Brotherhood of the Greats: Testament, Sepultura & Prong rock new House Of Blues Anaheim

By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Robert De Anda)


May 18th 2017, House Of Blues, Anaheim CA: In a world where several aging metal bands are plying their trade solely because of the nostalgia factor they bring to attract people who used to listen to them “back in the day” and just want to hear the “classics”, it’s rare and refreshing to come across bands that have been in existence for three decades or more, yet are willing and daring enough to focus their effort and energy into writing and performing new music that does justice to their legacy and holds its own when compared to any of their best work of the past. Testament, Sepultura and Prong, without doubt, come under this category, each of them with latest releases that are beyond excellent. The three metal greats joined forces to translate the sheer strength of their new material into crushing live performances through an extensive 6-week North American tour in April-May 2017. In the final week of this run, they arrived at the new House Of Blues at the Anaheim Gardenwalk last Thursday May 18th, and packed the place to put on a concert to remember for a long time.

For starters, this new venue is bigger and more spacious than the old House Of Blues Anaheim in downtown Disney, has a much better layout which enables concertgoers to see the show clearly no matter where they’re standing or sitting, and clearly is a better-sounding room with a much bigger stage. More importantly, hopefully the metal shows here won’t be marred by Disney’s ridiculous censorship that prevented the likes of Exmortus, Warbringer, Machine Head and many other bands from performing at the old venue. The queue of ticket holders was long for this event, doors opened as early as 6 PM, and all was in readiness for a great show.

Tommy Victor – Prong

At 7:15, Prong took the stage to kick the evening into high gear, playing a 9-song set featuring selections from their 2016 release ‘X – No Absolutes’, along with older gems, of course. Many in the audience struggled through the brutal rush-hour commute only to arrive to the venue early enough to catch Prong’s set, and were handsomely rewarded with an extremely solid performance. Anyone that was here primarily for Testament and/or Sepultura also found Prong to be an ideal opening act, and as a result, the response from the crowd was unanimously positive. Mosh pits were triggered instantly for the faster and better-known tunes, as the room was sizably packed even this early on a Thursday. This entire concert was a story of 12 great musicians and 3 fantastic frontmen, and Tommy Victor led Prong excellently to set the tone for the rest of the evening. Prong is a very respected and loved band in the metal fraternity, and they deserve every bit of it because there is no such thing as a bad or half-hearted Prong show.

Prong set list:
01. Ultimate Authority
02. Beg to Differ
03. Unconditional
04. Cut-Rate
05. Cut and Dry
06. Another Worldly Device
07. Whose Fist Is This Anyway?
08. Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck
09. Sense of Ease

Soon after, at 8:10, Sepultura hit the stage absolutely all guns blazing, with the breakneck, relentless two-and-a-half minute rager ‘I Am The Enemy’ off of the 2017 release ‘Machine Messiah’. Even though it came out in January, this one stands strong as the best metal album of the year so far, and it made perfect sense for the band to play as many as 5 tracks from it, of which ‘Phantom Self’, ‘Alethea’ and ‘Resistant Parasites’ were highlights. But, never a band to shy away from their past and always respecting their roots and legacy, Sepultura also played songs from the back catalog, and ended the set ultra-strong with the unmatchable trifecta of ‘Refuse/Resist’, ‘Ratamahatta’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ to leave the audience totally stunned and amazed.

Andreas Kisser – Sepultura

Those who hadn’t had a chance to see this incarnation of Sepultura fronted by Derrick Green, or simply hadn’t given it a fair chance until now, were pleasantly shocked by what they were witnessing, because this was a savagely splendid set, wherein the ‘Machine Messiah’ songs sounded powerful and the older tunes were done full justice to by Green’s vocals and the exploits of his band mates, the old and longstanding firm of Andreas Kisser (guitar) and Paulo Jr. (bass), along with that of young drummer Eloy Casagrande, who has made quite an impact in his 6 years in the band so far, specially on the new album. Derrick Green’s vocal delivery and stage presence was unquestionable, and his sheer power was clear from the fact that his uttering of “Un-Dos-Tres” made HOB Anaheim lose its collective mind.  For keeping themselves going against all odds and still making music that stands head and shoulders above all else, this band does not get nearly enough credit. Sepultura is alive and well, and here to stay for a while yet.

Sepultura set list:
01. I Am the Enemy
02. Phantom Self
03. Kairos
04. Desperate Cry
05. Sworn Oath
06. Inner Self
07. Alethea
08. Resistant Parasites
09. Refuse/Resist
10. Ratamahatta
11. Roots Bloody Roots

And lastly, a few minutes past their scheduled start time of 9:30, headliners Testament took to the stage, and through a 17-song set decorated with stellar musicianship and judicious usage of strobe lighting, they lived up to their stature all over again as one of the true greats in the heavy metal genre. But they didn’t do so by playing the same old staples and classics, instead they changed up the set list quite significantly, not only by adding tunes from their righteous latest release ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’, but also switching up the selections from the back catalog, and even injecting individual solos into the set, which is not something they’ve done, at least in recent years. A small group of hard-hitting songs was followed by a solo, as Alex Skolnick played some delightful Van Halen and other classic rock licks early on in the set, while guitarist Eric Peterson, bassist Steve DiGorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan also got their turns later on. New songs, obscure old ones, solos, stage production and lighting that mirrored the monstrosity of the music, and just the perfect amount of crowd interaction from vocalist Chuck Billy: This was the most complete Testament headline performance Southern California has seen, probably ever.

Alex Skolnick (L) & Chuck Billy – Testament

From the balcony, the general admission floor looked like a giant mass of human bodies moving in waves and circles throughout the set, as it was most certainly shoulder-to-shoulder packed. The ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ title track was the perfect start to the show and set things in motion straightaway, and things only got more intense with every song that followed, ‘Centuries of Suffering’ standing out as another highlight, not that the entire set wasn’t a highlight in itself.

Testament has been at the peak of their powers in recent years, and they only keep heightening that peak with every new album and subsequent touring cycle. They put nostalgia acts who play the same 15 songs every tour to complete shame, and the rate at which Testament release new albums and change up their set lists, they will remain as one of the more interesting metal bands to witness live, because you’re guaranteed a different (and better) show each time. The ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ tour hit North America for the first time through this run, but rest assured it will return soon enough to markets it missed this time around, and when it does, do yourselves a massive favor and attend a show.

Overall, a top-class heavy metal show of unparalleled quality and power from start to finish.

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Testament set list:
01. Brotherhood of the Snake
02. Rise Up
03. The Pale King
04. Centuries of Suffering
05. Electric Crown
06. Into the Pit
07. Low
08. Throne of Thorns
09. Stronghold
10. Eyes of Wrath
11. First Strike Is Deadly
12. Urotsukidôji
13. Souls of Black
14. Seven Seals
15. The New Order
16. Practice What You Preach
17. Over the Wall

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