Category Archives: Anthrax

Lamb of God/Anthrax/Deafheaven @ Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles 02/12/16

Metal fans will want to smack me, but I walked into this gig as a curious novice more than anything. I was a fan of drummers Charlie Benante and Chris Adler, not necessarily of their bands, Anthrax or Lamb of God. But the value in this tour package was unbeatable: 4 groups for $50 after fees. WOW. Power Trip and Deafheaven would open and I had zero familiarity with either band, so this particular concert offered a LOT of new music for me to experience. First and foremost, it was a chance to see thrash legends (and survivors) Anthrax for the first time. It was also a chance to see Lamb of God, one of the most important flag bearers of the new wave of American heavy metal. The trip itself was an adventure, no thanks to bing maps. Security was impressively tight, with the ladies being asked to empty the contents of their purses (a surprising amount of ladies I might add). Even the guys had their wallets finely inspected. The staff were so thorough, one robust latina said “aye, I felt like I just got to second base!” I’m surprised they didn’t check the guys for hernias. Power Trip had wrapped up their set by the time I walked into the Palladium. The show was a sell-out, 4,000 metal-heads packed into this hall, even the balcony looked like it was busting at the seams.

Deafheaven took the stage and I had no idea what to expect. What erupted from the stage was a shocking mash-up of black metal and…The Cure??? Or maybe Tristeza. It sounded like black metal…the relentless blast beats and hellish, shrieking vocals were there. But this group of Californian short-hairs didn’t look like your typical black metallers (no sleek long black hair or corpse makeup) and what really set them apart were the frequent breakdowns and transitions into these delicate, dreamy instrumental passages that reminded me of shoe-gaze or brit pop music. It was atmospheric, reverb drenched, and dare I say lovely. Lots of eighth notes with echo and spacey sounding voicings. Those tender moments were obliterated when the songs picked up momentum again and vocalist George Clarke opened his mouth. I prefer clean vocals, but I have to give credit to Clarke for the way he shrieked without disruption, making the voice serve as an additional instrument, adding more dark coloring to Deafheaven’s palette of sound. I stood there, confused and intrigued at the same time. There were definitely some Deafheaven followers in the crowd. There was the obligatory “You guys suck!” but I think the majority of the audience was just trying to figure them out. The group performed “Brought to the Water,” “Luna,” “Come Back” and “Dream House.” The coolest moment of the set occurred during their final number. Randy Blythe, vocalist for Lamb of God, joined George Clarke for a duet on “Dream House.” To people unfamiliar with that type of ‘singing,’it may simply sound like two men screaming and growling over ambient (or wussy, depending on your taste) music. The duet was actually pretty cool. Clarke’s ghostly shrieking combined with Blythe’s fry-screaming complimented each other shockingly well. Clarke’s screams were nasally, higher in pitch and timbre. Blythe’s baritone growls were a great contrast to Clarke’s style. To a newbie it may have sounded like guttural noises but there was still a musical statement in that vocal chaos. This isn’t screaming in the basic and literal senses, there’s a technique to this kind of extreme singing, not coming from the throat or the lungs, but elsewhere, like the nasal cavity and chest. Not loving this stuff but I’ve got a newfound respect for it.

Next up was the first headliner, Anthrax, from Queens, New York. Anthrax are survivors as well as barrier breakers. They’ve weathered changing musical climates, tragedy, personnel changes and still continue to make challenging, powerful music. Four of the five members of the classic lineup remain. Their 2011 album Worship Music was considered a triumphant return to form and fans are eagerly awaiting the new 2016 album. They were one of first metal/hard rock groups to embrace hip-hop (I’m The Man, Bring Tha Noize). As one of the “Big 4,” Anthrax is arguably the most unique of the bunch, in that their music includes two key ingredients lacking in the music of Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer: Humor and melodic, acrobatic singing. They’re metal jokesters and they’ve got a singer that can soar like an eagle. Anthrax came onstage to a rousing cheer. They didn’t mess around. The group wasted no time and launched into their set, giving the crowd a pounding dose of frantic, thrash classics like “Fight ’em Till You Can’t,” “Caught in a Mosh,” “Got the Time,” and the riveting anti-greed anthem: “Antisocial.” Scott Ian strummed the intro on his Jackson Flying V, and by instinct, much of the crowd sang along: “ohh-ohhhh, ohh-ohhhh…woah-ohhhhh, woah-ohhhhhhhh.” Singer, Joey Belladonna grinned from ear to ear and said “we’ve got a lot of old-schoolers that know this sooooong!” Frank Bello and Charlie Benante began playing along and sped up the tempo, adding some thunderous low end, while Scott Ian and Jon Donais cranked out the intro on their guitars. We continued singing and Belladonna gave the signal to give it more nut, and we followed suit, the crowd singing louder and louder, building a crescendo. Anthrax’s set lasted a bit over and hour. They played 8 selections in all, rounding out the set with newer material such as “Evil Twin,” “In the End,” “Breathing Lightning,” and finally closing with the timeless “Indians.” “Indians” is something else. It’s a war-dance inducing, fist raising anthem about the wrongs experienced by our Native American brethren. The group were able to channel their inner ‘Indian brave’ with this song, Charlie pounding out a rhythm on the toms that sound like tribal war drums. It’s one of the more serious Anthrax songs: “On reservations, a hopeless situation. Respect is something that you earn, our Indian brothers getting burned. Original American, turned into second class citizen.” Joey Belladonna is half Iriquois Nation, and he looks like a native warrior up there on stage, slender frame, long wild black hair and that fierce gaze. He can also sing with an equal amount of fierceness and agility. Vocally, if Ronnie James Dio and Steve Perry had a kid, he would sound like Belladonna. That’s right. Steve Perry. Even Eddie Trunk once told Scott Ian that they have a Steve Perry in their band. Belladonna’s melodic singing voice has been preserved relatively well and there are stand out performances on the Worship Music album. Their set came to an end and the crowd went berserk. Anthrax probably could have headlined this bill.

Finally came main headliners Lamb of God. The crowd roared for their metal heroes as they blasted their way into “Desolation.” The group employed greater production than the previous bands, complete with video screens and a bitchin lazer show. LOG’s style of music is highly technical, aggressive, yet it grooves. It’s challenging, head scratching music – as a drummer I still can’t wrap my head around most of those parts. There are abrupt time signature changes and crazy triplets on the feet, however the tempo of the music is not particularly fast. It has more in common with groove metal but with greater playing ability. That kind of technical prowess gives the music a more machine like sound, with the guitar parts supporting the drums and vice versa. There are a lot of heavy, staccato riffs which compliment the snare and double bass drumming. It’s like a wall of aggression, controlled aggression, while still laying down a muscly groove that you can bob your head to. The pummeling continued with more molten slabs of metal like “512,” “Walk With Me in Hell,” “Still Echoes” and “Ruin.” The major change up in the set occurred when “Overlord” was performed, the only selection to feature traditional, clean vocals. It was still no less brutal and powerful. LOG powered through the remainder of their set, performing 12 songs before the encore break. By that time several pits had erupted. The fans were rabid. There was also a moving tribute included during “Something To Die For,” the group honored the men and women in the armed forces during that song. “Vigil,” “Laid to Rest,” “Redneck” and a cover of “Unite Forces” completed the set. During the last number, Scott Ian, Charlie Benante and the guys from Power Trip joined LOG onstage. Bone crushing ensemble. The only way to describe this show was enjoyably exhausting. It takes stamina to perform that kind of material and to withstand it as an audience member. There was an awesome amount of diversity to this bill and I feel so fortunate that I was able to experience it. My Hearos hi-fi ear plugs were a life saver. There was no way I could get through a 4hour+ show in a smaller venue and not experience hearing loss for the next few days. By the way, those particular ear plugs are designed to allow some of the high end to filter through, so you can still enjoy much of the high frequency parts. Great product.