Review by Greg Maki
The hottest ticket in metal this winter undoubtedly is Lamb of God’s first U.S. headlining tour in support of its latest album, “VII: Sturm und Drang,” released last summer. The Richmond, Virginia-based band has grown steadily through the years to a point where it could fill the venues it’s playing on this tour on its own. But on this run, it chose to repay an old debt, bringing out Anthrax, which, as vocalist Randy Blythe said onstage, took Lamb of God on tour 12 years ago, becoming the first of the “big four” to take a chance on them. It was a near perfect match, and on this frigid January night, fans of both bands packed the sold-out Fillmore to take in some of the very best in American metal today.
Power Trip, a thrash/groove metal band from Dallas, Texas, kicked off the music at 7 p.m. Its high energy won over a large portion of the crowd, with a circle pit breaking out almost immediately in the middle of the floor. Up next, Deafheaven, from San Francisco, could inspire only polite applause with a sound that was a curious mix of black metal and progressive rock. I’ll give points for originality, but playing one slow song after another, Deafheaven was not a good fit for this bill.
Anthrax, of course, fared much better, storming out of the gate with “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” from 2011’s “Worship Music” (one of the best metal albums of the current decade). Fifty minutes was far too short of a set for this legendary band, but it seemingly allowed it to up the intensity to even higher levels than normal.
With Scott Ian’s ultra-tight, fast riffing, Charlie Benante’s thunderous drumming, Frank Bello’s manic presence and deep bass grooves, Jonathan Donais’ dexterous solos and Joey Belladonna’s voice in top form, Anthrax is an absolute beast of a band in 2016. Classics such as “Caught in a Mosh,” “Got the Time” and “Antisocial” lined up nicely alongside the Ronnie James Dio/Dimebag Darrell tribute track “In the End” (also from “Worship Music”) and new song “Evil Twin,” which indicates the band isn’t kidding around when it says its forthcoming album, “For All Kings” (Feb. 26, 2016), is its thrashiest and most metal effort in many years.
Benante’s rhythmic drumming ushered in the “war dance” of “Indians,” from the classic 1987 album “Among the Living,” arguably Anthrax’s crowning achievement. A particularly fiery rendition of that record’s title track brought the too-short set to a spectacular close, giving the night’s headliner a tough act to follow.
Lamb of God proved up to the challenge, however, ripping into “Desolation,” from the 2012 album of the same name, to start the show before getting to new material. The “Sturm und Drang” tracks seemed to be played with a little more intensity than the older songs, especially the searing “512,” inspired by Blythe’s time in a Czech prison. The band—drummer Chris Adler, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, and bassist John Campbell—sounded ferocious throughout the set, while Blythe spat out his inhuman vocals and leaped about the stage. The singer showed off another side, too, actually singing—and singing well, I might add—on the new song “Overlord.” It’s probably not in the band’s best interests for him to make this the norm, but he has the chops to explore this avenue more in the future.
Large LED screens on the stage enhanced a visual aspects of the performance, giving it a bigger feel than the average club show.
Silver Spring is within driving distance of Richmond, and Blythe said he was born in Maryland, making it almost a hometown show. As fans shouted along to older songs such as “Now You’ve Got Something to Die for” (from 2004’s “Ashes of the Wake”), it became clear much of the audience has followed the band for some time, watching it grow into the monster it is today.
Other highlights of the set included “Walk with Me in Hell,” “Set to Fail” and “Erase This.”
This was my first concert of 2016, and it’s going to be a hard one to top.
LAMB OF GOD SET LIST: “Desolation,” “512,” “Walk with Me in Hell,” ”Still Echoes,” “Ruin,” “The Subtle Arts of Murder and Persuasion,” ”Overlord,” “The Faded Line,” ”Now You’ve Got Something to Die for,” “Set to Fail,” “Blacken the Cursed Sun,” “Erase This,” ”Vigil,” “Laid to Rest,” “Redneck”
ANTHRAX SET LIST: “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t,” “Caught in a Mosh,” “Got the Time,” “Antisocial,” “Evil Twin,” “In the End,” “Indians,” “Among the Living”