Anthrax blazed through Dallas on Friday night to promote their soon to be released new album, For All Kings, and to remind the audience on hand why they’re considered among the best in the business. Unfortunately, this is the second time in less than a year that Anthrax has come through Dallas as a support act (first for Volbeat, this time for Lamb of God). Consequently, the band was limited to an eight song set. At the end of their set, I wasn’t the only member of the crowd who wished they were playing eight more.
One minute into the first song and it was apparent to me why Anthrax are a legendary band. Anthrax brought an energy to their set that was pure, uncontrived, and head and shoulders more powerful than the opening bands. No disrespect to those bands, they played very strong sets that the audience clearly enjoyed. But, Anthrax is just a different kind of monster. They have a certain kind of swagger that only a band with a 30 year history can have. A band who has weathered the rise and fall of a genre they helped innovate and managed to stick around long enough to see it reborn again.
In their eight song set, Anthrax played a few new songs from the forthcoming For All Kings, as well as classics across their Belladonna-sung catalog. Unfortunately, drummer Charlie Benante was absent for this gig (as well as missing the previous nights show in Houston), but his replacement, Jon Dette, filled in admirably. Certainly a bummer for the longtime fans; Benante is not only an innovative drummer, but also one of the bands primary songwriters. Had his replacement sucked, this would be a bigger issue. But he didn’t and it was a great show.
The bands new singles, “Evil Twin” and “Breathing Lightning,” show that Anthrax have still got the chops. “Evil Twin” is a particularly strong song that calls back to 1987’s Among the Living with a fast and heavy riff augmented perfectly with Joey Belladonna’s vocals. Where the bands Worship Music album was written without a specific vocalist in mind, For All Kings was written for Joey, and it shows. Both “Evil Twin” and the anthemic “Breathing Lightning” rocked the house and the audience sang along as if they were the classics they’ve been singing in their cars and showers since the 80’s.
To no ones surprise, the classics, “Caught in a Mosh,” “Antisocial,” and set closer “Indians,” generated the most enthusiasm and energy from the crowd. “Caught in a Mosh” accomplished its task as bodies were tumbling above the crowd at the first ring of the opening guitar riff. “Antisocial” had the crowd screaming along word-for-word, bringing the 40-something’s and younger-something’s together in full force. But, the highlight of the night was undoubtedly, “Indians.”
At this point in the set, the audience was on the verge of combustion and the bands energy hadn’t waned in the slightest. Guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Frankie Bello crisscrossed the stage, banging their heads and egging on the crowd with nonstop fervor, as newcomer Jonathan Donais showed off the licks that landed him the gig. Donais is a talented guitar player who nailed the classics and impressed on the new tracks. His leads and solos on “Evil Twin” and “Breathing Lightning” are smooth, complex, and more interesting than most guitar metal wankery. Special mention goes to singer Joey Belladonna. His voice was impressively strong, first song to last. He worked the crowd into a frenzy that both the audience and band seemed to relish. The look on his face, most often a smile, indicated he loved every minute of it. Having seen Anthrax in the 90’s with then singer, John Bush (whom I admire greatly), I was excited about seeing Joey to complete my Anthrax live history. Mr. Belladonna did not disappoint.
Put Anthrax on your can’t-miss list. If you’re a metalhead, you’ll be there. If you’re a casual fan weighing your options and interest, I encourage you to go. Simply put, Anthrax live is a ton of fun. These guys have seen it all and it’s to our benefit that they remain committed to what they do and that they can still do it at a high level. Here’s hoping next time they come to Dallas, it’s on a headlining tour.
– J. Kevin Lynch