Testament rolled into Dublin on Wednesday (4th March 2020) for a night of thrash metal brutality nary seen since their last visit in 2018. Upping the ante, the San Francisco act brought along two of their contemporaries – Exodus and Death Angel – for a package aptly dubbed ‘The Bay Strikes Back’.
With a three-act bill that combined the best of the Californian region’s heaviest acts, the National Stadium was packed to the rafters for a night of old school 80s’ thrash with contemporary bite.
As the bands that helped birth the thrash metal genre, the ‘Bay Strikes Back’ tour has been a veritable treat for old school metallers, bringing out fans of all three bands in their numbers. The show also saw the generations mixing, as proud parents in faded denims who’d witnessed Testament making their debut in the city as guests to Anthrax back in 1987, showed their kids what it was all about.
Following Death Angel’s display of technical brilliance, Exodus took to the stage to a heroes’ welcome. “Look who we’ve brought with us”, enthused screamer Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza; “Gary Holt is back!”, referring to the band leader and guitarist whose sabbatical with Slayer over the last few years has seen him absent from live work with Exodus. Making his presence felt, Holt stepped right into the groove, with the band on blistering form as they belted out a vintage-heavy set.
It may have said ‘Testament’ at the top of the poster, but judging by the rabid response to the band that had just played, this was definitely an equal billing. With a new album to promote in the soon to be released ‘Titans of Creation’, there was a fear that the band might deliver a plethora of unknown material. Not so tonight however, as the five-piece formerly known as Legacy delved deep into their catalogue, kicking off with the seldom-performed ‘Eerie Inhabitants’; the first of a fistful of classics from their defining ‘The New Order’ album.
Greeting the crowd, chief growler Chuck Billy - who was in fine form throughout said; “How are we feeling Dublin? Fuck yeah, it's good to be back! I've been looking forward to coming out here. You know why? I was born in Dublin… Dublin, California!”
With the band tight and focused - thanks in no small part to the on point rhythms of ‘Atomic Clock’ Gene Hoglan - what followed was nothing short of a masterclass in thrash metal, from the unofficial ‘fifth’ member of the Big Four.
However, it was Alex Skolnick who shone throughout. A master of his instrument, the guitarist’s improbable licks, other world fluidity, and inventive melodies lifted the band’s sound above what was at times, an otherwise one-dimensional evening. Jumping from platform to platform and back to stage, the New York resident’s constant smile belied the complexity of his fretwork, which he seemed to deliver with carefree ease.
Adding neo-classical and blues touches to standouts that included later-period gem ‘Dark Roots of Earth’, Skolnick, along with co-guitarist Eric Peterson shredded their way through the band’s considerable catalogue, as they veered from the old school likes of 'The Preacher', to more recent work like 'Night of the Witch' from their forthcoming release.
Summing up the evening, and the nature of the tour, Chuck Billy dedicated ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ to his travelling companions, saying; “everyone that's been on this tour, we’ve known each other for over thirty years. We always talked about going on tour, and well, god damn it, it’s finally happening!”
Signing off with a trio of fan favourites in ‘Practice What You Preach’, ‘Disciples of the Watch’, and ‘Over the Wall’, Testament proved exactly why they’ve endured as one of metal’s finest bands.
Testament, Exodus and Death Angel continue the tour in London, on Friday 6th March. For a full list of dates, see below.
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Testament, Exodus. Death Angel 'The Bay Area Strikes Back' 2020 Tour Dates:
06.03.2020 UK London, The Forum
07.03.2020 UK Manchester, Academy
08.03.2020 UK Glasgow, Barrowland
10.03.2020 BE Brussels, AB
11.03.2020 DE Hannover, Capitol
Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Darren McLoughlin.