Pit of Hell: Anthrax and Testament at Ace of Spades in Sacramento

It finally happened. I not only finally saw this tour of Testament, Anthrax and Death Angel after three legs but I finally saw Anthrax in a live setting after following their adventures and misadventures for years. Funny how things work out. Some of you may recall the awesome review I put up from a co worker and friend who attended this tour last year when I couldn’t go. The catch was she had never listened to thrash before in her life. Well when Ham from Metal Meltdown with Ham said he was coming up to Sacramento to catch this show and asked if I was going how could I say no? So Ham and his friend Rich indeed showed up at Casa Del Liz and after some awesome bbq and brews as a tailgate pregame we took off for Sacramento at the Ace of Spades.

Now my experience at Ace of Spades was a good one the last and only time I had gone before to see Amon Amarth and after talking up this place I was hoping it was still a great venue to check out a show at. I’ll get to the venue some more a bit later but let’s talk about the bands we came to see shall we? All pics and vids are courtesy of Hams friend Rich. You rock dude.

First up of course is Death Angel. Now we missed a track or two from their set because apparently they started a few minutes early then expected. So after getting our bearings, hitting the merch table, and getting a spot on the floor we finally caught the rest of their set. Now I did catch their set when they opened for Sepultura on a webcast and on that show they seemed to be having problems with the sound but Ace of Spades came through in well…spades…because their set from start to finish sounded great. Mark Oseguedas vocals were spot on and it was a tight set but way too short. DA might have gotten between 30 and 45 minutes on their set which is too short for a band of their stature but what are you going to do? It set the tone nicely for the rest of the night for what it was. Here is their set list.

Then came my favorite thrash band, Testament. This was my second time seeing them and on a much better bill then last time during the Formation tour. I had moved from my location on the floor to up on the left side in order to:

1. Say hey to DGR from No Clean Singing of which you can also read his show review and
2. Find Ham who I had lost in the midst of the sea of bodies at this sold out show. After regrouping with Ham at the side bar I was able to check out Testaments set. The one down side to this positioning was the partial obstruction of the stage(more specifically Gene Hoglan was mostly obstructed)by the amps but still a good view.

The set itself wasn’t too bad. Four tracks from the latest album Dark Roots of the Earth were on display and a ton of tracks from the 80’s were played but very little in the way of 90’s output which was somewhat of a letdown for me. While they did play D.N.R. I would have liked to have heard something from Demonic or Low as well but with Hoglan filling in on drums and Alex Skolnick gone for most of the 90’s I guess it wasn’t possible to appease everyone. Still they put on a good show even if it felt somewhat rushed. Here is the video taken by Rich of New World Order and the set list.

And finally we have Anthrax. A word to the wise, if you’re in a packed club and you smoke, you might want to hold up until after the show to go light up if you can. The venue was sold out and after Testament was done there was this massive swell of people either trying to go smoke, take a piss or get to the front for Anthrax therefore the congestion on the floor was insane. So once again I lost track of Ham but I knew where DGR was hanging out for the show so I met with him again and checked out Anthraxs set from there and honestly it was the best spot to watch a show in the whole place. Clear view of the stage and the audio was top notch not to mention temperature comfortable. Hey I’m too old to be down on the floor for 4 hours getting mashed and shoved, sweating like a pig and worried something was going to get broken on my person, ok? I can rock out just fine from a nice vantage point. Anyways, back to Anthrax.

As much disinterest and crap I’ve given the band over the years I have to say that their set was not only my favorite of the night but the most fun I’ve had in quite awhile to be honest. The audio was sketchy at times with feedback but the guys put on a fun, energetic and inclusive set for sure. I’m not a huge Anthrax fan but they managed to play most of my favorites from back in the day and then of course Worship Music got represented which was cool because it’s actually become my favorite Anthrax album. Joey as a front man is what you want, a cheerleader, frontman, pantomime though he does need to lay off the Red Bull. Dude was so hyped up on that stuff that when he engaged the audience in some banter it sounded like a foreign language. But the crowd was into them as much as you’d want them to be. Caught in the Mosh opened up most of that floor for a pit and the amount of crowd surfing was crazy throughout the show. Anthrax definitely needs to be on bigger stages though because you could tell that Scott Ian wanted to do more of his trademark stomp in circle but there wasn’t enough room and Frank Bello was pretty restrained as well. But they made due with what they had and it was a great way to finish the night. Here again is the set list and video evidence of what kind of show Anthrax put on. Adjust your audio volume accordingly.

I’d also like to take a sec and give a shout out to my buddy Craig who showed up at the bbq and I saw once at the venue never to have seen him again that night. Sorry we couldn’t have hung out more while there but hope you had a rad time, dude.

If you are in the northern California area in or around Sacramento you need to catch a show at Ace of Spades. The crowd on this night more then made up for the listless mass of bodies at Iron Maiden a couple of months ago. The venue itself is actually now my favorite club to see a metal show which is saying quite a bit since I’ve been to a lot of shows in the San Fran area too. From a town that could barely get known acts to show up except for Arco Arena or the Boardwalk,Ace of Spades should now be considered the premiere place to catch a kick ass show like this one.

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