Anthrax have been laying waste to the UK this month in celebration of the seminal Among The Living record. HRH Mag’s Simon Rushworth got caught in the mosh.
As Joey Belladonna lectured the masses during the penultimate date of Anthrax’s UK headline tour, the animated singer was clearly amused to find his band holding court in a seat of learning. “We’re not a university type band,” he insisted, as one quarter of the Big Four swapped New York for Newcastle. Maybe.
But for students of metal this was an invaluable lesson. For anyone schooled in 80s thrash, attendance was compulsory. This was history in the making. The science of shredding. An audio-visual masterclass.
Anthrax have long since graduated from college campuses to command arena stages and festival bills the world over. Some might say it’s where they belong. But given the choice between distance learning and face-to-face education, nothing beats Belladona up close and personal.
Like all good teachers his trick is to appear to make eye contact with everyone out front. Engaging, entertaining, enthusiastic and empowering, the pint-sized frontman has a knack for making his audience feel special. From his frenzied entrance to his emotive exit – delivering a karaoke version of Long Live Rock N Roll in tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio – this was Belladonna’s bid to achieve A grades across the board.
Anthrax might be celebrating 30 years of Among The Living but this is a band that’s never been content to dwell on the past. The first half of a simply breathtaking show was all about delivering a career-spanning retrospective ranging from the seminal Madhouse right up to Breathing Lightning from the brilliant For All Kings. Belladona’s performance was peerless – little wonder the 56-year-old required a breather before the main event.
Flanked by the irrepressible Scott Ian and Frank Bello, with Charlie Benante beating the shit out of his kit and ‘new kid’ Jonathan Donais catching his fair share of iconic solos, Anthrax’s singer simply never let up. As principal of this unrelenting School Of Rock, recess was fully deserved. But Belladona had only just got going.
Among The Living’s many highlights have aged incredibly well. In 1987 thrash metal was still assumed to be a flash in the pan, a passing fad and a rather ugly blot on the copybook of classic rock and traditional metal. Nobody could have imagined the Big Four would be bigger than ever three decades down the line and that classics including Indians, Caught In A Mosh and I Am The Law would still be inspiring the next generation of disaffected youths.
For now Belladona, Bello, Benante and Ian have the authority and the authenticity that metal’s wannabes lack. And they treat their legacy with respect. There was no hint of complacency as the familiar quartet channelled every last drop of energy into a set that will live long in the memory.
Visceral support band The Raven Age will surely bank every last tip, hint and word of advice from Anthrax’s metal masters as they plot their own rise through the genre’s ranks. Then again, learning from the best is already embedded in the feisty five piece’s DNA following stints with Iron Maiden, Tremonti and Ghost.
Two years on the road might have delayed the release of major label debut Darkness Will Rise (out on March 17) but it’s ensured The Raven Age have developed into a seriously polished outfit – frontman Michael Burrough taking no prisoners on the Muse-does-metal of The Merciful One and brutal riff fest The Death March. As Belladonna would surely attest: hard work pays off.
*Exclusive images by John Burrows