Here at A&GS we know how to kick the month of April off right. It seems like every year at this time we find ourselves at some of the best shows on the planet like BEHEMOTH, GOATWHORE, TOM KEIFER, SEVENDUST, and more. This year we got the month-long party that IS Maestro’s birthday celebration started with none other than ANTHRAX and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE live at Electric Factory in Philly.
This also served as Kate Drexel Photography’s first “official” show as a team member, and I was glad to have her with me. It’s always great to have photographers onboard who are just as passionate about the music as I am; I feel like more often than not their photos reflect that.
After getting myself a cold one I found a nice piece of real estate to watch the night unfold. KILLSWITCH ENGAGE went on at 8:30 pm, opening with “Hate By Design” from exceptional new record Incarnate followed by “Vide Infra” from 2000’s self-titled debut. The crowd was already worked into a fever pitch and we were barely two songs into a 17-song set!
“My Last Serenade” and “A Bid Farewell” were up next, singer Jesse Leach sounding like he was ripping himself apart internally, albeit in tune. I was never a huge fan of his, but between the new record and seeing his fire live, I was totally into it. “The New Awakening” sounded much better live than it did on 2013’s Disarm the Descent, an album I still don’t like, but this song really ripped.
Two of the evening’s best songs came back-to-back with “Alone I Stand” (one of Kate’s faves!) and “The End of Heartache.” When Leach held the mic out for the audience to sing, holy fuck was it loud!! This one is always fun to hear live. Another killer new track “Embrace the Journey…Upraised” was next and then they whipped out “This Fire Burns” which is apparently someone’s WWE theme song, I don’t know.
“Rose of Sharyn” from The End of Heartache was yet another highlight for me, as was “Strength of the Mind.” That’s when I knew I was gonna love KsE again, when they released that one. Now, I am VERY picky when it comes to anyone covering DIO, but their version of “Holy Diver” kicks ass. All Hail Ronnie James Dio!!
Closing out the set was “In Due Time”and of course, the crowd ate it up like candy. All told it was a very good and well-paced set from KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, who seem to be getting better with age.
And now it was time for ANTHRAX. Of the Big Four they to me have always been extremely underrated and I still say that 2011’s Worship Music is the finest work they’ve ever done. However, new album For All Kings is no slouch, either. And it features some fucking awesome tracks that I was anxious to hear live. But first, it was time for a trip in the Wayback Machine for the one-two punch of “Among the Living” and “Caught In a Mosh” from 1987’s Thrash-terpiece Among the Living followed by Spreading the Disease’s “Madhouse”! Wow! Way to get things off and running, huh?
I had made a new friend Brian at this point and the drinks were flowing nicely, and we were singing along nice and loud. Worship Music only made an appearance with one song “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t” but it’s one of the best on the record and is an absolute staple of the ANTHRAX live show since 2011.
Joey Belladonna can still fucking rip it up on vocals, sounding just as good as he did 30 years ago, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian was doing his thing, while lead shredder Jon Donais tore the shit out of every solo on every song. Bassist Frank Bello was all over the stage, and drummer Charlie Benante only reminded everyone that if his name isn’t in the conversation for greatest metal drummers out there, then something is very, very wrong with this world.
“I Am the Law” was without a doubt one of the night’s best songs, the whole band playing with such force and vigor I couldn’t help but scream like a madman. New track “Breathing Lightning” was spectacular, and one that just destroyed live, as did “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L)” from the old days. It’s pretty cool to watch a building full of people screaming, “N.F.L., NICE FUCKIN’ LIFE!!” like I was, and Brian was. Another new tune showed up in “Evil Twin” which was also excellent before the band tore into “March of the S.O.D.” which served as an homage to Ian and Benante’s old band STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH.
Another new cut “Blood Eagle Wings” served as a very powerful slow grinder. It’s one of the best tracks on For All Kings, so of course it had to be played live.
The show was winding down, but ANTHRAX saved the best for last. First they pulled out “Antisocial” which had all of us yelling, “AN-TI-SO-CIAL!!” over and over, and then it was time for “Indians.” Man alive, this is a killer tune and one helluva way to close a show. Especially when Ian yelled, “WARDAAAAANCE!!” to really get the pit going.
All in all this was a great night of metal. I got to rage with ANTHRAX and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, make a new friend, and hang out with one of my favorite people and photographers in Kate Drexel. If this tour hits your city you had better fucking go, it’s that simple. You will get your money’s worth and then some, and you will also get the best of the old and the new, all in one awesome package.
LIVE IMAGES: KATE DREXEL PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO