For some people, the 80s bring memories of bright neon and synthesizers. For others, it’s denim, leather, and mosh pits. On February 3, Mohegan Sun Casino was certainly filled with the latter as Anthrax brought its 40th Anniversary Tour to town along with Exodus and Black Label Society.
Exodus may not have seen the success of other 80s thrash bands, but their longevity and the energy they brought to the stage show that if the Big 4 ever expanded to the Big 5, Exodus can surely stake its claim. Led by classic-era members Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, Gary Holt on guitar, and drummer Tom Hunting, the lineup was rounded out but long-time bassist Jack Gibson and guitarist Lee Altus. From the opening notes of “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)” the crowd was into the band. It was a ferocious 45-minute set spanning tracks from the classic 1985 debut Bonded By Blood up to 2021’s Persona Non Grata. The general admission floor was only too happy to oblige when Souza called to set up a mosh pit during “Strike of the Beast”. Exodus left no doubt that their name should be mentioned whenever the history of thrash metal is told.
As the sold-out crowd was catching its collective breath, Zakk Wylde led Black Label Society to the stage. BLS may not fit the thrash mold of its tourmates, and may not have the longevity (debut record Sonic Brew will celebrate its 25th anniversary later this year) but their heavy, 2-guitar attack certainly kept up the energy. While Wylde is definitely the focal point of the band, guitarist Dario Lorina matched him note-for-note (including a behind-the-back solo duel during “Fire It Up”) while the rhythm section of bassist John DeServio and drummer Jeff Fabb kept a pounding beat through the hour plus set. Zakk even spent time at the piano for the 2005 track “In This River”, which was dedicated to Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul of Pantera, a band Zakk has recently become part of.
Finally, it was time for the main event. As the lights went down, a short film featuring musicians of all styles commenting on the impact of Anthrax on music over the last 40 years played. As the curtain dropped, the crowd exploded. The classic title track to 1987’s Among The Living worked the crowd into a frenzy. a few things were apparent right away, first, this band still has the energy on stage that it had when that legendary record was released, and second, vocalist Joey Belladonna sounds just as good as ever. There have been many anniversary tours over the years, usually, you go in expecting the band to be a little slower, a notch below what they once were. Anthrax blows those expectations away. At times, it felt like it was 1988 again and I was seeing them as the opening act for Ozzy Osbourne on their State of Euphoria tour.
With their classic lineup mainly intact (Belladonna, guitarist Scott Ian, bassist Frank Bello, and drummer Charlie Benante, along with guitarist Jon Donais) the band stuck mainly to pre-1993 material (the exception being “In The End” from 2011’s Worship Music) and even included the John Bush-era hit “Only”. As the night went on, it was clear that this band loves what they do and truly appreciates its fans, whether they have been there from the beginning or are brand new. Scanning the packed house, there seemed to be as many newer, younger fans as older ones. Much like Souza did during Exodus’ set, Scott Ian also encouraged the GA crowd to mosh and they were only too happy to oblige.
Sometimes you just take for granted that a band will always be there. Anthrax came out and played like a hungry, up-and-coming group, not like a band celebrating its 40th year. Don’t take this band for granted, get out there and catch what could be the most vital, energetic of The Big 4.