April 8, 2015
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Mike DiQuinzio
Photos by Brian Ullrich
The Other Guys
The Big Four is the most elite circle in all of metal, but there has been much discussion lately about the bands just outside of it and which of them presents the best case for making the Top Five. Two of these bands, Testament and Exodus, put up a hell of a fight for that claim when they came to the House of Blues in Dallas last night to celebrate 30 years of some of the greatest thrash metal ever recorded.
Opening the show was Texas' own Shattered Sun, a six-piece metal band that drew influences from the old-and new-schools alike and had enough of each to satisfy every generation of metalhead in attendance. They were decent, and would probably be great in a small club, but let's face it; no one remembered them once Exodus took the stage.
The pit began to take shape in the middle of the floor as the intro to "Black 13" played. After the first live snare hit, Gary Holt's razor-sharp riff became the soundtrack to chaos and Exodus was off and running. They maintained their momentum by tearing into the title track of the best metal album of 2014, Blood In, Blood Out, before highlighting every phase of their legendary career with "Children of a Worthless God" and "War Is My Shepherd" from the Rob Dukes era and "Blacklist" from 2001's Tempo Of The Damned. "Salt the Wound," the lead-off single from Blood In, Blood Out, received the best response of all the newer songs, and rightly so; it's one of the best songs in the band's catalog, if not the entire genre. It was the older material, though, that really got the crowd moving.
From the moment they tore into "A Lesson in Violence," the pit looked more like a hurricane than a swarm of people. Their landmark debut Bonded by Blood turns 30 this year, which gave everyone even more reason to go completely ape-shit to the tune of its classic title track and show-closer "Strike of the Beast."Other show highlights were "The Last Act of Defiance" and the mosh-pit anthem "The Toxic Waltz," both from 1988's Fabulous Disaster album, which both kept the pit going at an even more frantic pace.
Exodus sounded tight throughout their entire set, especially Steve "Zetro" Souza, who returned last year to front the band after more than a decade away. His vocals were spot-on at all times, much to the delight of the frenzied fans before him. After a set this pulverizing, Testament would have to really be on their game to follow it...
...and boy, were they ever! Exclusively performing songs from their first three albums, Testament was even more amazing than usual. Opening with "Over the Wall," the band tore through The Legacy and The New Order in their entirety, save for "Nobody's Fault" and "Hypnosis" from the latter. However, they did not perform the two albums back-to-back, but instead shuffled the order. This made the show much more exciting by keeping the audience guessing rather than already knowing what was coming next.
Not that their set was lacking any excitement to begin with. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson proved why they are the most under-appreciated guitar duo in metal, as Alex delivered one mind-blowing solo after another over Eric's rock-solid rhythm playing. New(-ish) bassist Steve DiGiorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan are the single greatest metal rhythm section, hands down. Their work with Death is unparalleled, and they carried that same energy over to Testament. All of this laid the groundwork for Chuck Billy to deliver some of the most brutal vocals in thrash metal on such classics as "Trial By Fire," "Into the Pit," and "Apocalyptic City" as well as lesser-known album cuts like "A Day of Reckoning," "Do or Die," and "C.O.T.L.O.D.."The band touched on its third album, 1989's Practice What You Preach, by playing its title track before ending the show with the vicious favorite "Disciples of the Watch."
Both Testament and Exodus played excellent sets, and like their peers in the Big Four, both have released several legitimate classics over the last 30 years. The difference between these two bands and the Big Four, though, is that the output of Testament and Exodus has been more consistent in its metal-ness; pick any random album from either one and chances are you'll be holding a thrash metal classic. These two veteran acts prove that they don't need a clique to succeed; they're doing just fine on their own terms and making damn good music in the process.