Anthrax, Testament, and Death Angel at Town Ballroom (2011)


If you can picture someone trying to stuff a hyena into a shoe box, you’ll begin to ascertain just how harried the atmosphere was inside the Town Ballroom on Tuesday for Anthrax and Testament. The thrash giants injected their heavy metal serum straight into Buffalo’s jugular, and the followers responded accordingly.

Bodies went flying, knees were scraped, and vocal cords endured being stretched beyond natural limits, but, in the midst of the madness, everything somehow made perfect sense.  Call it demonic, call it clamorous, or even call it the worst thing to happen to mainstream America since Elvis’s gyrating pelvis.

While metal has been bombarded with as much petty myopia as Capitol Hill could muster, I couldn’t care less.

This is the music I live for, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Having Anthrax and Testament as co-headliners was ideal, because each has its own musical brand, which treats the listener to a headbanger’s journey into the ethos of both East and West coast living, respectively.

Testament hit the stage around 8:40 p.m. to a full house, and, being my second time seeing them, I’d say they brought it once again.  Vocalist Chuck Billy has inimitable stage presence, bolstered by the fact that he treats his microphone stand as if it were a guitar, and mimics guitarist Alex Skolnick note for note.

“Envy Life” and “Practice What You Preach” were easily the set’s highlights, as Skolnick and fellow guitarist Eric Peterson traded licks at lightning speed.  Everyone knows about Skolnick’s virtuosity, but Peterson might be the most underrated guitarist in metal today.

I watched him carry the load during a 2010 performance when Skolnick was off touring with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and his readiness to leave everything on stage left me thoroughly impressed.

By the time Anthrax came on at a little after 10:15 p.m., the crowd was well into its second wind, and all frontman Joey Belladonna had to do was utter the words “What’s up, Buffalo?” to usher in the chaos.

From the opening riff of “Earth on Hell,” I knew the band had come to play and my near-brush with injury during the “Indians” war dance was all I needed to realize that the show was going to be epic.

Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano pour their heart and soul into every riff, and Frankie Bello patrols the stage with bass in tow in a way that just oozes enthusiasm, so it’s impossible not to love everything these guys bring to the table.

Drummer Charlie Benante set a breakneck pace in “Caught in a Mosh,” “Metal Thrashing Mad,” and “Among the Living,” which I would rank as my favorite of the set, but having Belladonna manning the mic once again makes all the difference.

He’s the Steve Perry of thrash, and “Madhouse” and “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L)” wouldn’t have been the same without him.

Throw in covers of Trust’s “Antisocial” and Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist,” and you’ve got yourself a killer evening from one of the most significant metal bands to emerge from the 1980s.

Let’s just hope that it doesn’t take them another 20 years to come back to Western New York.

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