Review by Pete Finn for MPM
With the nights starting to draw in, and the temperature outside slowly dropping, the desire to stay in on a school night increases.
However, that reluctance to venture out is blown away when one of the titans of thrash metal, Anthrax are in town.
So, it’s with schoolboy excitement that myself and fellow ‘Old Muppet’ MPM Tog Manny head to Rock City. Knowing that this is going to be one of the heaviest and hottest gigs of the year, and despite the declining temperature outside I’ve got shorts on.
On our way to the venue, as we pass the Tap N Tumbler, we bump into a group of the Melton Metalheads, all buzzing with excitement. The queue outside is a sea of black, there’s also a large number of short wearers present too. We get our passes from the box office and go in, there’s already a good-sized huddle at the Merch stall by the door.
Celebrating their 40-year tenure as one of music’s premier thrash metal bands, Anthrax announces their first European tour since the summer of 2019. Kicking off on 27th September in Birmingham, they will play 8 UK dates, with this one tonight their sixth. Crossover thrash (Crossover thrash – often abbreviated to crossover, is a fusion genre of thrash metal and hardcore punk) band Municipal Waste will be the special guests on all dates, also on the bill are Sworn Enemy.
Sworn Enemy are an American crossover band from New York City. The band formed as Downfall in 1997 and later as Mindset, before adopting the Sworn Enemy name, a product of the extremely expansive and influential New York hardcore scene.
The band is made up with, from its original inception founding member Sal Lococo (vocals) along with more recent members Jeff Cummings (lead guitar), Matt Garzilli (rhythm guitar), Mike Pucciarelli (bass) and Taykwuan Jackson (drums). They have six full length studio albums to their name, the first ‘As Real as It Gets’ from 2003 and the most recent ‘Gamechanger’ released in 2019.
AC/DC’s ‘For Those About To Rock’ comes over the PA as the lights go out. The hall is about 1/3 full when Sworn Enemy walk out onto stage, most are probably still waiting to get in.
With the stage lit up by white strobes, they open with the self-titled track ‘Sworn Enemy’ from the debut album ‘As Real as It Gets’. Sal Lococo’s guttural lyrics powerful from the start, Pucciarelli’s bass is rattling the brain as the guitars smash out the riffs. Jeff Cummings is headbanging as he brings the track to a close.
Without pausing it’s a track from 2017’s ‘Maniacal’ and we have ‘Destroyer’. Jackson is thumping his kit at an incredible rate. This is brutal, the tempo is immense. Garzilli’s guitar is squealing. Mike Pucciarelli on bass is bouncing and spinning as he plays. As the track finishes the Rock City crowd are cheering, they enjoyed that one.
The recent ‘Gamechanger’ album gives us ‘Prepare for Payback’. Slow, dirty, and hard riffs start the track off, a commanding Lococo with one foot up on the riser belts out his orders at the crowd. The track has a marching beat. Pucciarelli is off bouncing around the stage again. The first circle pit of the evening starts.
Sal Lococo address the Rock City masses, “For a Tuesday night, you guys have loads of energy, we appreciate you all coming tonight. This next track is for Anthrax.”
‘All I Have’ is off ‘The Beginning of the End’ released in 2006. The slower lyrics working well with the fast beats and rapid riffs. Lococo calls for a circle pit, and Rock City is happy to oblige. Garzilli launches a solo, the crowd a mass of fists and hair.
The hall is just about full now. It’s the title track from the 2003 release ‘As Real as It Gets’ next. Sal Lococo is eyeing up the crowd, as a lion eyes up a herd of wildebeest. The beats are hard, Jackson is smashing the life out of his kit. Lococo is now down in the pit, fist pumps with the lucky ones on the front row, as he bellows out the lyrics.
We stay with the ‘As Real as it Gets’ album for ‘These Tears’. Rapid, rapid beats, chugging riffs, Jackson double tapping the bass drum. Mike Pucciarelli is jumping around the stage. The track slows for a moment until a big drum salvo brings in the finish.
Now, going back to ‘The Beginning of the End’ and it’s ‘Here Today’, the energy from the band is off the scale as they fire out the notes. The crowd are drawn in and are bouncing and screaming along. There’s a mass of arms moving as if locked together, like a metronome keeping time for the beats. As the track finishes Sal Lococo holds his fist above his head in recognition of the Rock City crowd.
The recent ‘Gamechanger’ release gives us ‘Coming Undone’, Lococo prowling and growling out the words. The circle pit starts again. The crowd are certainly playing their part in creating a great atmosphere.
Sal Lococo introduces the last track of what has been a high energy set, that has certainly warmed up the crowd. He asks us to check out their merch, then launches ‘We Hate’ which is taken from ‘The Beginning of the End’. The band line up across the stage, headbanging as they rip up Rock City. Lococo is back up on the barrier giving ‘High Fives’ and fist bumps, he lets out one final deafening scream, allowing the band to play a heavy instrumental outro.
Sal Lococo is back down with the crowd, shaking hands with them, the band above wave and applaud the crowd as they leave. Sworn Enemy have been excellent, they have set the bar very high for the others following. It was obvious that they enjoyed it, probably as much as Rock City did.
Setlist: Sworn Enemy, Destroyer, Prepare for Payback, All I Have, As Real as It Gets, These Tears, Here Today, Coming Undone, We Hate.
The crews have a tight 15-minute changeover, but these boys are good, so without any delays and right on time we’re good to go. The crowd are ready to party.
Municipal Waste was formed in Richmond, Virginia in 2000. They played their first show at a Richmond New Year’s Eve Keg Party in 2000–2001. The band was blamed for inciting a small riot. They have gone through several line-up changes, leaving vocalist Tony Foresta and rhythm guitarist Ryan Waste as the only constant members. In addition to Foresta and Waste, their current line-up includes Philip “Land Phil” Hall on bass, Dave Witte on drums and Nick “Nikropolis” Poulos on lead guitar.
To date, the band has released seven studio albums, their debut ‘Waste ‘Em All’ in 2003, and their most recent ‘Electrified Brain’ in 2022. The band has received the tag “Party thrash” from some parts of the media. Having never managed to see them before, I’m looking forward to this.
The set opens with ‘Demoralizer’ from this years ‘Electrified Brain’ release. Tony Foresta is straight into the pit with the photographers and calls for the Rock City crowd to start a circle pit. Big beats and heavy riffs get us going, the first crowd surfer of the evening is off. The track has a bit of a glam metal start, probably not quite what I expected. It’s not long before the track evolves into a familiar thrash sound. I like it.
Foresta tells us it’s been 69-years since they were here last, and was wondering if we’d drank enough ‘pints’
‘You’re Cut Off’ from ‘The Fatal Feast’ released in 2012 is next. High tempo and intense and must have been under 2-minutes long. Then, it’s right back to the second album ‘Hazardous Mutation’ released in 2005, Ryan Waste introduces ‘Unleash the Bastards’. Wow, this is fast, the tempo is electric. Foresta’s lyrics firing out as if from a Gatlin gun. Witte’s drums keeping pace. Foresta wants the Rock City crowd to jump.
A quick trip to the back catalogue and 2007’s ‘The Art of Partying’ finds the wonderfully titled ‘Beer Pressure’. Spoken words before Foresta attacks your senses with the ferocity of his lyrics, he’s headbanging with everyone else, before asking for another pit. Phil Hall’s bass is dislodging confetti from the lighting rig above.
Stopping with ‘The Art of Partying’ we have ‘Headbanger Face Rip’. There’s some squealing feedback then the track is launched straight into your face, the power and sound are immense. The speed at which Poulos and Ryan Waste are playing the guitars is amazing. Drummer Dave Witte is looking calm and cool as this legs are stamping on his pedals.
It’s a jump forward to the new album ‘Electrified Brain’, we get ‘High Speed Steel’. Dave Witte’s drum salvo launches the track Foresta’s lyrics keeping pace. Waste and Poulos’ riffs are electric. There’s chance for the Rock City crowd to join in with some ‘Woahs’.
Tony Foresta asks everyone to come closer to the stage, he wants us all to party hard, but look after each other. He wants to see crowd surfing during the next track, including those upstairs…apparently it will be like going over a waterfall.
We have ‘Wave of Death’ next, which is from ‘The Last Rager’ EP released in 2019. This is a bit different, primarily an instrumental with chugging riffs, the only words being ‘Wave of Death’ during the chorus. The Rock City floor could be either Newquay or Bondi Beach judging by the amount of surfers. Security on the barrier are doing a great job, making sure everyone lands safely, something Foresta acknowledges in thanking them at the end.
Hall’s bass brings in ‘Sadistic Magician’ from ‘The Art of Partying’ album. Witte’s arms a blur. The band are in a line across the riser air punching with the crowd. ‘Slime and Punishment’ from the same titled album has an excellent power riff driving the track, punctuated by Foresta’s words, this track is all about the riff, although there’s a couple of screaming breaks thrown in. But that riff is awesome.
‘Slime and Punishment’ from 2017 offers us ‘Breathe Grease’. This has an undercurrent of the Sunset Strip sleaze rock, but overlayed with some of the fastest riffing I’ve heard. It’s a very clever track. Foresta is down on the pit barrier choreographing the circle pit.
It’s something from the new album next, it’s ‘Grave Dive’. Tony Foresta’s mic has failed, he’s sharing Hall’s. This one reminds me a bit of The Beastie Boys; the quick riffs continue but have a more of a rock sound. Nick Poulos manages to squeeze in a great solo.
A laughing Foresta tells us this may not be the best Municipal Waste show, it’s total chaos. Laughing even more he tells us his mic has been fixed just in time for the instrumental.
Sticking with the ‘Slime and Punishment’ release is ‘Under the Waste Command’, with pounding beats from Witte and Hall, complemented with the dual axe attack of Nick Poulos and Ryan Waste.
Up next, it’s the title track from the new album ‘Electrified Brain’. They dedicate it to Sworn Enemy, a huge circle pit is spinning in the middle of Rock City. Big dirty riffs and rapid-fire lyrics a big feature as is Dave Witte’s phenomenal drumbeat.
‘The Art of Partying’ is the title track from the 2007 album. Foresta is firing out the vocals, this is rapid and angry. Again, more of a Beastie Boys feel, the stamina is incredible. Foresta thanks the crowd, they’ve enjoyed it tonight, the rest of the band applaud the crowd too.
The final track of an unbelievable set is ‘Born to Party’, again from ‘The Art of Partying’. Witte’s drums count us in. The lyrics are like a duel between the band and the crowd, they sing “Municipal Waste is gonna…” and the crowd fire back “Fuck you up”. A brilliant end to the show.
Municipal Waste have played a 45-minute set and have managed to belt out 15-tracks in what was an incredible show. Some tracks were that short and fast, I hardly had time to make notes. I feel a bit punch drunk, but, like an old fighter, splash water in my face, towel me down and I’m ready for some more. The energy and power were phenomenal.
Setlist: Demoralizer, You’re Cut Off, Unleash the Bastards, Beer Pressure, Headbanger Face Rip, High Speed Steel, Wave of Death, Sadistic Magician, Slime and Punishment, Breathe Grease, Grave Dive, Under the Waste Command, Electrified Brain, The Art of Partying, Born to Party.
The crews set to work again, this time with the added luxury of an extra 5-minutes.
Anthrax was formed in Queens, New York City, on July 18, 1981, by guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Lilker, with Ian’s friend Dave Weiss on drums. The band was named after the disease of the same name which Ian saw in a biology textbook, chosen because it sounded “sufficiently evil”. The group is considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene from the 1980s and is part of the “Big Four” of the genre, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer.
The band has released 11 studio albums, their debut being ‘Fistful of Metal’ in 1984, and the most recent ‘For All Kings’ in 2016. The line-up consists of Scott Ian (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Charlie Benante (drums), Frank Bello (bass, backing vocals), Joey Belladonna (lead vocals) and Jon Donais (lead guitar).
The show starts with a Celebrity Anthrax Intro which includes the likes of Keanu Reeves, Corey Taylor, Gene Simmons, Slash, Dave Mustaine, Robert Trujillo and Rob Zombie being projected on to a white curtain, they are talking about their experiences and memories of Anthrax. The Rock City crowd cheering their favourites.
“Scream for us” appears across the curtain. Rock City erupts. The band are silhouetted behind the curtain, the crowd are going crazy as the band start playing. The curtain drops and we’re off, Joey Belladonna calmly walks out onto the stage.
The set begins with the title track of the 1987 album ‘Among the Living’. The Sabbath style intro lulls you into a false sense of security, it’s not long before Jonathan Donais’ riff’s takes the tempo off the scale, Joey Belladonna vocals are as sharp as a switchblade these complimented by Charlie Benante rapid beats announce Anthrax’s arrival in Nottingham. The surfers are off again, as Belladonna points his mic towards the crowd for them to sing the chorus.
Scott Ian is up on the riser encouraging the crowd. Sticking with ‘Among the Living’ we have ‘Caught in a Mosh’, this will mean only one thing. The guitar riffs and slapping bass of Frank Bello signals the start of the circle pit. The backing vocalists soon have 2500 extra voices as the Rock City crowd join in. Belladonna down by the stage front is flicking picks into the crowd. We finish with a big round of ‘Hey, Hey’ chants. Rock City is in meltdown.
Belladonna says, “It’s great to see you again. You’re crazy”. Then next, we move back to 1985 and the album ‘Spreading the Disease’ for ‘Madhouse’. The chugging 80’s riff, combined with rasping licks has the fists pumping and heads banging. Joey Belladonna is stretching his vocal cords with great effect and ease. The sound is fabulous as Donais solo slices through the air.
Scott Ian says hello and thank you, then he poses a question, “Is this the metal capital of the UK, do you love thrash metal?”, I’m sure they heard the reply back in Queens. The 1984 debut album ‘Fistful of Metal’ provides us with ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’. Quick riffs and crashing beats are entwined with Belladonna’s Rob Halford-esque screams. This is brilliant.
Next, we have ‘Keep It in the Family’ which is from ‘Persistence of Time’ that was released in 1990. It starts with a slow heavy beat and dirty guitars. Belladonna is narrating the lyrics, Benante picks ups the pace, the guitars eager to follow, Belladonna’s lyrics are keeping up. The tempo is building and building. Scott Ian is circling the stage as he crashes out the notes from his Jackson ‘V’. Belladonna points into the crowd and beckons a surfer, about five arrive at his feet. Bello is up on the stack at the side of the stage.
Joey asks if “Anyone wants to do some singing? Sing your asses off” it’s ‘Antisocial’ the Trust cover, from the 1988 album ‘State of Euphoria’. The Rock City crowd know the words and are more than happy to join in with the chanted chorus. Frank Bello’s pounding bass is the bedrock as Donais and Ian overlay power riffs and a screeching solo. As the track closes Belladonna blasts out a line from Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’.
Continuing our tour around the late 80’releases Scott Ian introduces the next track. “This is about a judge, who’s also the jury, and the executioner.” Rock City shouts “I Am the Law”. ‘I Am the Law’ from ‘Among the Living’, more thumping beats from Benante, the whole hall is shaking like there’s a stampede of dinosaurs approaching. The stage lights flashing red and blue. Belladonna’s lyrics slow and controlled. The air punches of the crowd are like a tide crashing against the stage, this tide is carrying the crowd surfers to the barriers.
We leap forward through time to the 2011 release ‘Worship Music’ which offers the next track ‘In the End’. All the lights go out, it starts with bells and is a tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell and Ronnie James Dio. The crowd are nodding in time as one, like a marching battalion. This is dark and moody. A powerful and fitting tribute.
Belladonna says the next track is from a special album, it’s special to him as it was his first Anthrax recording. We go back to ‘Spreading the Disease’ for everyone’s favourite “snakes for hair lady” and ‘Medusa’. The stage lights glowing an eerie green. A big circular riff and spanking bass carry Belladonna’s lyrics. Frank Bello is up on the stack on the opposite side of the stage.
Scott Ian says Rock City is one of his favourite venues, and it’s been part of Anthrax’s history. The next track he tells us has one word and two syllables.
Something from 1993’s ‘Sound of White Noise’ is next in the set, it’s ‘Only’. Charlie Benante’s drum salvo starts us off, the guitars are up and, in your face, straight away. Belladonna is growling his way through the lyrics. The crowd are singing along as Belladonna and Ian are stomping around the stage, dodging the green laser effect lights as if in a Star Wars battle. The band power to a big finish.
Scott Ian introduces one of my live favourites next by asking “We’re all here for heavy metal, Nottingham can you bring the noise?” The Public Enemy cover ‘Bring the Noise’ it’s off the 1991 Compilation album ‘Attack Of The Killer B’s’. He starts the lyrics, Rock City rises as one, there’s bass wash and feedback. Scott Ian and Frank Bello share the vocals. It’s deafening. More confetti is shaken loose. Donais is spinning his hair like a Catherine wheel as he powers out the riffs.
It’s over too quickly, the guitars are either side of the drum kit before lining up, and we slide seamlessly into a long-time setlist favourite ‘Indians’ from ‘Among the Living’ as Belladonna marches his way back onto the stage. The crowd are back on vocals, those not singing are either in the circle pit, or surfing across the top, I see a surfer carrying his pair of crutches. This is what live music is all about. Frank Bello bangs out the final notes with his bass held high pointing at the ceiling.
The Joe Jackson cover ‘Got the Time’ from ‘Persistence of Time’ starts with Frank Bello one foot on the riser pounding out the riff. This is quick, Joey Belladonna leading the fist pumps and ‘Hey, Hey’s. Scott Ian is spinning as he plays, there’s a squeal of feedback.
More ‘Hey’s and claps lead us into the final song from Anthrax tonight which sees them revisit ‘Among the Living’ this time for ‘Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)’. The guitars are in a line across the stage as Joey Belladonna is back up on the riser conducting the crowd. The crowd are chanting back the words. Donais crashes out the final solo of the night. The band leave to massive cheers. It’s been a brilliant set.
Setlist: Among the Living, Caught in a Mosh, Madhouse, Metal Thrashing Mad, Keep It in the Family, Antisocial, I Am the Law, In the End, Medusa, Only, Bring the Noise, Indians, Got the Time, Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.).
It’s been a top night at Rock City, we’ve had three bands who’ve given everything. Anthrax have remained loyal to their fans and their music. They’ve respected them both. Like all in here tonight, we thank you.
As a final word, praise and thanks must go to the Rock City pit security team who dealt with and looked after the waves of surfers brilliantly.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM