It’s February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. Nothing says “Be Mine” better than a Saint Valentine’s Day (Metal) Massacre from Anthrax and Killswitch Engage. The two aforementioned bands brought their Killthrax II tour to the Anaheim House of Blues with special guest Havok for an evening of in your face, no holds barred metal music.
Havok, a four piece outfit from Denver, Colorado warms up the crowd with a straight forward, no pretense assault. David Sanchez handles lead vocals and guitar. Reece Scruggs is the lead guitarist, who actively roams the stage, flinging his long red mane. Nick Schendzielos, bass and Pete Webber, drums comprise the rhythm section. Their six song set leaves no need to hold anything back, due to its length. They power through their time slot at a pace set to blistering.
Killswitch Engage, from Boston, Massachusetts assumes the stage next to put the “kill” in Killthrax. The band’s name belies their outward appearance, seemingly choosing to focus on the music, rather than an image of what they should be. Charismatic lead singer Jesse Leach can growl with the best of them. He also connects with the audience very well and keeps the audience engaged- no pun intended- throughout the set. Guitarist Joel Stroetzl and bass player Mike D’Antonio look like two guys out having a beer. Justin Foley on drums wears a t-shirt and shorts and is probably meeting Stroetzl and D’Antonio for that beer.
And then there’s Adam Dutkiewicz. It is rare to witness a guy dressed in athletic shorts, a plain colored sleeveless t-shirt, running shoes, a knee brace and a white headband on which is written TRASH play guitar like he does. Dutkiewicz bounds about the stage, frequently doing something akin to the P.A.G.A.N. goat dance from the 1987 Tom Hanks/Dan Aykroyd film Dragnet. All this, without missing a note. Why all the emphasis on Killswitch’s appearance? Appearances can be deceiving. This is one band for whom image doesn’t seem to be in the equation of what they do. Leach and Dutkiewicz enjoy having fun and making jokes with their audience. They make seriously hard, well-crafted music, while not taking themselves too seriously. Refreshing!
The room now anxiously awaits the arrival of Anthrax to the stage. There, in the front row, almost dead-center, is a young man named Dylan Castiglione. A musician himself, in attendance with his father, Dylan was fortunate enough to snatch one guitar pick from each of the two openers as they were tossed from the stage.
The stage lights dim, the PA plays the intro to the The Blues Brothers Briefcase Full of Blues concert album. With a sudden thunderous crash, Anthrax appears on the stage. The lights wash the stage in white as Scott Ian, rhythm guitar, founding member and possessor of what is likely the most famous goatee in rock n’ roll is center stage to greet the crowd with an emphatic strum of his red Jackson V-shaped guitar. The quintet, originally formed in New York City over 30 years ago rage into their set and immediately show the polish of a professional touring band. Charlie Benante, the band’s only drummer in their recording era. pounds out impeccable timekeeping. Perched behind his large drum kit riser, six steps above the rest of the band, he has an excellent vantage point from which to observe his band mates.
Joey Belladonna, their on again, off again lead singer who fronted the band during their pre-grunge heyday prowls the stage, wielding his baton style mic holder like the king’s sceptre. Bassist Frank Bello is a veritable wild man. Bello, the other constant in Anthrax since it began recording, appears to relish his role as crowd instigator. Relative newcomer, Jonathan Donais handle lead guitar duties adeptly. The four musicians mesh well together and experience on the stage is well evident. The relatively short, 11 song set list is well represented by tunes from the days when metal ruled the playlist on MTV. Mixed in is a cover of Joe Jackson’s Got the Time, which they recorded in 1990 for their Persistence of Time album. They also threw in as the penultimate number of the evening, their cover of Antisocial, from the French band Trust, which was on Anthrax’s 1988 release, State of Euphoria. Anthrax finishes their night with Indians, and the show concludes with no encore, leaving the audience feeling like the one kid in school who got no Valentine.
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