Anthrax Joins Lamb of God at Chicago’s Aragon 1/30/16
Arguably the top thrash metal band of all time, Anthrax will be giving fans something to tear the cellophane off: the artistically designed For All Kings hits streets this month in vinyl. Heard worldwide, and even on Mars (yes, really), for thirty five years and counting, Anthrax keeps raising the bar. They hit the stage at Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on 1/30/16 with energy and conviction showing they’re at the top of their game.
Clad in black, the crowd raised devil horns with their free hands and held phones in the other– the crowd’s smartphones lit up like lightning bugs as they battled to capture the show live. Two mosh pits could be seen from the balcony; the floor of people turned into a teaming mess of aggression and passion for the thunderous music. The light show was superb, blanketing the stage in washes of red and purple and throwing sharp beams of white to punctuate.
For lead singer Joey Belladonna, being a front man comes as easily as breathing; he held the mic stand high to glean more yells from the crowd, and later turned it around to mime putting with a golf club. His sense of humor and ease with the crowd was apparent.
On stage, Scott Ian, rhythm guitarist and sole original founding member, added definition with his Flying V. Moving across the stage, Belladonna tapped him and lead guitarist Jonathan Donais, formerly of Shadows Fall, during solos to bring them to the crowd’s attention. Bassist Frank Bello added serious bottom end alongside the double kick drum set up of Benante.
Humor and comic book references set Anthrax apart. They tapped Alex Ross, a mega-artist in the comic book scene and friend of drummer Charlie Benante, for this cover, building on his skillful work on covers including Music for Mass Destruction, Fight’Em ‘Til You Can’t, and Grammy-nominated Worship Music. For All Kings merchandise includes a deck of playing cards, with Ross’s artwork and a download card for two songs, released last month at select record stores as a sneak peek for fans. “We really don’t need to tell Alex Ross what to do. I work with Alex Ross because he’s… Alex Ross,” says Scott Ian.
For All Kings includes twenty tracks (a record breaker for the band), due in part to a unique twist. Missing certain Worship Music tour dates in ’11-’14 while repairing from carpal tunnel syndrome, Benante came up with riffs and song ideas during the downtime. Benante developed riffs for most of the new album. Next came lyrical ideas by Scott Ian alongside melodies by Bello, and the band’s eleventh studio album was born.
Interestingly, the tradition of protest music in America is no longer in the hands of folk musicians as it was in the 1960’s, but in thrash metal. Anthrax, the only one of the “Top Four” metal bands (including Slayer, Metallica and Magadeth) which is from the East Coast, has the back photo of this album set in Brooklyn. The band who took the name Anthrax in 1981 because it sounded “sufficiently evil” is not just making music for music’s sake– on For All Kings they’re the voice of a more conscious world that demands to be heard.
This stop in Chicago is part of the band’s four week tour alongside Lamb of God. Chicago is also part of Anthrax’s history as the Double Door was the first stop on their 2008 tour, which marked their return to the road after a nineteen month break. Lamb of God and Anthrax converted the naturally acoustic Aragon Ballroom venue into an onslaught of audio waves.
Lamb of God’s set was heart-pounding with large projection screens with vivid imagery of collapsing buildings, streets, atomic war dummies, soldiers, war planes and a young girl counting petals on a flower; contrasting innocence of existence with harsh realities. The crowd responded to the band taking the stage with resonating excitement. Front man Randy Blythe brought the crowd to a whisper and then delivered a perfectly-timed “good evening” before roaring into their set following Anthrax.
Article by Hannah Frank for On Axis Music in conjunction with Chicago Music Guide
Photos © 2016 by: Roman Sobus