Posted on by Oran

This is the stuff of dreams. The tour package to end all tour packages. Having seen the success of the ‘Big Four’ campaign a decade ago, questions began to surface about the underdogs, the consistent uncompromising representation for the Bay Area Thrash legacy and today, this all became a reality for Dublin.

‘The Bay Area Strikes Back’ featuring Testament, Exodus and Death Angel is about as solid a line up as any metal fan can hope for.

The history, blood, sweat, tears, near-deaths, illnesses and family-like bond that exists between these three bands runs far deeper than the music. This is a family and we’re all invited to the reunion.

The first glimpse of Spring is in the air and as Dublin’s South Circular Road hums with rush hour traffic under a soft golden sky. The long, long line of patrons for tonight’s show is attracting more attention than usual with 9-to-5 commuters gawking with bewildered expressions at approximately 1.6K decorated battle jackets that dominate the entrance to the National Stadium.

Once inside, the atmosphere is super-charged and buzzing with anticipation for the long-awaited return of Death Angel to an Irish stage.

It’s been 16 years in the making, but once Death Angel rips into the title-track from their latest opus, “Humanicide“, Dublin shows their appreciation by doing what they know best and opening up a pit almost instantly, much to the delight of vocalist Mark Osegueda, who keeps the energy levels cranked throughout.

With a short and varied setlist that covers the bands’ rich discography, this was a chance to to see this rarely used venue in full operation and although awkward in places (seating, layout), the overall impression is a very solid one. Also, bonus points for enticing hotdog aroma that filled the air throughout the nights’ entertainment, as well as the fair-priced pints, at just €5.00 each.

We are treated to the always fantastic ‘Seemingly Endless Time‘, ‘The Ultra-Violence‘ and ‘Thrown To the Wolves‘ before Osegueda bellows their final statement “We are Death Angel. We come from San Francisco, Bay Area, and we play Thrash fucking Metal“.

Next up is Exodus, and bearing in mind, it’s Exodus with Gary Holt back in the ranks after his duties were required on Slayer’s final global campaign!

So, expectations are high, the adrenalin is hanging in the air like a zeppelin and as Tom Hunting appears on stage first, the venue thunders with roars of excitement before Holt and Zetro appear, which kicks up the hysteria just a few notches more.

Joining them on stage, Lee Altus and Jack Gibson, complete the Exodus artillery and without warning they burst out of the cage with ‘Body Harvest‘ followed by ‘Blood in Blood Out‘ and although the pit is in a glorious frenzy, the sound is noticeably jumbled and is somewhat distracting at times.

And Then There Was None‘ comes at us like a rabid animal, followed by the anthemic ‘Fabulous Disaster‘ which sees the venue’s pit security earn their well-deserved paycheques tonight.

Donning his patch vest, Zetro reminds us all that he is from Dublin, California and tells us; “This is our Sister home” to a rambunctious reception before giving the nod to a now dripping wet Holt who furiously headbands his way through the rest of the set and is clearly happy to be back home in his old band.

Once again, the sound is interfering with solos from both Altus and Holt almost wiping out the overall mix, vocals included.

Their remaining time is spent giving a true lesson in violence with a magnificent selection of gold-plated Thrash classics in the form of ‘Bonded By Blood‘, ‘Piranha‘, ‘Toxic Waltz‘ and finally, ‘Strike of the Beast‘.

What seems like only minutes of their performance (time flies when you’re having fun), Exodus bid their farewells, with Zerto promising; “You will be seeing us very soon, with a new album.” Despite the sound issues, Exodus raises the bar and leave the packed venue salivating for more.

As the stage gets turned over for Testament, punters refresh, refuel and take in their surroundings with much discussion surrounding the venue and the potential of seeing more shows like this happening here in the future. Fingers crossed, as fully operational venues for metal shows are becoming few and far between these days.

Finally, its time for the one and only Testament. Once again, deafening roars fill the air and with a visibly happy Chuck Billy taking in his surroundings from the lip of the stage before launching into ‘Eerie Inhabitants‘ and ‘The New Order‘.

My fears of sound issues experienced during Exodus are quickly put to rest as Testament sound huge, crystal clear, well-balanced and sharp throughout their set.

Having had a total of 7 years waiting for Testament’s return Ireland (2009 – 2016), tonight’s show marks the third time the Bay Area legends have performed in the last 4 years and clearly it’s appreciated, judging by the reception greeting them here in Dublin’s National Stadium.

Chuck’s vocals are just outstanding tonight. His exploration into the guttural register has evolved into the older material such as ‘Practice What You Preach‘ and it just fits like it’s always been that way. His vocal ability, (much like Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna) has become even more outstanding and bombastic with age and is so very apparent on the new album; to which I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.

Speaking of the new album, ‘Titans of Creation‘ will ready to be rolled out next month via Nuclear Blast, and littered in among tonights ferocious selection of tracks, the band offer us a glimpse of what’s to come, with the recently released, ‘Night of the Witch‘ single and the venue eats it up with just as much passion and revelry as any of the earlier material.

The overall performance from Testament displays a band that is in fighting form with particular reference to Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick’s twin-guitar assault throughout the show. Brilliant stuff indeed!

Closing off the show with ‘Into the Pit‘, ‘Practice What You Preach‘, a formidable performance of ‘Over The Wall‘ and finally ‘Disciples of the Watch‘, Testament have absolutely smashed it again and Ireland knows it.

Tonight we witnessed the very nuts and bolts of, not only the Bay Area Thrash scene but a masterclass from some of the very pioneers of the genre.

A truly memorable gig that will no doubt be talked about for years to come. For now, the lesson in violence has come to an end.

Class dismissed…until next time.

Photos – Down The Barrel Photography, exclusively for © 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Overdrive spoke to Death Angel and Testament so keep your eyes on our site for both interview features coming up next week.

Oran O’Beirne © 2020. All Rights Reserved.