House of Blues Anaheim
January 31, 2013
A portion of Downtown Disney was morphed into a thrash metal haven last night, as Bay Area heroes Testament played the second night of a cross country tour, to promote their new album, The Dark Roots of Earth(released in July on Nuclear Blast). Every now and then, it's interesting to see House of Blues literally turn into head banger's ball, packed like a tin full of long-haired, denim wearing sardines.
Old AC/CD and Judas Priest pumped relelntlessly through the house speakers, by 9:45 p.m., the floor was packed to the brim with rabid metal heads of various ages. A sea of three generations of devil horns were raised, as the lights went out, and Testament took the stage – starting with guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson bassist Greg Christian and drummer Gene Hoglan and vocalist Chuck Billy. A version of the "Star Spangled Banner" was played and faded as the band launched into a whiplash of a set underneath a wicked castle/skull art banner.
Fans loved the high velocity of each song, and were taken through a ride of a career that spawns more than a quarter of a century. Chuck Billy creates a magic that can't be matched, not just with his solid singing ability and stamina, but in a visual sense: his signature guitar solos, with a microphone stand, not only make fans smile, but also make you actually feel he is playing a third guitar, as nerdy as it sounds.
But the secret weapon of Testament as a unit has to be Skolnick, the band's original guitarist, a virtuoso who played on the band's early albums, and is also an established jazz guitarist. Along with his traditional speed metal riffage, Hoglan adds his super human octopus like drum beats to the table to create a wall of sound that is not only thrashing but combined with a the bass is bashing, so hard toy feel the thumping of it all in your chest.
Testament might fit properly among other thrash titans like Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica. To metal purists, they already do. But with this new album the band is out to prove that despite age and even health problems (see random notebook dump) thrash metal will never die. Fans ate up the entire hour long set of songs, and moshed to there delight, especially for old school favorites like "Into the Pit," "New Order" and "Practice What You Preach," where fists went flying in a good old fashioned circle pit.
This show was definitely a testament (pardon the pun) to thrash metal's ability to stand the test of time. Indeed it survives on, as many youth in the crowd were more energetic than their elders.
Opening band Overkill, from New Jersey were perfect for this show. Formed in 1980 out of New Jersey, fans of Mercyful Fate, Anthrax, Motorhead and Judas Priest would love this band, led by singer Bobby Blitz, now in his 50s.
What made this band entertaining was a powerful, thick sound that screamed of raw power. A brilliant amalgam of speed metal, power metal and even hints of punk and arena rock, which translated into songs that were anthemic and memorable.
Humor also helped this band, as the vocalist seemed stoned, or either had an attitude of not giving a damn. "When's the last time you had an old man kick your ass?" he yelled jokingly into the wild crowd after the song Electric Rattlesnake. Other songs that got the crowd moving and properly warmed up for Testament included Revelation, Blood and Iron, and the closing song, Fuck You, along with a swath of others that included an eclectic mix of buzzing, melodic speed metal with high pitch vocals and powerful chorus sections that had the crowd chanting along.
Critical Bias: Chuck Billy just might be one of the most imposing figures in thrash metal.
The Crowd: Tons of denim, patches, jeans and sneakers. Youngsters wearing Municipal Waste, Slayer, and Toxic Holocaust shirts, next to a few bearded older dudes wearing BLS jackets guzzling beers. A floor full of long haired thrashers (both male and female), and a blend of younger kids with their parents, who were rocking out in the back near the bar.
Overheard: Some man in a business suit, and another in a Black Sabbath shirt at the bar, talking about the dreaded flu going around. "Fuck that crap man, I know a good cure. Bartender, Tequila shots!"
Random Notebook Dump: Both singers: Chuck Billy of Testament and Bobby 'Blitz' of Overkill had serious health problems at one time in the past. Billy faced a rare form of cancer in 2001 that he was since fully recovered; and Blitz was diagnosed with nose cancer in 1998, which was removed successfully.
Set list (Testament)
More Than Meets The Eye
True American Hate
Eyes of Wrath
Into the Pit
Dark Root of the Earth
Practice What you Preach
The Evil Has Landed
DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
Riding the Snake
Formation of Damnation