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I wouldn’t normally attend a “concert” at a big commercial venue, preferring instead the intimacy of small shows held at metal pubs and DIY clubs, however, there are those instances when the lineup is so impressive attendance is absolutely imperative. The Metal Alliance Tour was an absolute Thrash-stravaganza featuring Municipal Waste, Exodus and “big four” legends Anthrax on the same bill. Bloody Hell! To much dismay the concert was held at the House of Blues, a dreadfully disappointing venue for a metal show, equipped with waify cocktail waitresses, overly priced beverages and bathroom attendants. Upon entering my friend and I were wanded, stamped and purse searched only to enter the club and immediately be assaulted with the sight of a snack bar. Who the hell orders nachos at a metal show? Not only will they be ridiculously overpriced but they will inevitably taste like bland topping-less poo.

I got these crappy nachos and a beer and it only cost me 25 dollars

I got these crappy nachos and a beer and it only cost me 25 dollars

Go to Perkins after the show like the rest of the civilized world. Not only was there a snack bar, there were advertisements on the big screen and lotions in lieu of graffiti in the bathroom. It was commercial hell but with good purpose.

The first band up was Pasedena, California’s heavy/power act Holy Grail. With a solid live performance, flawless and intricate guitar work and a stereotypical “Power Metal” presence (complete with gauntlets and flowing manes) Holy Grail delivered the goods. The success of such bands as 3 inches of blood and Dragonforce has bought about a resurgence of Power Metal and rightfully so. Holy Grail is enjoying great success as a result. If you haven’t heard of Holy Grail before they are definitely worth giving a second look. Check out their latest full length release from Nuclear Blast, Ride the Void for good, old-fashioned, Maiden-esque Power Metal!

Holy Grail kicked ass. Unfortunately for me the next band on the bill was not what I expected. I was under the impression that High on Fire was supposed to be playing, not because I dreamt it up or am delusional but because of this misleading “official” tour poster…

imagesCAGTTXJ5Dirty liars, the next band up were Metalcore veterans Shadows Fall. Gahhhh! Why is it that whenever you go to see a quintessential metal band there’s always at least one “core” opener that you have to endure, or in my case ignore while perusing through the merchandise tables, smoking cigarettes, and making small talk with the opening bands, until the set is over? James explained to me that the reason High on Fire was not playing was because they had to drop the Metal Alliance Tour to finish their own European tour. While completely understandable, it did not make the reality of Shadows Fall onstage disappear. I kept pondering what horrors might reside clandestine within Brian Fair’s ridiculous dreadlocks.

Just some birds live here. Not just any birds, endangered birds.

Some birds live here. But not just any birds, angry birds.

Tough guy chest pounding and squatting, three cord riffs played in drop D, and poorly delivered screams followed by whiny, sing-song choruses about relationships and politics (uhgg just sing about the devil) are the backbone of Shadows Fall’s distinctive sound. Still the band never fails to deliver a good performance to their audience, which is most likely the reason they’ve achieved such great commercial success. Here is a live version of the title track from the latest release Fire from the Sky for anyone interested.

Just like all good things must come to an end, so too the bad. Municipal Waste was scheduled to hit the stage next and I was not going to miss it. One of the better New Wave Thrash/Crossover bands among many, The Waste put on a great performance, playing everything from classics like The Terror Shark, Headbanger Face-Rip and Beer Pressure, to fierce new tracks like You’re Cut Off. Rowdy and tongue in cheek, Waste vocalist Tony Foresta joked with the audience and ingeniously fired up the crowd, having expectations of inciting no less than a full on heavy metal vomit party. The Waste generated a full-fledged pit with crowd surfing, blood and sweat. Beautiful. Witness for yourself the metal party prowess and masterful musicianship of Municipal Waste as they perform the classic, Mind Eraser.

While Municipal Waste did not fail to “Fuck Me Up!” things would only get better from here as Exodus would soon hit the stage to bludgeon the crowd with pure Bay Area Thrash. A sea of black, denim and leather-clad Hellions chanted EXODUS! at the top of their lungs in anticipation. The lights grew dim and the melodic acoustic intro to The Ballad of Leonard and Charles began emanating from the loud speakers. The crowd’s hunger grew as Gary Holt hit the stage, shredding to perfection. The set list was ingenious, including songs such as Fabulous Disaster and Blackened and no one was left wanting for Paul Baloff as Rob Dukes flawlessly belted out classics, Lesson in Violence and (with the help of Holy Grail vocalist, James Paul Luna) Bonded by Blood.

Do not fuck with this man!

Do not fuck with this man!

Exodus further engaged the audience with theatrics as a blast of confetti spewed from the stage at the end of Bonded by Blood classic, Strike of the Beast. Forming huge circle pits and crowd surfing, the audience was riled up. The band fittingly concluded their set with Good Riddance from the 2010 release Exhibit B: The Human Condition. The conclusion was followed by the band’s gifting of guitar picks, drum sticks and set lists to the crowd. I managed to procure a set list. A brilliant performance as usual from thrash metal legends Exodus. Here is a glimpse of what you may have missed. The band is in San Francisco performing my favorite Exodus song Lesson in Violence.

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The climax of the evening, Anthrax was set to hit the stage. Performing the essential Anthrax album Among the Living in its entirety, Joey Belladonna took the stage belting out the title track to perfection. Before they could begin Caught in the Mosh, Frank Bello lost sound and Scott Ian roared with conviction “You guys are too metal for this club!”. Damn straight! The crowd cheered in unanimous agreement. Anthrax really knows how to get a crowd going and aside from the fact that Scott Ian has sold his soul to VH1 (Satan is pissed) good showmanship, impeccable performance and catchy anthemic licks have marked Anthrax’s success.

Playing side one from the 1987 LP, then taking a short break from the album to play AC/DC cover TNT and Grammy nominated track I’m Alive, the band broke up the set nicely. Joey beckoned audience participation during the classic track Indians and everyone went wild. As a precursor to the encores Joey handed out slices of pizza to crowd. I’m sure whoever snatched those up enjoyed the most metal slice of pizza they will ever eat. He then proceeded to raise him arms and shout “CAN YOU DIG IT!”, a quote from the cult classic The Warriors. I felt the urge to shout back “CAN YOU COUNT SUCKAS!” but remained silent in the realization that I may have been the only one picking up on the reference.

I can dig it Joey. Yes I can!

I can dig it Joey. Yes I can!

Scott Ian asked for a “moment of rage” in honor of the victims of the tragedy in Boston before the second encore. The whole crowd roared, enraged. The band concluded the set with I am the Man to everyone’s approval and began tossing guitar picks and drum sticks into an enthusiastic crowd. They ended the show by bowing in appreciation of proverbial diehard fans. To give you a snip-it of what you might have missed here is Anthrax performing Indians in Anaheim, California.

Overall The Metal Alliance Tour is worth catching if the metal masters haven’t already invaded your town. It dripped with showmanship, flawless performances, circle pits and Thrash Metal Hell. It’s a must see event for thrashers, well worth the 40 dollar cover charge. Hails!

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