Anthrax / Testament / Death Angel Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, BC, September 20

Anthrax / Testament / Death Angel Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, BC, September 20
Photo: Jason Schreurs
Seeing arguably the big four, five and six of thrash metal (we all know Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth constitute one through three) sharing the same relatively intimate stage was one thing, but catching Testament (them being number five) make a claim for top-three status with a frenetic, near-perfect thrash metal performance was a bit of a revelation. Why this San Francisco warhorse never made a claim for arena-headlining tours and fervent fan behaviour (haven't heard of a Testament fan self-mutilating themselves lately) is beyond me, based on their unbelievable performance at the Vogue in Vancouver.

Death Angel started the night with a truncated set of their signature speedy thrash. Lead singer Mark Osegueda was particularly on, swinging his ass-length dreads and doing well-timed leaps to classics like "Mistress of Pain" and "Thrashers." A set-ending version of a newer-era offering "Thrown to the Wolves" was particularly face-melting.

But this was Testament's night, as was clear as soon as monster-headed vocalist Chuck Billy and his wrecking crew hit the stage. Billy, humourously, has added some LED lights and lasers to his patented half-mic stand, which he air-guitared on non-stop during Testament's set. Billy was so fervent in his faux-diddling that he had to step back from front stage when guitarist Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson traded off blazing solos.

Testament dealt a career-spanning set, honing in on early staples like "Into the Pit" and "Practice What You Preach," but also infusing new songs from the recently released Dark Roots of Earth. Clearly a band on top of their game, Testament's thrashing set was almost impossible to top.

New York metal institution Anthrax did their best, though, hitting the stage with "The Devil You Know," off their latest album, Worship Music. Then they went straight into their '90s thrash bag of tricks: "Caught in a Mosh," "In My World" and "Indians." And while absent drummer Charlie Benante doesn't do full tours with the band (Jason Bittner from Shadows Fall is their touring drummer), it was nostalgic as hell to see vocalist Joey Belladonna running around on stage like a maniac.

Also, it was good to see longtime bassist Frank Bello doing his rocked-out, thrash-dude act. But everyone knows the true star of the Anthrax show is guitarist Scott "Not" Ian, who commanded the stage with his one-man circle pit and patented war dance. In fact, he stopped the band mid-song during "Indians" because the audience wasn't "war-dancing" quite hard enough. "Let's try this again," he said, before launching back into thrash-riff majesty.

A couple of well-timed covers paced their set well (Trust's "Anti-Social" and Joe Jackson's "Got the Time"), and the Judge Dredd-inspired "I Am the Law" was the perfect closer. But, try as they might, Anthrax could not match the blistering might of Testament on this night.