’ …and having yelled this, he then informed the crowd that he was in fact Mark, not Matt.
Admittedly Testament was who I was most excited for. Having already seen them once before, I had a good idea of what to expect. Opening with “The Preacher” from The New Order, Alex Skolnick ripped through song after song with virtuosic cunning. His effortless playing was matched that night only by “The Atomic Clock” himself, Gene Hoglan. Those two guys’ playing is nothing short of mesmerizing. Not to be outdone, Chuck Billy delivered his lines with the venom you’d expect, and while he wasn’t as energetic as Mark Osegueda, he wasn’t a slouch by any means. The band touched on most of their albums except for Low and Demonic and there weren’t any real surprises as far as the setlist goes. But sometimes a predictable setlist is just what the doctor ordered. A few crowd surfers made their way to the front, most notably during “Into the Pit.” Highlights of the night included “Over The Wall” and “Souls of Black.”
Drums were swapped for Anthrax, and I don’t remember a time when I’ve ever seen a full drum kit replaced at a show. Usually I see bands sharing a back line, with the openers using a small drum kit in front of the main drum riser. The drums were sound-checked at breakneck speed and the lights dimmed.
Joey Belladona and Scott Ian were first out of the gate and tore into “Earth on Hell” from their latest release, Worship Music. Aside from covers like “Antisocial” and “Refuse/Resist” (Trust and Sepultura respectively), the set consisted of Belladonna-only material, primarily songs from Worship Music, along with essential songs from their early albums. Rob Caggiano remained stationary throughout most of the show and, as expected, Scott Ian provided the essential Anthrax charisma with faces ranging from goofy to pissed-the-fuck-off. He still plays every note with absolute sincerity, and sings every word with confidence in its message. So when he tells a crowd that he’s not going to pander to them by saying “Oh, are you going to let Myrtle Beach outdo you guys?” and instead suggests everyone just go crazy because why shouldn’t you?, you kind of get the feeling he’s not just going through the motions of playing a nightly gig. Knowing “Caught in a Mosh” was coming, I prepared myself for the inevitable crowd surfers. I was hoping that if someone made it to the stage, the incident in LA wouldn’t be repeated. For the unaware, a fan made it on stage during a song and as Belladona got near the fan, a security guard jumped on stage and tackled the fan and Belladona to the ground. (You can find the clip for yourself on Youtube.)
The crowd must have been loud enough during the main show, as we were treated to “Among the Living” as an additional encore song that was not on the prepared setlist. Joey thanked the South Carolina crowd, only to be yelled at by someone else in the band that they were actually in North Carolina. A common problem of the night for the bands apparently, but the mistake was amusing after the earlier slip-up. After a quick dedication to Andreas Kisser, the band launched into “Refuse/Resist”, most likely in tribute to his help on live duties while Ian was away from the band due to the birth of his child. Closing with “I Am the Law”, the crowd launched their last man into the air, the pits subsided, and Belladonna belted out to the audience to “Long Live Rock N’ Roll” and walked off-stage as the song by the same name played in the venue.