‘Kings Among Scotland,’ the new double live album and DVD from Thrash Metal legends Anthrax, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the band’s seminal release ‘Among the Living’ in fine style. Considered to be one of the Big Four of Thrash Metal, Anthrax hold a special place in hearts of many Metalheads, and the aforementioned album contains many of their most iconic songs. Even before launching into playing the entire ‘Among the Living’ album however, Anthrax deliver a blistering first set.
The show opens with a powerful and rousing intro leading into the pumping drumbeat of A.I.R., with the crowd already chanting along. Being an 80s Thrash band, a lot of Anthrax’s earlier output lacked a certain depth of sound compared to what can be produced in the studio today, but they more than make up for it with this live performance. There is magnificent clarity to Joey Belladonna’s vocals, though admittedly enunciation isn’t his strong suit. Jonathan Donais and Scott Ian coordinate their guitar attack admirably, while Frank Bello’s bass is also surprisingly prominent in the mix – which is a good thing.
There’s no doubt the crowd are loving what they hear as the band launches into Madhouse, with Charlie Benante’s drums continuing loud and impressive. Donais and Ian’s riffing has a crisp heaviness that revivifies the flavour of the 80s nicely, and overall there’s a great party feel as the crowd sings along. Belladonna gets the crowd riled up nicely, while this song houses the first of many excellent solos from Donais.
The guitars feel a little looser on Evil Twin, while there is more of a snarl and an edge to both Belladonna’s vocals and the riffs. The vocal harmonies between Belladonna, Bello and Ian are fantastic however, despite the fact that some elements of the song take a while to get together. By the end of it though, Donais executes a magnificently fast and precise solo.
Things slow down slightly with the evil 80s-style riffs of Medusa, feeling like a brutal and intense Mercyful Fate. The band comes together for an amazing display of musicianship between Benante, Donais and Ian during the bridge. Blood Eagle Wings then steps things down another notch with its slow, restrained intro leading into lumbering, crushing heaviness. With a powerful bass lead bringing a very Pantera groove and rolling drums, this is definitely heavier than the usual Anthrax fare. Bello’s strong presence continues to be particularly noteworthy.
Fight ‘em ‘til you Can’t opens with the huge impact befitting this zombie apocalypse-themed song. Benante opens up unprecedented speed with his amazingly heavy and pounding drums, while it feels like there’s a little more of the 80s injected into the guitar work of this more recent song.
Be All, End All opens with a Hendrix-like guitar riff that gets the crowd singing along in its slow and powerful glory, before the band display their uncanny unity in a song that quickly becomes frenetic. The bass is thumping and the drums fast and powerful, though it’s Donais’ guitar work that steals the show in this song with his fantastic solo.
The first set closes with Breathing Lightning, with Belladonna’s vocal performance even comparable to Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, though unfortunately Donais’ solo gets a little lost under Ian’s riffs.
The second set, excluding the final song, is dedicated to the songs of ‘Among the Living’ – kicking off with the title track. The riffs burst with heaviness and attitude while the drums kick in full-force, making this song a pure wall of sound. Belladonna does seem to need to find his feet again with this song, and once again the solo gets a little lost beneath the chaotic bass and drums. Everything is set right with Caught in a Mosh however, as pure arena rock power chords build up anticipation for the song. Bello’s bass drives the song beautifully, with a wonderful balance re-emerging between the instruments and Belladonna’s vocals back on form.
One World immediately gives the sense of Anthrax taking things up a notch with the frenetic, punk-inspired track; while things get heavy and Thrashy with the Judge Dredd homage, I am the Law. The latter song carries a distinct New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence, with a bit of Biff Byford’s style notable in the vocals.
The NWOBHM vibe continues with A Skeleton in the Closet, which is interesting as Belladonna declares that this is the song that most defines what Anthrax sounds like to him – and that after all this time, “it’s still f*cking relentless!” One has to say, with the incredibly chunky riffing and fast, pounding drums, he’s not wrong. This also comes across as one of the darkest songs in the set.
Efilgnikcufecin (N.F.L.) – just read it backwards – starts with some awesome sustained vocal work from Belladonna before kicking into the fast-paced and climactic riffs. The speed of this song has nothing on Donais’ next major solo, however. This intro piece to A.D.I. Horror of it All is so ridiculously fast that one could almost question how playing it is physically possible. At the same time however, the piece is melodic and compelling, with the rest of the band joining in for a five-minute instrumental somewhat reminiscent of John5’s Black Widow of la Porte.
Benante brings a massive drum sound before the band kick into the iconic riffs of Indians, one of their very best-known songs. In a daring move, Anthrax make the crowd wait to get their war dance, as Belladonna points out Ian’s concern that, “Some of you aren’t having as much fun as you should be having!” It is show business, after all.
The show wraps up with the crunchy riffs and attitude of imitation of Life, following by the rousing and triumphant Antisocial – the latter song never having sounded so good.
Despite celebrating 30 years of their most iconic album, Anthrax prove in this show that not only do they still have it, they’re perhaps more of a force to be reckoned with than ever. With such a high-quality live show being committed to CD and DVD, one can only hope that they’ll bring the action to Australia again soon.
GET YOUR HANDS ON ANTHRAX’S ‘KINGS AMONG SCOTLAND’ HERE!