It was 1981. Music was everywhere. Rock was hard. Metal was becoming a stronger force by the month. There was Sabbath, there was Priest, there was Maiden, and there was Motorhead. Then, almost suddenly, hardcore fused with some of the majesty of the melodic rock world, and thus was born the genre that would come to ignite more passion, energy, and debate than ever before: Thrash. It was hard, it was fast, it was dirty and gross. It was everything a parent hated, and everything a rebellious teen needed to get their angst-laden point across. Denim and leather collided with spikes and pimples, and a new generation took their first steps into a new world or heavy metal.
Among the living energy of this new force came some very notable bands, to become known as “The Big 4” of thrash metal. Anthrax. Metallica. Megadeth. Slayer. If you’ve ever heard a heavy metal song and banged your head along to it, then you’ve at least heard the names of these four titans. There were others, of course. Exodus, Overkill, Testament, (early) Corrosion of Conformity, the list goes on and on.
40 years later, I stood in wait of two bands that I always had wanted to see, but had been too young to see in their “prime”. I’m not sure what they were like in their prime, but if my experience tonight was any indicator, they haven’t left that prime, not yet. Anthrax and Testament, at the Brooklyn Bowl right here in Las Vegas, Nevada. When I was invited to come to this show, I was immediately filled with excitement. Thrash metal is home. It’s comfort for me, a guitar player whose parents had injected the very heart and soul of heavy metal into.
The opening band, Nukem, kicked off the night. Formed in 2012 in San Diego, they have been playing stages with good bands for a while, and tonight, they really got to display some power. They didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t heard them prior to the show, and expected an “opening act”. The all-too-familiar band put on before the main event that usually gets 1/8 the crowd, and 1/16 the energy. Nukem put that to rest, quickly. They opened the show with ferocity, power, and fun. They were fast, heavy, loud, and sounded like a culmination of their clear influences, but fresh and rejuvenated. Riffs that felt familiar, but not ripped off. They sounded like a band that could have been playing alongside the masters that they were opening for 35 years ago, but they’ve been at it for less than 10 years. Marcus (editor, owner of AudioVein) bought their CD at the merch booth. I would have too, but, you know musicians and money don’t always mix.
When you talk about thrash metal, few bands generate the love and admiration that you’ll find for Testament. Another band from the Bay Area Thrash movement, but coming on a little later than their peers. The crowd erupted when the band came on stage, and immediately began to mosh. Chuck Billy never stopped moving, never stopped smiling, and never once gave any indication that he had anything less than pure, unconditional love for what he did. His voice was powerful as he commanded the stage and had the crowd waiting for his next move, his next note, or his grin gleaming out across the pit. Alex Skolnick, a legend in the guitar world as much as the metal world, did his legendary thing. His fingers flew around the fretboard with an almost odd smoothness, and he also never stopped having fun even for a second. A short guitar solo punctuated a break between the initial onslaught of the show. Eric Peterson took the 6-string duties on the other side of the stage; the constant backbone of the band through thick and thin, and as well with bone-crushingly chugging rhythms and tasty riffs. The banner behind them fell to reveal the old-school black and white block-letter Testament logo as they continued to kick every single ass in the room. Then there’s The Atomic Clock himself, Mr. Gene Hoglan.
If you listen to metal, you know I don’t need to list his accomplishments as the man is almost synonymous with “Baddest Ass Drummer of All Time”. I mention in almost any review I do the importance of the rhythm section in ANY band, and in metal, it’s crucial to have that clock ticking right, because that train is going fast and you don’t want it to derail. There’s no worry of that with Gene. Speed, finesse, and thunder, to use three words to describe the magic that sparked from his kit. Rounding out that rhythm section, a bassist with a sheet almost as long as Gene’s, Steve Di Giorgio added to the thunder and power that was Testament. If anyone thought they might be too old, they’re not. If the show had ended there, I wouldn’t have been disappointed, as my ass had thoroughly been kicked. Of course, there’s more. The heart of thrash metal lies in the Bay Area. Let’s be real, though, New York isn’t a place to be outdone, not without a say in the matter.
Enter Anthrax. By the mid-80’s Anthrax was spreading like a disease… Ok, I’ll stop. Sorry. The ferocity of metal fused with the rebellion of punk with Anthrax, a band whose only goal seemed to be, and still continues to feel like kicking as much goddamn ass as humanly possible. They played 11 songs this night, and the assault was unrelenting. Kicking off the show with Among the Living, Caught in a Mosh, and Got the Time, the guys didn’t give you an opportunity to stop thrashing metal madly in the pit, (Whoops!), and you wouldn’t have wanted to anyway.

Scott Ian is Scott Ian. You know him, you love him, and he’s just fun. He’s up there shakin’ his goat while he hammers his guitar, and you know he loves every damn second of it. Charlie beats the skins off the drums in ways you wouldn’t think possible while Frank Bello pounds out the low end. Jonathan Donais (formerly of Shadows Fall) played along with a ridiculously smooth right hand (Yeah, I was staring, I’m a guitarist after all, and he’s one of the best in the business!) and a rightful place alongside these titans of Thrash. Joey Belladonna. How the HELL can he still sing like that? I don’t know how people sang like that 35 years ago, let alone after all these years of rockin’ out. He runs around the stage, daring you to stand still and not have fun for even a second, because he’s not having that shit. You’re at an Anthrax show for one reason, and it’s not to take a nap, and if he’s gonna enjoy it, then so are you!



It’s hard to write objectively about bands that have been a part of your life for so long. I also don’t need to be objective. This show was amazing. It is cemented in my mind as one of the best shows I’ve had the fortune of seeing. Every musician kicked ass at this show, and anyone who disagrees was down the street watching Bono croon along for $250 a ticket.



Catch them with Slayer on their farewell tour, along with Lamb of God and Behemoth, you won’t regret it.


Anthrax, Testament, Nukem, cheers and thanks for keeping metal alive and well, and here’s to many more years of rocking the fuck out.


A few extras shots:
Photos by Marcus Miller