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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A View From the Back Of The Room: Slayer & Anthrax

Slayer, Anthrax, Kvelertak Newport Centre

The Newport Centre is always a great place for a gig something about the sports hall of a leisure centre (swimming pool) lends itself to both the sound and the feel of the gig, this is gigging in the old school style, bands playing where and when they could rather than custom built venues for entertainment. In the past I've seen Motorhead, Machine Head, Alice In Chains and Robert Plant in the venue, with my right hand man Mr H seeing a shed load more in his time. He and indeed his super-Slayer loving son Ant were both notable absences from this gig (they were in Lille with Mr Perry watching The Scorps) however the rest of our crew (and I mean nearly bleeding all of us, definitely a bigger boat moment) piled into The 'Port for a pre-gig drink and even though some of our number nearly ended up on the wrong side of the tracks, we all finally headed towards the venue, where we were greeted by a monumental queue for entry. Now this wasn't a normal queue (although the venue does seem to have a penchant for them) no this was all part of the heightened security of the venue due to the attacks in Paris the previous weekend. Like good metal soldiers we sucked it up and waited in line mentally and physically preparing ourselves for the onslaught that we were about to experience.

Unfortunately we got into the venue just as openers Kvelertak were wrapping up so it would be unfair to give them a review based on the three songs I saw but the limited crowd that were inside were lapping up the Norwegian metal attack, think a punkier Mastodon and you wouldn't be far off. I hope to see the band again in the future to witness the show a lot of people praise. Now we were up in the back of the arena on the fixed seating, but this does tend to be the best vantage point, it also means that you can see the venue fill and fill it did, this was the first night of the tour and also the smallest arena on it meaning that it filled rapidly making movement hard. Still we persisted to the bar during break between songs, only to be held up as Scott Ian needed to relieve himself in the punters toilets, so obviously the normies like you and me couldn't enter the area. As he finished and headed to the stage we took our seats ready for my eleventh encounter with the New York thrash mob.

They can be a little hit and miss sometimes but this time Anthrax (9) were firing on all cylinders the stage dressing was simple just two small flags with the Anthrax star logo on them and as AC/DC blared over the P.A the band took to the stage, Charlie Benante counted in and he, Frank Bello, Jon Donais all followed riff machine Scott Ian into their evergreen opener Caught In A Mosh, the unmistakeable riff flew like a jet and Joey Belladonna came to stage to spit the lyrics with the rapid fire delivery the song has always had before crooning in the choruses, the huddled masses shouting back every word. With the mosh truly started what came next was a greatest hits set with Anthrax doing what they do best, they seemed to be really loving the stage as they fired off Got The Time and Madhouse in quick succession, a break an explanation and then killer new cut Evil Twin was aired and it's classic Anthrax, after Evil Twin they remained in the present day with the Fight 'Em Till You Can't which is now a cornerstone of their set. Both these songs were lapped up by the crowd as Anthrax went back to the old school for their cover of Antisocial and then March Of The S.O.D from Ian's other project Stormtroopers Of Death, this was a nice suprise and the set once again slowed as hymn came out of the P.A and the backdrop changed to Dimebag and Dio, In The End was a tribute the bands fallen brothers and was a little emotional (maybe it was the chlorine in the air) but this emotion was quickly stomped away by the Newport Centre exploding into a War Dance for Indians (once again one of the nutters down the front was bedecked in a Native American head-dress) and the set ender Among The Living (no I Am The Law which was a surprise) but Anthrax really showed their skill to get a crowd going. Scott Ian is their natural leader while Bello and Donais stalked the stage with the walking rhythm and searing leads respectively, as Ian riffed like a bastard. Benante is one of the most underrated drummers in the scene but if you see Anthrax live keep an eye on him as he's excellent behind the kit and coming to Belladonna he was in fine voice and clearly loving every minute of the show. Anthrax have been at this as long as tonight's headliners and it showed a perfect start to the main course, Anthrax are no mere appetiser.

So yet another change over (and bar run for our non driving number) and the Slayer (9) curtain went up to hide what was behind. A tantalising wait was finally over as the intro tape Delusions Of Saviour played and the Slayer logo was emblazoned on the curtain and with a snare drum snap shroud came down to reveal the Repentless album cover background and the albums explosive title track kicking things off in true Slayer style. Kerry King and Gary Holt traded licks like the two old-hands they are while Araya attacked his bass with a quiet determination and Paul Bostaph played with fury not seen in the band for while. Slayer have always had one schtick and because of this they know how to pace a set and they went straight into Postmortem, the still great Hate Worldwide, with Disciple and God Send Death coming off the Bostaph backed God Hates Us All. A nice airing for these tracks ramped up the ferocity of the evening perfectly, then the thrash legends stopped, the background became drenched in black light giving an eerie feel. Araya took to the mic to ask the audience a question, this was "Are You Ready?" which he said actually meant are you prepared? The crowd said they were, they knew what was coming and with shriek War Ensemble battered the crowd again, a chance to get a collective breath back with the slower, doom laden When The Stillness Comes from the most recent album but after this brief slowdown Vices stepped things up a little building the power and speed back up ready for the absolute carnage of Mandatory Suicide, Chemical Warfare, Die By The Sword and Black Magic. Maybe it's here I should talk about the band Kerry King and Tom Araya are still the stoic leaders of this group liberally applying their seal all over the songs, the ghost of Jeff Hanneman still looms large with the songs still resonating today.

Yet with all this history Bostaph and Holt add their own touches to the sets with Holt especially adding his own flourishes to the solos, the stage set too was the best I've seen from the band with the moving inverted crosses and lighting effects adding a sense of drama to proceedings. With Implode continuing the assault, it was up to Seasons Of The Abyss to bring the creeping evil once again, then a quick run through of Hell Awaits, Dead Skin Mask, World Painted Blood wrapped things up before the final trifecta of their classic songs started with South Of Heaven which segued into Raining Blood slickly upping the ante with the finale of Angel Of Death. Sweating, breathless and full of adrenaline is the normal way to end any Slayer gig, hell even in the seats we felt most of these, for the mass of humanity on the floor it was like a warzone but then every good Slayer gig is. This was the most focussed I've seen the band and the gig was all the better due to the closeness of the venue and the ease of the organisation (in direct contrast to the nightmare Paul and Ant had to go through seeing them in Birmingham) With what seems like a new focus Slayer have risen from their post Hanneman period with a relit fire, lets hope that this will extend to their freshly announced headline set at Bloodstock 2016. However on this night there wasn't much between the two thrash legends and that made the show one not to miss!                

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