October 11, 2022

As much as the tour is billed as the 40th anniversary of New York thrashers Anthrax -as guitarist Scott Ian points out from the stage, technically, it is their 41st – and once more we can ‘thank’ the pandemic for the delay to the party.

Whilst every band birthday is a celebration, this one is significant for Anthrax. For one, it is a celebration of the longevity of thrash – and based on the young faces mixing it up with the old schoolers who share stories of legendary gigs with Metallica on the Master Of Puppets tour and the tour in support of Among The Living – the love for thrash metal shows no signs of subsiding and continues to cross the generations. The other reason is Anthrax themselves. It is thanks to the band that the term ‘thrash’ exists at all as it was coined on the back of a review of their debut album Fistful Of Metal back in 1984 and Anthrax is just synonymous with thrash metal and their ’entry’ into the famed ‘Big Four’ with their timeless Among The Living album. Of course, it has not always been a straight road, lineup changes at the dawn of the 1990s but Anthrax stood the course through changing times.

Anthrax (Frank Bello). Photo: Ian Jenkinson

Tonight is all about the party and there are plenty of faces pleasantly surprised by the hardcore/thrash of opening act Sworn Enemy. The audience does swell for the arrival of Richmond, Virginia crossover thrashers Municipal Waste – it is a party and the ‘Waste do like to party. Front man Tony Foresta lays on the humour with the audience interaction “Is that all you got? We’ve not played here for 69 years, you can do better than that.” Or when he encourages a circle pit “the security is baited, we want as much crowd surfing as possible and let’s have a waterfall upstairs.” Despite the humour, Municipal Waste is serious as to their craft and the crossover nature of their thrash is both proficient and gnarly. With the short structure of the songs, it is a crammed set list (“We have 69 more songs”) that arrive and burst through at considerable speed. Grave Dive from latest album Electrified Brain has a titanic riff in the middle which opens up the track, but it’s tunes such as Beer Pressure and Slime And Punishment that really gets the Nottingham audience pumped. Foresta grins as another body surfs its way to the stage and into the waiting arms of the security but by the end of their 45 minute set, there can be no argument that Municipal Waste conquered and would have acquired many a new fan tonight.

It is fair to say that the atmosphere inside Rock City is palpable even before a curtain is draped over the front of the stage. Said curtain then bursts into life as a screen with a presentation of famous faces speaking in adoring tones for their love of Anthrax. It is an impressive list which includes Keanu Reeves, Lady Ga Ga, Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus and comedian Brian Poeshn, a whole host of musicians from Gene Simmons to Corey Taylor. Rob Zombie to Henry Rollins, Dee Snider to Dave Mustaine. After several minutes the curtain drops to the familiar guitar intro of Among The Living. and that is the point when the cork pops and Nottingham Rock City literally explodes. Vocalist Joey Belladonna might as well have sat the song out because the audience does it for him “Disease! Disease! Spreading The Disease!” is bellowed back at towards the stage. Saying that, the man is in fine voice and can still hit those highs.

Anthrax (Scott Ian) Photo: Ian Jenkinson

Guitarist Scott Ian is a tightly wound bundle of energy, and he may not stomp around the stage like he used to, but his head furiously bangs as he rips out the rhythm; lead guitarist John Donais is a flail of hair that rarely moves from his position stage left; Frank Bello is a dynamo as well as an exciting bass player, his mouthing the lyrics to the songs is like a call to the gods. And the beating heart at the back, Charlie Benante who still one of the most fluid and underrated drummers out there. As to the set list – some bands can be haunted by their most popular songs and the ones that they just have to play but tonight the set plays into both the bands and audiences laps because this is a birthday party after all. On that basis there are no real deep cuts – maybe with the exception of the excellent Only from the John Bush-era Sound Of White Noise. Every other song tonight is an Anthrax ‘hit’ one way or another. Even the covers – Trust’s Antisocial and Joe Jackson’s Got The Time have become their own entities in Anthrax’s set with the latter setting off a wild circle pit that has the remainder of the crowd jostled from all sides. The cover of Public Enemy’s Bring The Noise is truncated but at least it did get something of an airing and a nod towards what made Anthrax different in the thrash world. Among The Living does still feature heavily as well as the title track that opened the show, the Judge Dredd inspired I Am The Law still remains a big hitter and the John Belushi cautionary tale that is Efilnikufesin (NFL) had even the most exhausted grinning ear to ear for another speed round in the pit. 

Anthrax (Joey Belladonna) Photo: Ian Jenkinson

It is Indians though that is the pinnacle of any show and the “wardance” centerpiece which is a call to arms to the front of the stage and the wider population that it is going to get hairy. With Metal Thrashing Mad from their debut; Medusa and the evergreen Madhouse from Spreading The Disease;  the dark and gritty Keep It In The Family from Persistence Of Time plus the In The End from latter day album Worship Music, the set does in the main cover all Joey Belladonna-era Anthrax. The beauty of this gig is it is about the songs and as Scott Ian puts it – 40 years of thrash metal. It is all about the music – there was no need for elaborate stage antics, flashpots or fire when the music is the only conversation in the room. When the band did talk, there was genuine appreciation for everyone who turned out tonight and gratitude that audiences and bands can once more share the same space.

As the final strains of Eficlnikufecin ring out, the security heaves a collective sigh of relief that no other bodies will be arriving over the barrier. Above them handfuls of guitar picks thrown from the band rain down onto the Rock City floor, the band takes a bow, and they are – quite rightly – treated as heroes. As the shuffle out of the Nottingham venue commences, everywhere it can be heard that Anthrax was the best tonight than they ever have been, and this was not just a gig. Anthrax had nothing to prove but they did it anyway.

When all is said and done, thrash metal is in a good place and still in safe hands of the originators. At the start of the show and the video presentation it was Mastodon’s Brad Dailor who said, “here is to another 40 years….maybe” and while the inevitable cannot be stopped, Anthrax’s music will indeed stand the test of time and for generations to come.