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Live Report: Anthrax, Testament, and Churchburn @ The Strand

When two legendary bands play an off-night show from their scheduled appearances on Slayer’s final tour, you may wonder if it’s worth your time and money to attend. Will they play the same set that I just saw on the big tour? Will they have the same energy and drive, or will they just phone this one in?

In the case of Anthrax and Testament, headliners in their own right, sweating away in a packed, overheated, and under-ventilated venue in Providence was worth the extra effort and inevitable dehydration. Both bands have had pretty much the same setlist of seven or eight songs on the tour; here, though, they had twice the amount of time to dig into their lengthy catalogs. As a local bonus, up-and-comers Churchburn opened the night with their dark and dirty version of doom metal.

Although this was a home game for them, many in attendance were not familiar with Churchburn, which makes sense given that the style of metal they play is far from the 1980s thrash metal of the bands to follow. I can only imagine the pressure they must have felt playing on a stage with such huge acts — they held their own, though, and won over a number of new fans through the effort. On the dim, mostly red- or blue-lit stage, frontman Dave Suzuki snarled/screamed through the microphone. These were songs more akin to being locked in a candlelit room by yourself brooding over how unfair and painful life can be rather than, say, being caught in a mosh.

When Gene Hoglan (drummer for Testament and way too many other bands to mention here) stood atop his drum riser making a double pentagram with his hands toward the crowd, all with a huge grin on his face, it signaled the end of the doom and gloom. To the sound of screaming fans both young and old, the band took the stage and the crowdsurfing/moshing junkies got their initial fix for the night. Although there was a moment during the set where singer Chuck Billy got a bit lost as to where everyone was musically, it only took a moment to get back into it. Truthfully, few in the audience probably noticed it with all the infectious energy in the air (also considering all the alcohol flowing through their veins). Unlike their set every other night on the Slayer tour, they had time to add classics like “Electric Crown,” “Over the Wall,” and “Disciples of the Watch” — the fans appreciated every second.

By the time Anthrax started, it felt like a sauna. I could find no reprieve even though I was neither drinking alcohol, nor moshing. There was no spot in the place either on stage, backstage, or front-of-house (or even outside) that anyone could cool off. If there was a time that you would expect a band on a major tour to take it easy, it would have been then. Nope. Didn’t happen.

For their 14-song set, there was not a moment where it didn’t feel like they put everything into it, and then some. There was more energy and drive in these guys for this show than for the date with Slayer in Connecticut on the first half of the tour run. You could make the argument that with a longer set, they had more interest in what they were playing. I can’t imagine it doesn’t get a little tiring playing the same handful of songs every night for something like six months. Whatever the motivation, it worked. In fact, this may have been the most intense Anthrax show I have seen. An hour-plus replete with the high jumps of Scott Ian and the nonstop spinning, running, and head-thrashing of Frank Bello.

Testament and Anthrax put everything into this one in Providence even with insane humidity and heat, and the crowd followed their lead, throwing their gross sweaty bodies all over each other in a frenzy.

— Hillaire Jason

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