What a way to start July in the Academy: two of the legendary ‘Big Four’ of thrash metal deliver more than 65 years of combined thrash metal career experience to more than 1600 bloodthirsty fans on consecutive nights. Slayer and Anthrax are two of the biggest names in heavy music and recognisable even to those not familiar with the genre, and their fans are as committed and passionate as they come.
Like their last visit to Dublin just over twelve months ago, Slayer have no support act to warm up their fans; many of whom have been queuing for hours to secure themselves a coveted spot at the front rail, or a vantage point safely clear of the inevitable mosh-pit “danger-zone”. Perhaps the pressure of opening for these thrash legends and performing in front of their die-hard fans would be too intimidating for fledgling thrashers anyway. Instead, entire albums from a third of the Big Four entertain the excited audience as And Justice For All…., The Black Album and Garage Days Re-revisited by Metallica blare over the PA.
Two hours after doors open, the house lights dim and the intro to ‘Hell Awaits’ summons a horde of eager moshers onto the floor for a 90 minute sweaty workout. The crowd is predominantly male and of an age that most probably own original vinyl copies of the classic eighties Slayer albums. With a setlist including ‘The Antichrist’, ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Postmortem’, ‘Die by the Sword’, ‘Raining Blood’, and ‘Black Magic’, the old-school fans are justly rewarded for their tireless thrashing.
Frontman Tom Araya looks genuinely chuffed at the level of excitement and enthusiasm in the crowd but doesn’t waste much time chatting between tracks. When he does speak, his soothing timid voice is in stark contrast to his singing style of shouted vocals about death, killers and war. Dressed in oversized leather trousers and proudly wearing a Jeff Hanneman tribute T-shirt, he makes regular eye contact with the burly men screaming like little girls for his attention, and pokes fun at some of the audience by mimicking their attempts to sing along to lyrics they are clearly unable to recite.
A new song from an as-yet unrecorded follow-up to World Painted Blood entitled ‘Implode’ is a treat for fans new and old, but it is classics like ‘War Ensemble’ that really see the almost-permanent mosh-pit swell to engulf the floor space, making crowd-surfing practically impossible for most of the show. An encore of ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Angel of Death’ with a special Heineken-themed tribute backdrop to Hanneman wrap up another blistering performance from a band that continue to draw and excite fans who simply can’t get enough.
Anthrax have a tough act to follow on Wednesday with another sold-out crowd and many of the same familiar faces here for their second-helping of thrash metal. This time support is provided by Twisted Wrath from the west of Ireland, who show no signs of intimidation and receive a worthy positive response from those arriving early for the headliners.
Taking to the stage after an intro of AC/DC’s ‘For Those About to Rock’, and the opening track ‘Worship’ from their own 2011 album Worship Music, the New Yorkers start the show proper with Among the Living. And by that, I mean the album; not the song. As promised, we are treated to a live performance of the entire 1987 record from start to finish.
As on the night before, a semi-permanent mosh-pit forms; this time even bigger and crazier than before; and somehow the crowd-surfers manage to find a way to stay afloat on the turbulent sea of upstretched arms. The security staff have their work cut out for them and strictly enforce the three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule. For one lucky fan in particular, the risk was worth it; as frontman Joey Belladonna gives him a high-five while being lifted over the front rail by security; a moment he will surely boast about amongst his metal pals.
Before starting into ‘In the End’ a temporary backdrop is draped over the one bearing the Anthrax logo that has been in-situ all evening. It bears portraits of metal legends Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell in the reflected glow of a red sunset. The song is a fitting tribute to these greatly admired heroes and inspirations, with the lyrics “Do we tell you how much we loved you? Do we tell you you made our dreams come true?”. Belladonna urges all to raise their devil horns in respect and reaches out to touch fingers with a front row fan.
Founding member Scott Ian teases the audience before dedicating ‘One World’ to all the fans who bought the album on vinyl, adding “This is where we’ll see who really knows this album; not those who just went onto iTunes and downloaded ‘Caught in a Mosh’”, prompting surprising chants of “Fuck iTunes” from the audience.
Once they have completed Among the Living, there is still time for a few more tracks including a very special premiere cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ in the encore which prompts massive crowd participation and must surely be audible all the way up to the statue of Philo on Harry Street.
The show draws to a close, and the guys take time to give picks, sticks and high-fives to the fans before Belladonna dances offstage to Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock’n’Roll’. And thus, the double-bill of thrash metal is scratched off the gig list. With both nights having sold out, we wonder if a co-headliner at the O2 might have been in order. Maybe we’ll just have to wait for Metallica and Megadeth to join the party next time around.