30 years after the release of the seminal album ‘Among the Living’, the thrash metal pioneers from the Big Apple were back on tour and ready to induce days of post-concert neck-aches. Supporting Anthrax on the European dates of their world tour are London-based melodic metal band The Raven Age.
Supporting a band as big as Anthrax, who come with their army of loyal fans, can always be bitter sweet. Unfortunately, the crowd never fully got involved in The Raven Age’s set as they were clearly waiting for the main act’s iconic thrash metal songs to fill the air. Nonetheless, The Raven Age were tremendously enthusiastic and did all they could to get the crowd jumping. This eagerness was mirrored by the high energy and thunderous vibes that the five Londoners brought to the stage.
Personally, I found the low registers of the bass overpowering the overall sound, making the melodic guitars slightly indiscernible. A bit of tweaking on the sound board should easily fix this. The set ended on what was clearly their best song ‘Angel In Disgrace’, which was made up of heavy riffs, melodic singing and the power to get you neck limbered up for what was about to come. The Raven Age are a fun band to watch with a huge amount of promise.
With the Manchester Academy full up, and more leather in the room than at an Ann Summer’s Christmas sale, the place was pumping and ready for some serious moshing. Coming out all guns blazing, Anthrax threw down the gauntlet and proved to everyone that they still had it. Kicking the evening off with ‘A.I.R.’, the first of the two sets started with ferocious deep and heavy thrash metal of the finest.
Compared to their latest studio recordings, the live sound of the band was much closer to that of their earlier albums. With Joey Belladonna’s vibrato voice ringing out, the band was having an absolute ball on stage. ‘A.I.R.’ was quickly followed by ‘Madhouse’ and ‘Evil Twin’, which saw an increase in power and raw energy in their sound. Anthrax’s relentless guitar-galloping heavy sound ensured that everyone was on their feet, and head-banging or singing along. Sitting behind a drum set that requires at least two postcodes, Charlie Benante’s clean drumming was absolutely on point on the evening and perfectly paced the fast speed of the band.
It was this exquisite drumming coupled with the wonderful performance of bassist Frank Bello that laid down the solid foundation on which the fantastic evening was built. After the first three songs, the musicians, all now in their mid 50’s needed a little break and a sip of energy drink, and to let the audience get a breather before the musical spanking would recommence.
Having a joke with the only student in the crowd at the University venue, the band launched into another savage musical attack with ‘Medusa’, the slightly decadent ‘Blood Eagle Wings’ and the super-fast ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t’. After a short break and with no band members on stage, the iconic opening riff of ‘Be All, End All’ rings out. The crowd went wild, and for the next couple of minutes all that was to be heard was Scott Ian’s guitar and the crowd singing along with ‘lah lah’s’ at the top of their voice. Ending on ‘Breathing Lightning’, which showcased the wonderful ability of lead guitarist and shredder-extraordinaire Jon Donais, the set was over to the concert of shouts and cheers from the audience.
A lightning fast and slick set change later, the band was back on stage after the Blues Brothers’ ‘I Can’t turn You Loose’. The second half of their two-hour set was dedicated to the 30-year anniversary of ‘Among The Living’, and the band played the entire album, albeit in a new song order. From the first riff a clear shift in intensity and bottomless heaviness of the sound was clear. The standout songs ‘Caught In A Mosh’, ‘I Am The Law’, and Scott Ian’s favourite ‘A Skeleton In The Closet’ also received the biggest response from the crowd with almighty mosh pits and circles forming during all three songs.
After a quick joke about an actor being president when the album was written as opposed to a game show host, who is in power now, the band ended the second set on ‘Imitation of Life’, which according to Scott Ian would have prevented the current political mess if more people had listened to it. After the second set, there was one more song from Anthrax’s arsenal of hits that was missing. Surely they could not end the show without playing ‘Antisocial’. They didn’t!
The evening was a very special musical delight from a band who still has every ounce of rage and energy that has made them one of The Big Four, alongside Slayer, Megadeath and Metallica. Not many bands will be able to sell out big venues on a school night, Valentines Day no less, to perform a three-decade-old album. There could not have been a better and more romantic place to bring your sweetheart than to see these trash metal gods entertain to the max and give the crowd an evening to remember.
View more photos from the gig on our Flickr page.