House of Blues Anaheim
On an evening when rock music fans musicians around the world mourned the loss of Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell, flocks of thrashers and headbangers piled into the newly remodeled House of Blues in Anaheim, for an old-school metal show, courtesy of Testament with special guests, Brazilian metalers Sepultura and groove metal masters Prong.
There is no denying the stamina and stealth of the powerhouse thrash assault that is Testament. Perhaps, if there were additional thrash bands added to the Big 4(Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax), Testament, would be a sensible choice. This San Francisco Bay area speed metal institution has given fans classic and fined tuned thrash metal for three decades.
Lead singer Chuck Billy’s presence and gleeful on stage antics go hand in hand with the amazing musicianship and chemistry between guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, bassist Steve DiGiorgio and drummer Gene Hogan, a monster of a percussionist who adds that extra layer of aggression and precision to Testament’s sound bringing it all together for a cohesive, and heavy in your face approach to speed metal that is not easily replicated.
Billy’s use of a portable microphone as a fourth instrument is not only entertaining, but his mic starts exuding the phantom riffs. Long story short, aside from Billy’s air guttering with his microphone, his vocal cords are among thrash metal’s best and as a singer he is able to bring that power captured on record to the live setting, with all the dissonance, harmony and brutality that encompasses the band’s legacy of music. Testament’s use of dual vocals works great too with every band member putting forth 110 percent effort into the musical collaboration on stage.
Fans at the House of Blues got to see a diverse set list of songs both old and new that spanned the band’s illustrious career of thrash metal madness. Fan favorites included “Low,” “Into the Pit,” “Throne of Thorns,” “Centuries of Suffering,” “Souls of Black,” and many more, including an encore of “Practice What You Preach.”
Throughout the duration of the 90 minute set, each musician in the band had a solo, including a punishing drum solo by Hogan that proved why he is known as one of metal’s most intense behind the kit. Plus, Skolnick had a solo guitar jam with parts of Hendrix and Van Halen thrown in, along with a few riffs from the classic Soundgarden song, “Spoonman” dedicated to Cornell.
With the slam dancers in full force the entire show, rad fans mashed and literally jumped and swung their way through he circle pit for an hour and a half, for a set that proved the band’s endurance. With a powerful sound, and energy levels that are unprecedented, as well as a catalog of songs that doesn’t just rely on old school hits, Testament have shown the world they are not just a nostalgia act though they have their important history as part of thrash metal from the ’80s, they are still making music today that is urgent, and relevant and keeping thrash metal alive for generations to come. This is all seen with the band’s later offering, Brotherhood of the Snake, which conceptually and artistically made up the large serpents in the backdrop of the band’s stage.
Prior to Testament, the mighty Sepultura performed. The controversy with this band of course there are two eras and fans are usually split down the middle. The band’s early period with the Cavalera brothers is highly regarded as seminal and some of its best however, things were switched up in when Max and brother Igor, founding members, left the band in 1996, and 2006. But the band has continued and fought on; currently guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Palo Jr. remain as sole original members.
Vocalist Derrick Green came into the mix in 1998, and now for nearly two decades he has fronted the band, and delivered a brutal and intense mix of hardcore, metal and thrash which is the band’s roots.The band’s very crushing set consisted of just under an hour of songs like old school hits such as “Refuse/Resist,” “Inner Self,” “Ratamahatta,” but also included more recent tunes like “I Am the Enemy,” and “Althea,” and others from the new album form this year, Machine Messiah. Much like Testament, but under slightly different circumstances, Sepultura have proven to naysayers over the years they don’t have to rely on the music they did with former members, though the issue is still a touchy subject for some metal purists.
Fans still uncomfortable with this, well they can see Soulfly for their fix of Cavalera led Sepultura songs. But, as for the current incarnation of Sepultura, say what you will but the band’s music is still relevant to heavy metal music today; and the raw thrash metal sound the band was known for since its early days is still alive and well, with a modern twist, flowing throughout each band member. This was the perfect duo of bands to tour, each having its own power and merit but the combo was perfect for fans who got double doses of speed metal fury.After a solid hour long set, the band bowed and fans waited eagerly for the next 30 minutes for Testament to appear.
Opening the show was Prong, an East Coast staple among hard rock, thrash and metal fans since the late ’80s. As an alternative staple in the ’90s, Prong has always been severely underrated. But this groovy, power riff laden trio band, led by guitarist/singer Tommy Victor (Danzig), bassist Jason Christopher, and drummer Art Cruz was also the perfect match, and warmed up the crowd for Sepultura and Testament.
All in all, this was a night of three great bands each worthy of their own headline tour but the order of each, and melding of sounds and fans was smooth. Thursday evening turned out to be thrashers haven at the House of Blues Anaheim.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.