Killthrax tour halfway delivers
Photo by Adria Llerena
There’s a certain level of anticipation that builds when an announced tour includes a legendary band and a rising headlining talent. The Killthrax Tour, named after co-headliners Anthrax and Killswitch Engage, only partially lived up to the hype.
The Killthrax tour came to Orlando’s House of Blues on April 13 with support from The Devil Wears Prada and Code Orange. Press wise, the show was massively disorganized. Guest lists, which afford press and photographers entry, were so delayed that everyone either only caught the last bit of Code Orange’s last song or completely missed them.
Code Orange, a hardcore band from Pennsylvania, sounded all right, though it’s hard to form an opinion based on hearing half a song. The band did have a clever lighting scheme though as the predominant color was orange.
The Devil Wears Prada, a metalcore band from Ohio, played next. They set the tone with their hard hitting set, leaving this writer wanting more. It’s hard to single out one moment as the best considering everything from Mike Hranica’s phenomenal vocals to the powerful drums were so well done.
This tone was disrupted when legendary 80s metal band Anthrax started setting up. Their overcomplicated setup, complete with flashing, colorful lighting, tablecloths, and stage risers took over an hour to complete. The tablecloths, which covered the drum kit and the stage risers, featured the stereotypical upside down pentacle all over them.
The upside pentacle was used in 80s metal to beef up the band’s image as “intimidating” or “scary”. The upside down pentacle is widely used to symbolize Satanism, a religion that often gets unfairly stereotyped as “evil” when its basic rules can be summed up by saying “every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”
None of this could distract from the fact that Anthrax’s set was a disaster. It felt like attendees had been transported back in time and not in a good way. From singer Joey Belladonna’s small black shirt, to his loud, large silver belt buckle to his tight black jeans and long black hair, it looked like he’d stepped off the set of an 80s hair metal music video. The excruciating part came when it became apparent he couldn’t hold a note if his life depended on it.
At one point, it became painful to watch and listen to all the bum notes coming out of Belladonna’s mouth. The Anthrax faithful, though, still sang along to every butchered note no matter how bad it got. It was like Belladonna was trying to put on a good show, as he was running around and trying to get the crowd hyped up, but ultimately it ended up in him overdoing it on notes he couldn’t hold in the first place.
None of the band except maybe drummer Charlie Benante played together as a unit. It was like the band, with the exception of the bass player, resided on Mars and the audience was still on Earth. The bass player did seem drunk, but at least he was aware of how badly the set was going. He looked very unhappy at times, especially when he moved over to the singer’s side of the stage. The only good thing that came out of Anthrax’s set was that it finally ended.
Then it was Massachusetts’ Killswitch Engage’s turn on the stage. Recently returned vocalist Jesse Leach’s first note erased any of the bad taste left after Anthrax’s set. Leach and former lead singer, Howard Jones, sound like they have similar vocal ranges. This made it easier to enjoy Howard era songs like “The End of Heartache”, which came mid set.
Anyone watching Leach’s face could see the focus on hitting every note and singing every word correctly. Passion and care for the craft of music radiated out of every band member, which was refreshing after the train wreck that was Anthrax’s set.
The show ended not with a bang, but a whimper, as it didn’t feel like there had been a full show to review. Being inside a venue and waiting for a show to begin is part of the mystique and atmosphere of a concert. Without that building anticipation or even seeing the opening band, the whole experience feels strangely empty.