“Big Four” members Anthrax announced a North American co-tour with metalcore legends Killswitch Engage a couple of months ago. Although the two bands tend to cater to different generations, the MTELUS in Montreal was packed with eager fans. All in all, a great performance from both groups. Let’s go through a rundown of the night’s events.
First up, thrash revival pioneers Havok take the stage in blistering fashion. Touring for their most recent album release “Conformicide”, the band was clearly eager to show off their new material live. This was my first time seeing them perform, and they did not disappoint. Being a passionate fan of ‘80s thrash, I’ve always felt as if I’ve missed out on the opportunity to see bands like Metallica and Slayer in their heyday, back when their performances were not hindered by grey hair and water breaks. Havok being a relatively young and energetic band, I saw in their performance what I see when watching young versions of James Hetfield or Gary Holt perform on stage; primal, fearless, and eager to provide the best experience for the fans. Lead singer David Sanchez delivered a raw performance, especially giving it his all during “D.O.A.” and its high-pitched scream sections. The band made sure to promote drinking and having a good time (bassist Nick Schendzielos made it no secret he was sipping a beer in between songs), all while preaching their motto to not believe everything you hear and not to become sheep shepherded by media. Havok proved their worth that night to be touring among the infamous bands to follow, and I am undoubtedly excited to see them again at Heavy Montreal this summer.
Following a brief intermission of guitar tuning and bar visits, Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” began playing on the speakers, which meant it was time for Anthrax to take stage. The crowd sang along to the lyrics as the song progressed; I grew increasingly eager as Bruce Dickinson’s voice sung the last lyric of the tune as I knew the first headliner was about to perform.
Opening with the infamous title-track off of their 1987 album “Among the Living”, Joey Belladonna swept the stage, proving that he’s as lively as he was twenty years ago. Joey’s stage presence was unparalleled as he moved frequently from stage-left to stage-right, lively as ever. The band followed with tracks “Caught in a Mosh” and Joe Jackson cover “Got the Time”, the trio being Anthrax’s arguably best concert songs, let alone hearing them one-after-another. Scott Ian and the guys were clearly caught in mosh just as much as the rest of us were; obviously loving what they do. The band followed with hit-single “Madhouse” which enticed the crowd to sing-along with Joey during the unforgettable chorus. A few songs later, Scott Ian talked to us a little about the band’s most recent release “For All Kings” which came out about a year and a half prior. The melodic intro to “Breathing Lightning” began playing, and I for one became extremely excited as that was the only song I knew off of their new record. Notable songs followed: fan-favourite “Medusa”, “Blood Eagle Wings”, and “Be All, End All”.
The band closed their portion of the concert with “Indians”, which was a delight to see performed live. A perfect culmination of the band’s message to cater to those feeling crushed by society, the song provoked unrelenting crowd participation, especially since we all knew it was their last effort of the night; what better song to close off with? The tune also saw a very human moment from the band, as lead guitar player Jonathan Donais promptly forgot to play the song’s infamous solo. The music stopped, and Scott Ian came on the mic and simply said “sorry guys, we f***** up” while laughing. He excused himself and the band by telling us how they usually stop at that point of the song for a crowd-rally moment anyways, so no harm no foul. Anthrax followed to complete the song and bow together for the audience, creating a memorable moment for everyone there.
Although the band has been around for over 35 years now with some members pushing 50 years old, they delivered an unrelenting performance. The set list was fantastic, especially if you’re a fan of “Among the Living”. Let’s see how the younger, more modern Killswitch Engage stacks up against their predecessors.
I admittedly do not have as much experience with Killswitch Engage as I would like, but they immediately took control of the stage with a powerful performance of “Rose of Sharyn”. The crowd around me was going crazy, which showed me that I was in for a good performance. Actually, my excitement for seeing this band live came a couple of hours earlier when I had a discussion with a fellow metalhead who was sitting next to me on the metro. The man was sporting a Killswitch Engage shirt and hat, which clearly revealed we were getting off at the same stop. He overheard my friend and I talking about the upcoming concert, and he joined in on the conversation. I felt a little ashamed to admit that I had never even heard any of Killswitch’s songs before, but he was enthusiastic about selling them to me. He discussed his love and admiration for the band, and how this was their first concert in over a year. To say the least, he was extremely excited to see his favourite band live, which promptly got me excited as well. Back to the concert.
The band performed widespread hits “My Curse” and “Rose of Sharyn”, but also peppered their set list with deep cuts from their various releases. The music was good, and vocalist Jesse Leach moved with the songs, headbanging and jumping around on stage. About three quarters through their set, I noticed that one of the guitarists abruptly stormed off the stage. I was puzzled but got distracted by the performance and thought nothing of it. That guitarist, who I later learned was Adam Dutkiewicz, was seen running up the left-hand aisle of the concert hall. I took a double-take at first as I didn’t recognize him but was perplexed as to why someone was running with a guitar through the crowd.
Through the lights, smoke, and loud music, I quickly came to the realization that this unknown guitarist was indeed the one who stormed off the stage. Fans around me were an even mix of shocked and excited. Adam proceeded to run towards the table I was standing by while high-fiving fans and delivering smiles. He even did an impromptu guitar solo in front of us, all while I stood there in awe. Everyone around me was extremely excited; well, except for the guy Adam hit in the back of the head with the top of his guitar while he was running (no one was injured and the two shared a smile following Adam’s apologies). This surreal moment solidified my allegiance to the band, as they proved they cared deeply about the fans with their energetic performance and over-the-top crowd participation.
The night culminated with Killswitch Engage’s final performance, a rendition of the metal-legend Dio’s “Holy Diver”. Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna returned on stage and sang their rendition of the song with Jesse. A true ode to not only Ronnie James Dio, but to all of the bands that came before and influenced Killswitch Engage. This was the highlight of the night.
The trio viewing of Havok, Anthrax, and Killswitch Engage was an extremely entertaining concert, especially since there were so much variety in performances. You have Havok’s unrelenting fast thrash and screams, Anthrax’s more melodic sound, and finally Killswitch’s groovier, slower material. A night filled with encounters with strangers, be it a fellow fan on the metro or Adam Dutkiewicz himself, I had a blast. I recommend any fans of either of the three bands to attend their multiple stops around North America.