(Live Review) TESTAMENT/EXODUS/DEATH ANGEL - Milwaukee, Oct 4th/22
Review by: Mark McQueen
Tonight, The Beard and Little Johnny travel north to Milwaukee and the Eagles Club for a triple bill of old school Thrash featuring: Testament, Exodus and Death Angel.
The Beard is taking the lad back to the early days of mosh pits and head banging the way I remember it. First though a meal and a Bloody Mary at Sobelmans. Got to get fired up on a Tuesday. For the Beard, it’s A Sobelmans Chicken Sandwich with extra Hot Sauce; For Little Johnny, it’s the Wisconsin Triple Cheese Burger with a side of Cheese Curds. Johnny is carbing up for a night in the Pit.
The Eagles Club is a monolithic mansion of a building with stairs and hidden rooms everywhere. The Beard would be lost forever without guides. Thank you, “Rave” Security people. I dropped Little Johnny off on the main floor and continued upstairs to my seat in the balcony. Not a sterling spot, because I still had to stand the whole show to see over everyone else who was also standing, but at least “most” of the balcony crowd didn’t mosh.
(80’s thrash clear vocals)
Good old hair shaking, head banging thrash metal fun. Vocals were a little buried in the mix early, (it may be the room ... I am not too familiar with this venue). I can say Mark Osegueda (vocalist for Death Angel during it’s heyday from 1984-1991 and again since 2001), had a little Anthrax-like sound vocally. Nothing wrong with that.
Death Angel produced a small but steady circle pit. I could look down and see Johnny warming up with a few dozen laps.
Celebrating The Ultra-Violence release from 35 years ago, Death Angel had all the parts of a successful thrash band, except the “standout” part. Nothing really identified them as individualistic. Everything they do is an amalgamation of other thrash bands. I have no complaints, but I also have nothing special I can see/hear that labels them as uniquely Death Angel.
I will say, the impassioned speech before their final song did whip Little Johnny into a whirling top, which is always fun to see. That little man caroms off bodies like a pinball.
Overall, for energy and workman-like performance, The Beard gives Death Angel an ... 84/100
Coming up in the early 1980’s with the likes of Venom and Slayer in the first real wave of extreme metal, Exodus’s career hit the metal ceiling with their first release Bonded by Blood in 1985. Then considered a mainstay with the likes of Metallica, (as a matter of fact Kirk Hammett got his start in Exodus before defecting to Metallica to replace Dave Mustaine who went on to form Megadeth), Exodus nevertheless still went on to sell over five million overall records through their 11 album 40+ year career so far.
Exodus are a more “no-frills” thrash band than many in the genre. Guitars ripping through licks and leads like they just robbed a bank and are running for the State line, longtime mainstay Gary Holt and (at 16-years) relative newcomer Lee Altus are “take no prisoners” players in the thrash metal world and a big part of why Exodus (despite no platinum “Big Four” type of success) is STILL considered a “Big Six” of ALL Bay area thrash bands.
Drummer (and only original member) Tom Hunting is still a machine in keeping those steady double bass beats.
The circle pit for Exodus can get intense and Johnny’s going to be taken to the woodshed during songs like “Piranha” and, of course, “Toxic Waltz”.
Singer Steve Souza (who has been the on again off again vocalist for three different stints over the last 37-years) looking a little like a smaller (and frankly meaner) Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds stalked the stage growling and snarling chock full of piss and… well …probably whiskey if I had to guess.
Exodus’s new stuff was actually totally solid and even innovative for the genre. The Beard may have to pick up a CD from them. I am not familiar with most of their career and that may be Exodus’s problem. They are laying down good stuff. We the fans just aren’t picking it back up. That’s on me (and us) because this IS a very good band. (Ed: Check out 1990's Impact Is Imminent and 2014's Blood In, Blood Out suggests your helpful editor!)
Souza also had the undisputed line of the night with, “Goddamn! You know you’re at a serious metal show when you see a fucking dude in a wheelchair crowd surfing towards you. You fuckers are intense Milwaukee.” Great stuff!
And yes, for those wondering, I did see Johnny taking the ride to the front of the stage, cap held tight to his head and grinning like he just farted in an elevator and then jumped back off.
Exodus’s final numbers, of course, were the metal mosh pit National Anthem “The Toxic Waltz”, and “Strike of the Beast”. Johnny was the most inspired I’ve seen him. He is going to be so sore tomorrow. The Beard has to say, Exodus raised the bar on my expectations tonight. Reward, a sterling ...
Lifetime openers but show headliners tonight:
TESTAMENT Testament took the stage with something to prove. Namely that 40 plus years haven’t mellowed the Bay Area thrashers at all. Not sure how much energy Johnny has left down there in general admission, but in the meantime, the Beard will mosh his way through another beer.
Right from the opening strains of “Rise Up”, Testament came to play. As headliners, they had the big light show, but (in The Beard's opinion), they could have been aimed a bit better. The drummer was mostly ill lit, (although perhaps by his own request as when the Beard ran lights in the 1990’s it was easy to fry a drummer) and since Dave Lombardo is now hitting the skins for Testament, no doubt he gets whatever he personally wants as visuals. Testament also had a big show, and finally, they had a big sound.
They are more about the leads and the thundering train of the thrash. Their songs are like amusement park rides, a drop, a twist, a jerk, another turn, a drop again… I’m out of breath just watching, Johnny may be dead down there by now.
“Practice what you Preach”, was a stellar crowd chant-along, moshers and surfers abounding throughout. “Night of The Witch”, and “First Strike is Deadly” were also great selections.
Fun fact, Little Johnny had never been in a “pit war”. Now he’s been in two. If you’ve never seen one, check out the Beard's TikTok Videos by searching #thebeardandlittlejohnny or just search thebeard0728. It was like a scene from Braveheart down there.
Testament played about an hour and a half which is more than twice as long as when they do their usual opener slot for the big names. Add that in on top of Death Angel's 40 minutes and the Exodus' 45 minutes, this was almost three hours of straight on thrash. Johnny WILL sleep well tonight.
Overall, The Beard awards Testament a well-deserved ... 90/100 for a great Headliner set
A special nod to all three acts for reminding us of who the OG of Bay Area thrash were and still are.