September 30, 2022 – MTelus, Montreal, Quebec
Three huge names in the metal world rolled their tour buses along the heavily pot-holed streets of Montreal for a gig at the MTelus. All three groups are bands that have been honing their crafts for the best part of four decades, seemingly with no desire to slow down or fade away. With the show tonight being long since sold out – why would they? Among the bands set to perform, is Exodus – would of the originators of the Thrash genre, playing between Death Angel and Testament. Little wonder as to why this is full house.
Fans of the Thrash metal genre with of course be aware of the Big Four – a tag line given to the four big groups of the genre – Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica, but there is also a strong undertow of bands that could and should be included when speaking about the Thrash metal realm. With Slayer having now hung up their guitars and retired, and Metallica defaulting on themselves more than two decades ago – perhaps it is time that the Big Four expand itself to incorporate other acts – and all three bands on the bill tonight would be candidates for such a promotion.
See Also: Ghost at Centre Videotron, Quebec City
The entertainment tonight consisted of two former members of the mighty Slayer – long-time drummer Dave Lombardo who now batters the skins for Testament, and guitarist Gary Holt who replaced the late Jeff Hanneman and was a member of the group right up until their final days. Holt, of course, plays in Exodus from where Slayer recruited him to be, at the time, a temporary replacement for Hanneman as he spent time away from the band following a spider bite while in his hot tub that eventually lead to his death.
First to the stage were Death Angel, who emerged through a thick blanket of smoke to an already boisterous crowd that had began moshing and crowd surfing before a single note had been played – unless you count the tunes the DJ had been spinning, that is. For the duration of their set, Death Angel would meet then exceed the energy of the crowd by doing what they do best – thrash. Their twin guitar parts, that have Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar feeding off of one another, while Gimme Radio DJ Will Carrol pounds the drums at the rear of the stage.
Guitarist Rob Cavestany is the only original member still in the band; he and vocalist Mark Osegueda (who joined the group in 1984) are also the only members of Death Angel to appear on all of their studio albums. All three bands have toured together several times over the years and have a long, shared history together. Death Angel spent a decade in hiatus following a serious tour bus accident, and returned to the stage in 2001 for a benefit show named named Thrash Of The Titans that was put together to benefit two musicians that were battling cancel – the late Chuck Schuldiner from death metal pioneers Death, who lost his fight the deadly affliction; and Chuck Billy of Testament.
Strangely, nearly everybody that played tonight was also on stage at some point during Thrash Of The Titans – all three bands at tonight’s gig, including the last ever live performance from Exodus frontman Paul Baloff, who passed away from a stroke a few few months later. Current Exodus vocalist was also on the bill, singing for Legacy, a precursor to Testament, that also saw the return of Alex Skolnick to Testament. Former Sadus bassist Steve Di Giorgio too was there, having played with Schuldiner in Death.
Having such a phenomenal band as Death Angel opening the night is a treasure that I hope none took lightly. I know I didn’t.
Despite being around since the start, Exodus have never received the same recognition as their peers and that is something that boggles the mind. That though, has little if anything to do with the show that took place tonight. On this night, it was all about the here and now.
The rampant energy that had begun before Death Angel began their set have trickled over into the time Exodus spent on stage. The crowd was loud and boisterous, brimming with energy that was expelled in mosh pits that had broken out and in an onslaught of crowd surfers that kept the security crew working the barricade on their toes throughout the set. As cliché as it is say that the band fed off the energy of the audience, like some form of vampiric feeding frenzy, it is also true. At least it felt that way.
When a set includes track like A Lesson In Violence and Blood In, Blood Out among their early offerings, it is certain that the band came out with a purpose. Thrash is all about energy – from it’s galloping guitar riffs and break down’s to the tumultuous drumming, an evening that didn’t go like this one had should be construed as a failure. Tracks like Piranha and Blacklist were also played, but the best were saved for last. Cult cut Bonded By Blood rang out to a raucous response, but the highlight of the night was when Holt began riffing on Slayer’s classic Reign In Blood, before going into The Toxic Waltz.
There is little doubt that following Holt’s stint in Slayer, there is a newly rejuvenated interested in Exodus among the younger crowd – those that may not have been tuned into the band prior to hearing Holt in Slayer. This ensures the next generation of Thrashers will be well educated, and will have the foundations and roots of this amazing musical genre to build on, as well as the inbetweeners like Municipal Waste, Iron Reagan, Toxic Holocaust, Havoc and so many other quality groups that have continued on the legacy of these early trendsetters.
Despite all three groups being great – tonight belonged to Exodus, who shredded through a set that passed by all too quickly.
The already massive allure of Bay Area thrash legends Testament was made a little more attractive earlier this year, when it was announced that drummer extraordinaire, Dave Lombardo, had returned to the fold. Lombardo joins an already impressive line-up of musicians that included names such as Alex Skolnick, Steve Di Giorgio and Chuck Billy – and the often unfairly over-looked Eric Peterson. Meaning that the current version of the band is a potent machine, geared by top-notch parts.
Tonight, Testament seemed motivated to lay the proverbial smack down. And that is exactly what they did. With such a talented group of musicians playing together, there is little wonder as to how great they sounded. Tight and honest, true to the studio recordings from which they were pulling material from.
Starting with Rise Up, to a crowd that again – and not echo myself, was already in mid-season form, rolling crowd surfers over the barricades as Metallica’s The Four Horseman played over the P.A system. Clearly, the audience had already risen up. (Wow, that was a terrible pun – even for me). From this point on, there was no letting up as Testament ran rampant over Montreal akin to how Alvin Kamara runs through NFL defenses every week. (Who Dat!)
I was quite pleased to hear Do Not Resuscitate, as I feel it’s a track that doesn’t get enough credit. Their whole setlist was a thing of beauty, pulling tracks from nine different studio albums and including cuts such as Practice What You Preach, First Strike Is Deadly and Over The Wall (shit, I should have kept by terrible pun for this part of the text).
Prior to performing Native Blood, Chuck Billy had a few choice words from those gathered about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, something that still isn’t receiving as much attention as it should be. There are still undiscovered graves containing children killed by the church that need to be uncovered and the mainstream media has gone quiet about the whole thing. Billy himself is Native and he spoke about the topic with conviction before delivering a brilliant rendition of Native Blood.
The penultimate track of the night was none other than Into The Pit, which was the final track played at Thrash Of The Titans, that saw Billy join Legacy on stage while he battled cancer. All these years later, I have my doubts that it still holds something special for Billy, but it does for me. Still being privileged enough to see Billy and Testament performing this track – or any track, is symbolic of hope. Life’s hurdles can sometimes be overcome.
The night came to a close following Alone In The Dark, and had been a memorable evening that I am sure most in attendance won’t soon forget. I have a great deal of respect for tour packages that pull together multiple acts that would have done well on their own merit, sprinkled with a local act or two, or an up-and-coming troupe of label mates that just a select few might know. To have three great bands like this bundled together, from the same genre and era, means that the fans that come out get to enjoy music they know and love all night long. There’s something special about that.
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This was to be a night to remember, and clearly something that will be heralded as special by thrash and metal fans in this city for quite some time to come. Playing witness to but one of these three artists would have been special – but a night that contains them all is a treat.
For roughly forty years, these three bands have been at the forefront of the style they each played a hand in creating – some, like Exodus, since day one. The other groups that are credited as originators grew to stadium shows, and festival headline acts – but the true heart of the style resides here, within bands like Testament, Exodus and Death Angel – and I’d take an evening with any of them before venturing out to see the likes of the disgraced Metallica. Unforgiven.