ANTHRAX // MUNICIPAL WASTE // SWORN ENEMY // LIVE REVIEW // THE 02 ACADEMY // BRISTOL
On this crisp October evening in Bristol, a long queue of eager fans dressed in black and denim stretch out of the O2 Academy, spilling onto Frogmore street and twisting up around the hill. Its neighbouring rock and metal pub The Hatchet, just a few metres away, was also jam-packed full of Anthrax T-Shirt-wearing beer drinkers.
Part of the ‘Big Four’ (a quartet of four major thrash metal monsters including Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth), Anthrax has been knocking the socks off of the worldwide metal community for over four decades now. This tour is an extension of their 40th Anniversary from 2021, accompanied by the support of well-known speed metal thrash punks Municipal Waste and crossover thrash metal band Sworn Enemy.
Straight out of the New York hardcore scene with no warm-up required, Sal Lococo goes loco on the audience. “Get your f*****g hands up Bristol!” he roars down the microphone in a thick American accent before launching straight into a blinding, full-frontal thrash breakdown. The band has a few Nu Metal undertones which makes sense since the main act Anthrax is well-known for helping pave the way for the genre.
Sworn Enemies’ second song, ‘Here Today’ sounds a bit like Rage Against the Machine, and Mike Pucciarelli, the bassist wearing a stylish bandana, jumps and twirls around youthfully on the stage, as does the lead singer who has a very extroverted presence. The bar staff, most likely accustomed to a wide range of musical performances, don’t really seem to get it but the audience is already headbanging in unison with the drummer Taykwuan Jackson who really packs a punch. During the third song, the song speeds up exponentially and just outright throttles the room. Blue lights flicker off as ‘Coming Undone’ starts and the crowd roars as darker, more ferocious metal screams burst out from the stage. Midway through the set, we are treated to a guitar solo of not-so-modest proportions, at which point lead guitarist Jeff Cummings begins windmilling and showcasing his blonde rapunzel-like locks.
“Bristol, you’ve been amazing!” Sal Lococo shouts, voice now straining slightly from the vocal fries. Ending on a slightly cheekier note he beams “If one of you sees me walking around, buy me a drink!”
After a brief interlude of buying rounds at the bar, the audience gathers expectantly during the soundcheck for Municipal Waste. A furrow-browed engineer in spectacles steps in with some kitchen roll to clean something up, possibly the carnage leftover from the heavy whack of the aforementioned band.
The lights go down and the room cheers. This is obviously a band many of the audience members are familiar with. “C’mon then Bristol, let’s see what you’ve got”! Tony Foresta yells as he launches headfirst into ‘Beer Pressure’ an unrelenting thrash classic about well, beer, and the youthful stupidities of becoming intoxicated. Audience members readily accept the challenge, and the humble beginnings of a mosh pit can be seen forming from the balcony. Like the start of a cosmic hurricane, it swirls and expands further out into the crowd, swallowing more and more people from its edges. The security guards look mildly perturbed and have wisely already taken their positions in front of the stage for what’s to come.
The crowd laments “F*** you up! F*** you up!” in unison, while Tony Foresta shouts “Everyones gonna crowd surf for the next song, I’m not f*****g around!” A couple of the security guards look around in anticipation before Foresta yells “WAVE OF DEATH!” and we then watch as a minimum of fifty fans crowd surf their way over the front bars in a stream of chaotic, emancipated mayhem. Security really has their work cut out for them tonight as they pull person after person down to safety and signal them off to the left.
Municipal Waste show their appreciation and give a huge thanks to the men on the front lines. “Give it up for security! The sexy, sexy security!”
After a short while, the lights go down and Anthrax play their classic introduction video on the big screen, showcasing mutual praise from many celebrities including Keanu Reeves. The crowd goes absolutely wild as shadows of the band members can be seen behind the white screen. As the screen comes down we are launched straight into ‘Among the Living, a song centred around zombies, one of guitarist Scott Ian’s favourite horror themes. Up on the backdrop is a colourful depiction of the band’s iconic mascot, Notman, most likely created by Anthrax’s drummer Charlie Benante who does much of the bands artwork.
Benante picks the pace up mid-song on the drums as Joey Belladonna grabs the microphone stand and paces up and down the stage, pummeling the air playfully as he goes and engaging with all areas of the room. Joey really knows how to get the crowd going in true rock star fashion with his fun, energetic personality and who could forget those piercing zeppelin-like tenor vocals. The prolonged precursory riffs of ‘Caught in a Mosh’ begin as the bearded Scott Ian happily chugs away on his white electric Flying V guitar, shaped a bit like a miniature rocketship. Joey Belladonna humorously mirrors Scott by using the microphone stand as a mock electric guitar, before yelling something incoherent at the audience and piloting the band into the real meat of the song. Of course, the milky way moshpit begins expanding once again from front centre, pulling more willing participants into its ominous heart. This swirling centre becomes more aggressive at the onset of ‘I am the Law’, with Joey punching the microphone stand hard into the air this time (We’re not sure whether to feel sorry for or jealous of the microphone stand at this point).
Before ‘Caught in a Mosh’ has even finished, Anthrax dives straight into the classic Public Enemy hit ‘Bring the Noise’, albeit a disappointingly short version of the song. Scott Ian appears to have swapped his white Flying V guitar for a bright green one, and he can actively be seen spurring on the mosh pit shenanigans with approving nods and hand gestures.
Towards the end of the evening, the audience sang Anthrax a spontaneous Happy Birthday, helping to mark their 40th Anniversary. Joey warmly reciprocates this gesture by telling the loyal crowd that he is happy to be back in the UK again, and reminisces about their first-ever time here in 1986 when they toured with Metallica. Clearly this was a very happy and fond memory of theirs.
After performing yet another balancing act with the poor microphone stand, Joey leaves us with some heartwarming final words. “Remember, YOU guys are the badass people here tonight! Thank you for being here”. And with that, the drums sound their last and he disappears, at least for now.