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When it comes to the ‘Big Four’ of thrash metal, the focus has always tended – rightly or wrongly – to be on Metallica and Megadeth. Tonight in Dublin, Anthrax and Slayer showed just how misguided that attention is.

Anthrax led the charge with an hour long set that sent the sold out Olympia into paroxysms of delight. Seemingly caught in a permanent time warp (bar the colour of guitarist Scott Ian’s now grey beard) they are still bursting with youthful energy and enthusiasm even this far into their career. Beginning with ‘You Gotta Believe’ they immediately hit the ground running (at times literally; vocalist Joey Belladonna scampers around the stage like an ebullient child, often leaping into the air with abandon) and simply don’t let up for a second.

What follows is a relentless barrage of hits and favourite albums tracks spanning the length of their career. From their 1990 cover of ‘Got the Time’ to the ‘woah-oh’ singalong that is ‘Antisocial’, to an absolutely masterful ‘Indians’ and of course their unofficial theme tune ‘Caught In a Mosh’ they hit every nail on the head with vigour and astonishingly levels of cheerful energy – they’re so happy! – driving the crowd wild in the process.

Having been around for decades (“It’s been thirty five years for Anthrax now”, Belladonna informs the crowd proudly, to huge roars) they are obviously consummate professionals, yet they have lost none of their sense of pleasure in performing live, nor of simply engaging with an audience, such as when Ian takes a moment to rib the fans in the seated areas (Just because you got a seat don’t mean you have to sit in it – this ain’t church, you know!”), while Belladonna is quietly humble yet clearing having a ball.

The rather unusual aspect of Anthrax is that each member is an equal; it’s not all about the singer. Yes, everyone knows about their famous bearded rhythm guitarist, but bassist Frank Bello and lead guitarist Jonathan Donais take equal time at the front of the stage, raising horns and encouraging the crowd, while drummer Charlie Benante is surrounded by so many cymbals (at least thirteen!) that nobody could possibly ignore him.

As is required in thrash metal, tonight is a night packed with riffs: riffs that could knock through walls, riffs that could cut like a razor, riffs that punch you gleefully in the gut. The crowd respond with equally exultant delight, roaring lustily after each song and singing along at top volume. And when Ian asks “Do you want us to come back and do a headline tour here?”, the response threatens to raise the roof. A flawless performance.

Slayer also come out all guns blazing, starting with the title track from their recent album Repentless; from then on every tune is met with thunderous applause and howls of delighted recognition. As with Anthrax their set runs the gamut of their career, from 1986’s ‘Postmortem’ to ‘Disciple’ from 2001, to ‘When the Stillness Comes’ from Repentless, and of course long time favourites ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’, complete with a backdrop dedicated to fallen hero Jeff Hanneman. Every track is an all out aural assault, brooding, malevolent and dripping with menace. Cleverly, they alternate their more mid paced material with the blisteringly fast stuff so momentum is never lost, right up until final track ‘Angel of Death’, after which they leave the stage to thunderous applause.

Gigs like this one are finally beginning to even out the attention thrash metal’s so called Big Four receive. Tonight saw two bands still flying the flag for high quality thrash, even after all these years. Long may they reign (in blood).

Review by Melanie Black


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