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Gig Review: Anthrax @ O2 Academy Bristol

“The American Gods of Heavy Metal in town with a sonic boom to remember”

Featured Image: Anthrax @ O2 Academy Bristol / Milan Perera 

by Milan Perera, Critic Columnist

“The American Gods of Heavy Metal in town with a sonic boom to remember”

They are one of the leading lights of American Heavy Metal scene from the 1980s and is part of the “Big Four” of the genre, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer. With an astonishing output of 11 best-selling studio albums under their belt, the five-men juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. They embarked on a UK tour marking the 40-year anniversary of the band enthralling metal fans around the country. Before their final show in London, Anthrax stopped by Bristol for their penultimate concert at the O2 Academy much to the delight of their ardent fans and the newly found fandom who were not even born when Anthrax were rocking stadiums and arenas far and wide.

It is autumn after all where nights are drawing in with silky skies and a noticeable chill in the air. There should be a very good reason to go out instead of curling up on a sofa with a mug of hot chocolate and Netflix on overdrive. Who wants to stay at home when the gods of trash metal are in town? The sea of black leather clad men and women of varying age groups snaked its way all the way up to the Bristol Beacon.  What a spectacle it was as if they were on a pilgrimage. The opening act was already half-way into their bill as the enormous crowds were let in by the diligent Academy staff.

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The proceedings for the evening were led to a rollicking start by the New York based crossover band, Sworn Enemy. After their setlist with a quick turnover, it was the time for Richmond, Virginia based metal band, Municipal Waste to rock the packed heavy metal fandom. After playing their hit numbers such as Demoralizer, You’re Cut Off, Unleash the Bastards and Beer Pressure it was time to leave the arena to the headline act.

As the roadies were hurriedly plugging Marshall amplifiers and doing sound checks with sporadic guitar riffs and drum rolls, a white screen was flung down covering the stage. As the anticipation reached a fever pitch, a video featuring various artists was projected on to the white screen which included heart-warming tributes for Anthrax for their anniversary from Keanu Reeves, Corey Taylor, Gene Simmons, Slash and Dave Mustaine. The silhouettes of the metal legends slowly appeared on the screen amidst raucous applause from the expectant audience. It was the moment of truth. The screen fell to the ground revealing the band kicking off the opening number for the headline bill, “Among the Living”

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The line-up consists of Scott Ian (rhythm guitar), Charlie Benante (drums), Frank Bello (bass), Joey Belladonna (lead vocals) and Jon Donais (lead guitar) had the packed O2 Academy audience in their palms. The founding member Scott Ian was willing the audience to “make some noise.” And a deafening noise did they make. They did better. Most of them knew the lyrics to songs and enthusiastically joined the lead vocalist Joey Belladonna forming a formidable rock choir.

Anthrax @ O2 Academy Bristol / Milan Perera 

Joey Belladonna is a vocalist extraordinaire with a searing tenor voice which could command the undivided attention of an audience. The band played fan favourites such as Caught in a Mosh, Madhouse, Metal Thrashing Mad and Keep It in the Family. Joey Belladonna asked the audience if there are those who see them for the first time. A set of hands went up and Belladonna uttered the words “you are Family now” in the manner a high priest offers a benediction conferring all present the blessings of heavy metal.

Anthrax @ O2 Academy Bristol / Milan Perera 

In the distinct sound of Anthrax, they gave the raw energy of heavy metal a gravelly twist with an unmatched lyrical beauty. The panoply of security personnel was kept busy by a string of head-banging crowd surfers who were having the time of their life with total Dionysian abandon. The rapid beats of Benante and the phrenetic bass line of Bello had the audience shaking and writhing as if in ecstasy. Belladonna has the rare ability to connect with each and every member of the audience. As I was leaning to the railing on the left-hand side of the stage, Joey Belladonna nodded at me and threw an Anthrax guitar pick towards my direction which I managed to hold on to as if it were a holy relic.

Another round of ‘Hey’s and claps lead the set into the final song for the night which saw the metal legends revisit ‘Among the Living’ this time for ‘Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)

It is fair to say that the fortunate audience were thoroughly entertained.

Listen to Anthrax's music here:

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