“Are you shooting the Killthrax show on April 3rd? You really should,” encouraged a fellow photographer at a show a few months back. And boy, am I glad I did! With a line-up of The Devil Wears Prada opening for a co-headlining tour of Killswitch Engage and Anthrax, I knew this concert at The Fillmore Silver Spring, MD would be one I’d regret missing. And so, with my fingers crossed, I contacted the publicity representatives for both headliners in hopes of ensuring a slot in the photo pit. Triumphant, I stand before you with the shots and experiences you see below. If you don’t care to read further, just know this: see this show!
A stuttering emission of lights rained down upon the backs of the band members in sync with the blasts of the bass drum, while TDWP raged on stage. Unfortunately for me, and my fellow photographers, all those lights silhouetted these fine fellows from Dayton, Ohio, resulting with fewer shots for you fine folks, but a great experience for those in attendance. Throughout the performance there was an ominous air that gave way to sheer brutality as the band flowed in and out of songs. Often, looking up, I couldn’t even see the eyes of vocalist Mike Hranica, aiding that eerie nature of the performance. But a raucous applause at the final chord of their set made it apparent how well received this band had been.
Admittedly, one of the main reasons I wanted to make this show was to witness the greatness of one of the Big 4 Of Thrash, the New York-based band, Anthrax. And they did not disappoint! Loading up a riser in order to set the drums at yet an even higher altitude, the group transformed the stage into a battleground of thrash metal. The core of the setlist came from the band’s seminal 1987 album, Among The Living, opening with that same one-two punch of its title track and “Caught In A Mosh,” diverging into the well-known “Madhouse” from Spreading The Disease, with a fair helping of their newest album, For All Kings, thrown in.
Throughout the concert, bassist Frank Bello ran, jumped, and rampaged across the stage like a loosed animal; guitarists Scott Ian and Jonathan Donais riffed and ripped; and drummer Charlie Benante – quite at home behind the kit – chewed bubblegum and slammed the skins with a combination of savagery and zen. Vocalist Joey Belladonna incited the audience with his immense enthusiasm. He threw guitar picks into the audience on countless occasions, making me worry that the guitarists might eventually be in need of one and find their supply sorely depleted. During “Madhouse” he even commandeered one of the photo pit cameras and began his own aspiring concert photography career. As the band left the stage, it felt like the whole night must be over, because it seemed impossible that another act could follow as the cheers of “Anthrax!” echoed on and on.
Despite how dearly the audience relished Anthrax, tonight’s headliner had yet to perform. Killswitch Engage’s stage setup, by comparison to the former’s, was quite minimalistic: four black backers with KSE logos, a few spinning lights, and the band. But don’t think for a moment that this proved to be a deficiency for these fine fellows from Massachusetts. Captivating the audience from their first song, “Alone I Stand,” the opening track from their latest album, Incarnate, they pulled out hit after hit that kept the crowd chanting the lyrics. The circle pits went on for so long, that as the show stretched towards its conclusion I could plainly see the energy dripping off the participants and getting lost in a puddle of sweat on the floor. One of the most memorable moments for me was the group’s well-known cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” which exuded power into the concert-goers. And a KSE show wouldn’t be complete without outlandish comments from resident comedian, guitarist Adam D., sporting a sweatband with “TRASH” written across it in black sharpie. “This next song is not about assholes!” he screamed before launching into “Rose Of Sharyn,” and later joked about having to end the show so they’d all have time for some much needed masturbation. “The tour can’t go on without it!”
If you have a chance to see any of these bands live, whether on this tour or a future one, you’d be wise to do so. Each pulls out all the stops to the delight of those in attendance.