Death Angel took the stage first, and already the crowd was extremely dense, jammed together in front of the stage. The five-piece kicked the night off on a strong note, teasing (too little of) their '80s instrumental masterpiece "The Ultra-Violence" before descending into the roaring chaos of "Evil Priest."
Making the most of their time, the band were short on conversation letting the music do the talking as they pulled choice cuts from their catalogue. "Thrown to the Wolves," from 2004's The Art of Dying, was a relentless volley of riffs and solos, while 2013's "Left for Dead" provided a very intense live translation that saw the crowd thrashing wildly. Though the band are touring in support of their 2016 release The Evil Divide¸ they elected to play just one track from it, and made it count; wielding the sheer intensity of "The Moth," they destroyed the crowd with their closing number.
As the temperatures in the club reached a melting point, Anthrax were next to storm the stage. Fans squashed themselves at the front of the security barrier in anticipation.
Anchored by guitar icon Scott Ian, the band got straight to work. Touring in support of their 2016 release For All Kings, the band started their set with two of the more straightforward, rocking tracks from that album, consecutively performing "You Gotta Believe" and "Monsters at the End." Later in the set, they dropped "Evil Twin" too, which translated extremely well live. Not to disappoint the raging crowd below, the band were sure to hit on all of their most popular vintage fare, including "Caught in a Mosh" and their heralded 1990 Joe Jackson cover "Got the Time."
The band occasionally took pause to interact with the voracious crowd. "I have a rhetorical question: Do you guys like thrash?" Ian bellowed at the crowd. In typical drunken, rowdy headbanger fashion, the crowd erupted with roars of approval, like those were the most exhilarating, profound words ever spoken.
Despite the crowd's enthusiasm, Anthrax's set was often marred by bad sound, an otherwise consummate performance distracted by very high treble and drowned vocals at times. Despite the issues, another track from their latest album, "Breathing Lightning," really was a terrific performance.
Between sets, the crowd anticipation hit levels so high, you could almost see it lurking in the humid air, as fans waited for Slayer to take the stage.
Slayer are also touring in support of a new album, 2015's Repentless, and they opened their set with a blistering performance of the title track that immediately got some weapons-grade moshing happening in the crowd.
What followed was every diehard Slayer fan's dream come true, as more than half the music they unleashed came from 1990 or earlier. "The Antichrist" and "Fight Till Death" from 1983's Show No Mercy made appearances, as did vintage tracks like "War Ensemble" and "Chemical Warfare." Introducing 1990's "Dead Skin Mask," frontman Tom Araya peered down from the stage, asserting his approval for the thrashing crowd below. Grinning, he remarked "I like the way you dance..."
Paul Bostaph, formerly of Exodus, provided an impressive performance on skins, while lead guitarist Kerry King gnashed his teeth and headbanged while delivering Slayer's many signature riffs. The crowd screamed "God hates us all!" along with the chorus of 2001's "Disciple," and "When the Stillness Comes" from the latest album was particularly intense, as creepy a Slayer song as there ever was.
During the tail end of their set, the band brought the mosh pit intensity to near apocalyptic levels, delivering some of the most important and brutal selections in the history of thrash including "Hell Awaits," "South of Heaven" and "Angel of Death" from their 1986 masterpiece Reign in Blood.
It seems popular to criticize Slayer recently. Perhaps it's the recent lineup changes, or the fact that as the band grow older, newer material doesn't seem to provide anything genre-bending any longer. But on this night at least, despite obviously missing some of the trademark high-pitched Araya screams of yesteryear, the band dropped an atomic, incredible performance. Disciples in attendance loved every second.