Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer's tour kick-off at Dallas on Saturday was something of a homecoming: Back in 1991, this same lineup launched the American leg of their legendary "Clash of the Titans Tour," an epic run that proved the three were at the top of the thrash-metal game.
Almost twenty years later, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer descended on Superpages.com Center for a blazing four-hour set that proved they are still part of the Big Four of thrash. (Metallica is the other band to hold the title, and although they joined the three for a run of dates in Europe this summer, Metallica are sitting out this American run.)
Saturday night was, predictably, all about looking back - Anthrax' Scott Ian has even dubbed the tour "Clash of the Titans: Revisited." Megadeth's set leaned heavily on their 1990 classic Rust in Peace while Slayer reveled in their seminal album Seasons in the Abyss, but both acts dipped into material from their new albums.
Anthrax heated up the crowd with their opening slot, although sound troubles plagued the band's first two songs. Guitarist Scott Ian seemed particularly annoyed by the disruption: He shouted at a sound engineer while dutifully riffing on his guitar; later, he angrily lashed out at his microphone when the screeching feedback persisted.
But Anthrax quickly recovered, delivering blistering versions of "Indians" and "Metal Thrashing Mad." Frontman Joey Belladonna seemed especially ecstatic: He flashed a constant grin and his soaring howls showed his voice hadn't lost much of its biting force.
Megadeth, who followed Anthrax, came off as engaging and as technically proficient as ever. They launched into Rust in Peace and were an instant lesson in metal posturing and precision. Guitarist Dave Mustaine, bassist David Ellefson, and guitarist Chris Broderick posed and strutted with swagger while drummer Shawn Drover blasted at his kit with unrelenting exactitude. Speed, chops, and accuracy are still Megadeth's strength - all four members' limbs were a constant blur throughout - and they drove this home particularly when they launched into the delectably devilish arpeggios of "Hangar 18," one of the highlights of the night.
But Megadeth and Anthrax were second- and third-fiddle to the almighty Slayer. As they hit the stage, the group earned the loudest cheers of the night, with die-hards chanting "Slayer! Slayer!"
Their 70-minute set included rip-roaring epics from the recent World Painted Blood before dipping into the classic Seasons of the Abyss. Credit guitarist Kerry King for bringing the heat. He stalked about the stage in front of 12 Marshall triple-stacks, performing his virtuosic, jaw-dropping riffs with stunning accuracy. His was an impossibly fast, inspiring display - albeit one that overshadowed his bandmates' similarly striking contributions, including guitarist Jeff Hanneman's mind-blowing solos, and drummer Dave Lombardo's rapid-fire percussive stampede.
Slayer wrapped things up with some of their greatest hits, including an unrelenting "Angel of Death," bringing the night's sonic onslaught to a close.
All told, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth proved they were still at their thrash metal peaks - aside from slightly larger waistlines and slightly grayer hairs, Saturday night's gig felt more like 1991 than 2010.