I am in a fair amount of pain today, and it’s a mostly good pain, but still, I hurt. I am a reasonable, rational adult (more or less), so I understand that I am responsible for my own actions, but Testament and Exodus must shoulder some of the blame for my current state; if they weren’t so fucking amazing, and hadn’t played the Mercury Ballroom last night on the Louisville stop of their current Dark Roots of Thrash II tour, I very likely would not be sitting at my computer alternating an ice pack and a heating pad on my neck and shoulders while I attempt to put words to what I witnessed last night.
I suppose I should begin by saying that this tour has been slightly mis-advertised; from the very beginning, it’s been clearly stated that Testament would be “perform[ing an] exclusive new set list, including The Legacy & The New Order in their entirety + select Practice What You Preach lp cuts”. I understood that to mean that they would be performing those albums beginning to end, followed by an encore of songs from 1989’s Practice What You Preach, and that did not happen, but that’s on me; the words “beginning to end” have never been a part of the advertising for this tour. Testament instead played a set of songs from both albums – a set which covered all of their 1987 debut The Legacy, but which did not cover all of 1988’s The New Order, as it left out the hauntingly beautiful instrumental pieces “Hypnosis” and “Musical Death (A Dirge)”, along with their badass cover of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”, which I was very psyched to hear live. In addition, the “select cuts from Practice What You Preach” ended up being the title track (which they play live on a pretty regular basis), and nothing else – no “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)”, no “Envy Life”, no “Time is Coming”, no “Greenhouse Effect”, nothing…just the title track, which totally fucking rules, but can hardly be considered “select cuts”.
Anyway, that’s a minor issue overall, as the show was fucking amazing, and quite frankly, I would be making plans to see it again at Bogart’s in Cincinnati on May 2 if I could swing it financially. Here’s a rough breakdown of the night…
My cousin Jason and I (who grew up listening to metal with me) got in the doors toward the end of opener Shattered Sun’s set. I wasn’t in a hurry to get in, as I didn’t really care about seeing their set, but I have to admit that the little bit that I did see was pretty damn good. Yesterday happened to be the release date for their debut album, Hope Within Hatred, and I doubt I’ll purchase the album, but I would see them live again if I had the chance. They’re pretty tight.
A relatively short break followed, made complete by $8 beers (at least they were draft Stella Artois) and a pee-pee break, then the lights went out, a roar went up, and Dan the Automator’s fucking sick-ass beats began to boom out of the sound system, signalling the imminent impact of Exodus and “Black 13”, the opening track from last year’s monstrous album, Blood In Blood Out. The band took the stage as frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza flashed a devilish grin to the crowd, pointed randomly out to various parts of the crowd and twirled his finger in the air to indicate that he was not about to allow this crowd to not become a circle pit. Roughly half of the crowd obliged, and most of that group did not ease up until the band left the stage. Exodus fanatics are some tough SOB’s.
The band flowed from “Black 13” directly into the title track from the new album, and the crowd did indeed rage, and I can’t help but believe that Paul Baloff would have been proud. After “Blood In Blood Out,” Zetro finally addressed the crowd, which was followed by two Rob Dukes-era songs, “Iconoclasm” and “Children of a Worthless God” [Both songs originally appeared on 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A, which is a seriously kickass album, which is a true statement about all of the Rob Dukes-era albums, even the highly controversial Let There Be Blood (2008’s re-recording of the band’s classic first album, 1985’s Bonded By Blood). I am a bonafide Rob Dukes fan, and I make no apologies for it. But I digress.]
I was interested to hear those songs with Zetro’s voice, but “Children of a Worthless God” especially, as it is notable for a recurring clean vocal passage, but I have to say that I was pretty goddamn impressed with Zet’s delivery. The band then taught us all “A Lesson in Violence”, then played another song from the new album, “Salt the Wound”, which is notable in the studio version for featuring a guitar solo from Kirk Hammett, who formed Exodus in 1981 before being poached by Metallica. Hammett’s solo sounds pretty much like every other Kirk Hammett solo from the past 20 years, and the song itself is the weakest on the album in my opinion, but it was much better live. In fact, I thought Zetro’s voice on all the new songs sounded better live than on the album, where it tends to take on a very Cobra Commander quality. I am not wrong about this – listen for yourself:
To be clear, in no way does this diminish my enjoyment of any era of Exodus. But I continue to digress.
The lights went out again after “Salt the Wound”, and the spoken intro to 1989’s Fabulous Disaster played, followed by that album’s opening song “The Last Act of Defiance”, followed by the remainder of their set (highlighted by perennial crowd favorite and fond ode to moshing, “The Toxic Waltz”), followed by a much-needed break for yours truly. It was really difficult to not expend every bit of my energy on Exodus, and I had to constantly remind myself that Testament was yet to go on, and that I had a two-hour drive back home after that. The crowd cleared out a bit when the lights went up, so Jason and I moved closer, scoring some pretty sweet spots directly in front of the sound board.
A fairly quick set change took place, and soon the lights went out again, and the mighty Testament began to crush everyone in the room with their fucking flawless thrash metal. They kicked off with the first four songs from The Legacy, in order, then jumped ahead a year and played a brilliant version of “The Preacher” before reaching back into the debut for “Do or Die” and “First Strike is Deadly”. Chuck then introduced The New Order‘s outstandingly good “A Day of Reckoning” by indicating that they almost never played it live until this tour (which, quite frankly, has been a pretty stupid decision).
“Apocalyptic City” followed, then a block of the first four songs from The New Order, in order, followed by the remainder of The Legacy, “Alone in the Dark” and an almost unbelievably fast version of “C.O.T.L.O.D.”, which I anticipated bringing about the most intense pit action, but which was instead relatively mild, which I attributed to an exhausted crowd that simply gave too much too soon. The band left the stage for the standard encore break, then played their “select cuts” from Practice What You Preach before ending an amazing night of amazing music with the unfuckingtouchable “Disciples of the Watch” (OBEY!), during which it became clear that the crowd was not out of energy yet. Holy shit, friends, “Disciples of the Watch” can incite a fucking pit!
“Blood In Blood Out”
“Children of a Worthless God”
“A Lesson in Violence” (from Bonded By Blood)
“Salt the Wound”
“Blacklist” (from Tempo of the Damned – 2004)
“Bonded By Blood” (from BBB)
“War is My Shepherd” (from TotD)
“The Toxic Waltz” (from Fabulous Disaster)
“Strike of the Beast” (from BBB)
“Over the Wall”
“Do or Die”
“First Strike is Deadly”
“A Day of Reckoning”
“The New Order”
“Trial By Fire”
“Into the Pit”
“Alone in the Dark”
— encore break —
“Practice What You Preach”
“Disciples of the Watch”
Final Thoughts: There were quite a few kids there (with parents), which was fucking awesome! Both Zetro and Chuck noticed and commented on it. Also, I still haven’t heard any songs live from Exodus’ second album (and their debut with Zetro) Pleasures of the Flesh (1987), and I don’t care for that fact. Also, I finally got a Testament shirt with The New Order album cover on it! Also, the sound at the Mercury Ballroom is pretty great, but it’s kind of an awkward place to see a show, what with the support poles positioned around the floor area. Also, the place supposedly has a capacity of 900; being a Tuesday, the show wasn’t sold out, and I’m not good at estimating crowd sizes over about 30, but if there’d been 900 people in that venue, someone might’ve died. Also, I came nearer to getting into a fight than I ever have before (and hopefully ever will again) at a show; that white trash jackass can still fuck off.
That’s all I got for now, friends. I gotta go rest my neck for Death Angel in Indianapolis (in four days!). Y’all stay heavy…I definitely will.