On Stage: Thrash metal fans — tonight is your night

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Tonight, area fans of thrash metal music know that there is only one place they should be – the Santander Arena (700 Penn Street, Reading, www.santander-arena.com).

Tonight, the arena in Berk County is hosting “Slayer’s Final World Tour — Leg 1, North America.” Joining Slayer is second-billed Anthrax, thus offering fans an opportunity to see live performances by two of the world’s best – and oldest – thrash metal bands. Anthrax got its start in 1981 in New York City – the same year that Slayer got its start in Huntington Park, California.

For more than three decades, Slayer’s onslaught has proven the band to be the supreme thrash metal band on the planet, the band that other heavy acts are measured against and aspire to.

The two bands which are playing in Reading tonight form 50 per cent of thrash metal’s “The Big Four” — Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. These are the four bands that defined the thrash metal genre and secured their place in music history.

On January 22, 2018, Slayer announced its decision to do one last world tour to thank its fans for their decades-long support — and then move on.

Anthrax – Scott Ian, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1981–present); Charlie Benante, drums (1983–present); Frank Bello, bass guitar, backing vocals (1984–2004, 2005–present); Joey Belladonna, lead vocals (1984–1992, 2005–2007, 2010–present); Jonathan Donais, lead guitar (2013–present) — is still motoring ahead in its career with the pedal to the metal.

“I would hope it’s not our farewell tour,” said Bello, during a phone interview Thursday afternoon from a Canadian tour stop in Montreal, Quebec.

“We’re doing this tour because Slayer asked us. We like touring with them. We’ve been friends for a long time. This tour is huge and fans from each band cross over. The best thing is that people who haven’t had a chance to see Anthrax play are getting that chance. It’s a perfect opportunity.”


Anthrax was formed in 1981 by Scott Ian and Dan Lilker. The group was considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene during the 1980s and is the only one of the “Big Four” thrash metal bands from the East Coast. As of April 2017, the band has released 11 studio albums, several other albums, and 26 singles, including collaborating on a single with American hip hop group Public Enemy. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Anthrax sold 2.5 million records in the United States from 1991 to 2004, with worldwide sales of 10 million.

As part of the band’s 35th anniversary year, Anthrax released one of 2016’s most-anticipated thrash metal albums – “For All Kings.” The album, which was released by Megaforce in North America and Nuclear Blast internationally, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Hard Rock Chart, and #9 on the Top 200 and became Anthrax’s highest-charting album in more than two decades.

Over its 35-year career, Anthrax has been a pioneering band with its unique style, sound and heavy brand of thrash metal. Anthrax has sold more than 10-million units, received multiple Gold and Platinum certifications, six Grammy nominations and a host of other accolades from the media and the record industry. Anthrax was the first metal band to have its music heard on Mars when NASA played “Got The Time” to wake up the Mars Rover,

“In any gig you have, you have to be fortunate to be in it for more than 30 years,” said Bello. “With a band, it’s not easy. I’m thankful for it. I could be digging ditches.”

Obviously, Anthrax has the musical expertise to rise to the top of its genre. But, there is an even bigger reason for the band’s continuing success.

“We work very hard,” said Bello. “We’re a blue-collar band. Now, we have a fan base that spans generations, you’ll see 12-year-old kids and people in their 60s at our shows. The ‘’Big Four Tour’ (an earlier tour with Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) allowed a lot of people to see Anthrax and we got exposed to a whole new generation of listeners.”

Both the band and its fans have been anticipating a follow-up to the “For All Kings” album – but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

We’ve been non-stop touring,” said Bello. “We weren’t supposed to be touring now. We were supposed to be in the recording studio. But, now we’re booked up until December with this tour. It’s hard to write on the road. But, I’m still always writing.

“At the end of the day, you write what you feel. You can’t lie. If it gets us going, we hope it will connect with people who are like-minded to us. Topics have changed over the years but it’s still about angst. That’s always going to be there.”

The members of Anthrax have stayed close to their musical roots – and close to their geographical roots.

“We’re still the guys from New York,” said Bello. “I still live in New York and have no plans on ever moving.”

For a band to remain together for just under 40 years, there music be something special in the mix.

“The secret to our longevity is respect,” said Bellow. “We’re like brothers. We give each other space – and respect.”

Video link for Anthrax – https://youtu.be/LuLvfm5yDlw.

The show at the Santander Arena, which also features Slayer as headliner along with Lamb of God, Behemoth and Testament, will start at 5 p.m.

Tickets start at $29.

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