Metal is the Law: ‘Killthrax’ Tour rocks Sold-Out Wiltern Theatre

By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Samuel C. Ware)

Joey Belladonna and Scott Ian – Anthrax

April 22nd 2017, The Wiltern, Los Angeles CA: Giants in vastly different realms of the metal spectrum, Anthrax and Killswitch Engage joined forces for a co-headline run through North America this Spring. Aptly and simply titled “Killthrax”, the tour also recruited The Devil Wears Prada as support act on all shows. Jasta served as opening act on the first segment of the tour and then switched with Code Orange for the coveted spot on the latter half of “Killthrax”. The tour arrived in Los Angeles last Saturday April 22nd for a show that was sold out in advance, and close to 2000 metalheads packed the Wiltern Theatre expecting a treat-and-a-half from two of the biggest names in metal.

The queue of ticket holders wrapped around the block as early as 5 PM, doors opened at 6, and at 6:30, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania metallic hardcore group Code Orange took the stage to begin proceedings. On the one hand it’s heartening to see that a young band like them being given a chance to open such a high-profile tour, but on the other hand it made little sense to start the show as early as it did on a Saturday. With the Wiltern’s usual curfew at midnight, this show could have easily started a whole hour later, which would have served Code Orange far better. Regardless, bathed in solid red lights, the band put forth a 7-song, 25-minute set of grim, crushing heaviness. The set comprised almost entirely of songs from their game-changing, ground-breaking, career-turning 2017 album ‘Forever’, but also touched upon the previous album ‘I Am King’. With the slow process of security checks, ticket scans, general admission wrist-banding, only a small section of the crowd even made it inside the theatre for Code Orange’s set, but those who did saw the metamorphosis of a band on its path to greatness.

Related MA link: Code Orange interview

Code Orange

Code Orange set list:
1. Forever
2. Kill the Creator
3. My World
4. Bleeding in the Blur
5. The New Reality
6. I Am King
7. Spy

For many in attendance, Dayton, Ohio metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada may have been lowest on the list of priorities, so to speak, in reference to this event. Many attendees, Anthrax fans in particular, would have expected to hate this band, and some even chose to skip them entirely to mill about in the lobby or smoking patio instead. But those that decided to give TDWP a chance were pleasantly surprised, as the band put on a more-than-decent 9-song set that showed they clearly come with musical pedigree and are well adept at handling the big stage. Anyone unfamiliar with TDWP’s music would have probably found the set to be a little one-dimensional and most if not all songs sounding the same, but the band certainly exceeded expectations, and it can be safely said that they were better received by the Killswitch crowd than that of Anthrax.

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada photos:

The Devil Wears Prada set list:
1. Daughter
2. Sailor’s Prayer
3. Planet A
4. Outnumbered
5. Worldwide
6. Assistant to the Regional Manager
7. Dead Throne
8. To the Key of Evergreen
9. Mammoth

Promptly at 8:10, a small portion of Beastie Boys’ ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ was played on the PA as the intro, the crowd got instantly pumped, and arriving on stage, Killswitch Engage wasted no time whatsoever in establishing their stronghold on the Wiltern, which was now at capacity. They began with the classic one-two punch of a brand new song followed by a really old one, namely ‘Hate by Design’ and ‘My Last Serenade’ respectively. That was the general theme of their 12-song set, a blend of new and old material, with three songs off of their phenomenal 2016 release ‘Incarnate’. They even threw in one of the most popular old tunes ‘The End of Heartache’, usually reserved for much later in the set, very early on here, making it clear they meant business and had arrived here with a sense of purpose. There was scope for them to have included even more from the newest album, because such is its quality and class of ‘Incarnate’ that it stands as strong as anything the band has ever done, which most of their fans could agree with.

Killswitch Engage

Jesse Leach’s vocal delivery was absolutely splendid, and while the Wiltern was to be blessed with one of the finest old-school metal frontmen in Joey Belladonna a little later, Leach proved himself to be on the same level as Belladonna albeit on the modern metal side of things. He fronted the band to perfection, meanwhile guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz was his usual goofy self, and there was plenty of comedic stage banter with the crowd, and indeed between band members. Musically, they were all at the peak of their powers, rising to the occasion of this sold-out event, and delivered a performance that surely takes them to the forefront of their genre. That being said, it cannot be forgotten that they recorded a very, very terrible cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ (with Howard Jones on vocals) in 2006, but hilariously enough, they ended this set with that cover, except with Joey Belladonna joining the band to sing the leads. Of course it sounded amazing, because there is no singer on this planet that does justice to a Dio song like Belladonna does, and besides giving it their all on their own tunes, this was just about the best thing Killswitch could have done to win the hearts of a very hard-to-please Anthrax crowd.

In September 2016, they played a headline show at the Novo with Exodus as support and were far better than that band, and a few months later here at the Wiltern, at the risk of getting arrested by the metal elite police, it has to be said that Killswitch Engage triumphed over Anthrax with stronger new material, a better intro to the stage, a fresher set list, and a more energetic and entertaining performance.

Killswitch Engage photos:

Killswitch Engage set list:
01. Hate by Design
02. My Last Serenade
03. Alone I Stand
04. The End of Heartache
05. This Fire
06. Rose of Sharyn
07. This Is Absolution
08. Beyond the Flames
09. My Curse
10. In Due Time
11. Strength of the Mind
12. Holy Diver (Dio cover, feat. Joey Belladonna)

If the Anthrax crowd was hard to please, the Killswitch crowd wasn’t far behind either, as a sizable portion of them exited the event after the end of the set, with no interest at all in staying for Anthrax. Upon the announcement of such tours, many fans lose their minds over why their favorite band is co-headlining a tour with a band from an entirely different sub-genre that they don’t like. This is why. Neither Anthrax nor Killswitch could have sold the Wiltern on their own, although purely based on the fact of the number of people inside the theatre during the respective sets, it was clear that Killswitch had the bigger turnout. But the divide in the demographic was palpable, and it was almost as if an Anthrax tour had been combined with a Killswitch-TDWP-Code Orange tour, because while those three bands have stylistic similarities and fan-base overlaps, them and Anthrax seem to have very little in common.

Talking of Anthrax, they took the stage a few minutes past 10 PM, not at their scheduled start time of 9:55, but only because the four different intros that preceded their arrival took up nearly 10 minutes. It was a bit bizarre. First, Jose Mangin of Sirius XM came out to give a grand introduction speech about Anthrax which got the crowd psyched, and on all counts he made it sound like the band was about to play their first note as soon as he yelled at the top of his lungs “Anthraaaaaaax!”But this was to no avail because then Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’, the whole song, was played on the PA. Then came Otis Redding’s ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’, then the opening segment of the ‘Among The Living’ title track, before the band members finally came out to start the set with that song. It was a strange entry to the stage, but they made up for it with the first four tracks, ‘Among The Living’, ‘Caught in a Mosh’, ‘Madhouse’ and ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t’, as fans, specially those in the very front GA section, were loving every moment of it and getting caught in several mosh pits.

Joey Belladonna – Anthrax

As expected, the set comprised two songs from the 2016 album ‘For All Kings’, as well as a great rendition of Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’, which they recorded recently for the 2017 special edition of ‘For All Kings’. Praise has already been heaped on Joey Belladonna in this article, but enough cannot be said about the man’s singing talent, as everyone he touches turns to gold, including this Kansas classic. Besides, his on-stage charisma is second to none, his vocal delivery and crowd interactions always seem heartfelt, and with all due respect, he singlehandedly carries this incarnation of Anthrax when it comes to their sheer watchability as a live band.

Other than the aforementioned new songs, the rest of the set was very much run-of-the-mill, the same song-and-dance, so to speak. The staples they filled the set with thrilled first-time Anthrax concertgoers in attendance to bits, and perhaps that’s their target demographic on this co-headline run, where they’re hoping to play to a lot of new, young fans and Killswitch/TDWP/modern metal fans. So, in all fairness, a longtime Anthrax fan who has seen the band several times in recent years would not miss much by not attending this tour, but keeping in mind their objective for this tour, the band’s stance on the set list is understandable. That being said, the 2011 album ‘Worship Music’ in this writer’s opinion is as great as any of the so-called classic albums, and even though this is now the ‘For All Kings’ touring cycle, the band should still play more than just the one track from ‘Worship Music’.

Regardless of opinions on song selection and set lists, it cannot be denied that as a live band Anthrax is a well-oiled machine, sounds better than ever, and will continue to deliver the goods as long as Joey Belladonna is able to sustain the peak form he is in right now. A solid set, particularly for the first-timers in this audience.

Overall, the ‘Killthrax’ tour treated the Wiltern to a strange and disjoined union of two different metal worlds, and showcased two excellent opening acts as well as two great co-headliners that clearly continue to live up to their big names and reputations.

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Anthrax photos:

Anthrax set list:
01. Among the Living
02. Caught in a Mosh
03. Madhouse
04. Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
05. I Am the Law
06. Breathing Lightning
07. Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)
08. March of the S.O.D.
09. Blood Eagle Wings
10. Antisocial
11. Carry On Wayward Son (Kansas cover, feat. Fred Mandel)
12. Indians

Remaining Tour Dates:
04/25/2017 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox SoDo *
04/26/2017 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre **
04/28/2017 – Denver, CO @ The Fillmore Auditorium *
04/29/2017 – Omaha, NE @ Sokol Auditorium **
04/30/2017 – Kansas City, MO @ Midland Theatre *
05/01/2017 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant **
05/03/2017 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall **
05/05/2017 – Huntington, NY @ Paramount Theatre **
05/06/2017 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall *
05/07/2017 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues *
* KsE closes
** Anthrax closes