The combined thrash powers of Death Angel, Testament and Anthrax brought out everyone from young metalheads to what Joey Belladonna eloquently dubbed the “old freaks from a long time ago” to the Vogue Theatre Thursday evening.
Although the show was scheduled to start at eight o’clock, Death Angel was already playing when I arrived at ten minutes to, and there was only a small group quietly taking in the band’s fun Bay Area thrash. By the very end of Death Angel’s set, things started to fill up a little more and the crowd came to life to cheer and bang along to classic tracks like “Mistress of Pain” from their highly praised first album The Ultra Violence, and newer tracks such as “Claws in so Deep” from their newest release Relentless Retribution.
Next, and the real treat for me as a longtime fan, was Testament. They began with a barrage of tracks from their new album Dark Roots of Earth before a backdrop of the album’s epic dark-antler cover art, before breaking into one of Chuck Billy’s self-proclaimed favourite tracks, “More Than Meets the Eye”, off 2008’s The Formation of Damnation. All of this was all well and good, but my hard-thrashing, torn-up Slayer shirt wearing, high school self didn’t fully emerge until Testament busted out “Into the Pit”, off of 1989’s The New Order. At this point, as if to add to the surreal quality, a wacko fan got up on stage and started to do a silly dance, unnoticed by security for an uncomfortably long period of time. When he decided he had enough and did a stage-dive back into the crowd, Billy stopped to comment, “That was a weak-ass dive… Jesus.” just before breaking into yet another old favourite of mine, “Practice What You Preach”. It should be noted that there was a clear break in set when Testament delved from their newer material into the older tracks, with a palpable energy increase from both the bands and the fans, who’s non-stop moshing and thrashing was tiring just by being in their vicinity. Other highlights included “Over the Wall”, Chuck Billy conducting a little thrash symphony with a glow-wand/sword, and Alex Skolnick’s maniacal facial expressions while hammering out guitar leads.
During a long turnover break, the Vogue became a packed house. Vibes were electric and sweaty as the venue became packed to the brim with Anthrax fans who watched with anticipation as the stage was decked out in Pentagrams and bathed in a sinister red glow (as if to add to the evil, tracks off Slayer’s Reign in Blood blared in the background while this was all happening). To the delight of the crowd, Anthrax had energy to spare when they finally emerged, opening with “Caught in a Mosh”, as an aged Joey Belladonna jumped and ran around frantically, hyping up the audience even after the previously ensued thrash onslaught. Choosing another song from Among the Living, “Indians”, Anthrax then encouraged the fading crowd to do a “war dance” and get moving.
Another highlight was the intense atmosphere as Anthrax played “In the End” from their newest release Worship Music, which was all ringing bells and sinister vibes. Belladonna commented a few times on how happy he was to play in Canada, mentioning that “Something about Canada is way, way, way cool,” and “I know what party motherfuckers you all are!” The band then made the evening complete by playing the first song off Fistful of Metal, “The Death Rider”, causing further thrash mayhem from an already raging crowd of headbangers.
All in all, this three-hour show was a wild ride, and it was a privilege to see these aging thrash legends play with as much energy and passion as ever. Who knew Vancouver could thrash so hard?