Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
In what might have been initially thought to be an April fool’s prank, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, sees three legends of metal come again to Dublin where a devout capacity congregation has gathered to recite Testament, old and new.
The first band of the night is Polish death metallers Vader, who are regular visitors to Ireland, having played here almost annually for the past decade. At precisely 7 pm, a drawn-out intro gives way to opening tracks ‘Chaos’ and ‘Vicious Circle’ from their quarter-century old debut album The Ultimate Incantation. Immediately, the dirty riffs and blistering solos get the chocolate-gorged audience energized and moving. Next up is ‘Triumph of Death’; “a good song for today”, preaches frontman Piotr Wiwczarek. Admitting that they would love to perform it in its entirety, they continue to honor their first album by performing a total of four of its numbers in their nine-song setlist, and surprisingly only delivering one track ‘Send Me Back to Hell’ from their most recent release The Empire. Their stage time passes quickly but seems to appease the bumper crowd, and they leave the stage to a recording of ‘The Imperial March’, an unapologetic nod to the inspiration for their band name.
Second on the bill are Canadian thrashers Annihilator, less frequent visitors to Dublin but warmly welcomed. With the stage flanked by demon artwork from their 2017 album For the Demented, and guitars to match, the abundantly energetic quartet led by founding frontman Jeff Waters kick things off in front of a full house with the title track from their 1994 release King of the Kill. Making the best use of the limited stage area, Waters spends the least amount of time possible at his mic stand. Instead, he prefers to pound the podium, making eye and physical contact with the fans frequently and letting his bandmates look after the backing vocals where needed. There’s a little bit of banter between songs, band introductions and an invite to call the band Anal Eater if we so wish. With a 16 title back catalog spanning almost thirty years, and a 45-minute support slot, we certainly don’t expect them to play everything the fans may have wished for. But we’re treated to a choice cut of 8 tracks with two from their latest release and two from their debut classic Alice in Hell, of course including ‘Alison Hell’, which was only recently covered by Cradle of Filth. They wrap with Phantasmagoria, another fan favorite before it’s time to ready the stage for tonight’s headlining thrash legends.
Formed in the San Francisco Bay area in the early eighties alongside bands like Metallica and Exodus, Testament has stayed faithful to their roots and continued to record and tour throughout their 35-year career. Sadly, in that time, they have visited Ireland on just three previous occasions, which undoubtedly helped to sell out the sizeable Vicar Street venue tonight. Right on schedule, the five-piece fronted by the ever-jovial frontman Chuck Billy take to the stage and open with the title track from their most recent album Brotherhood of the Snake. The three-headed snake from the cover artwork adorns the backdrop and pentagram framed skulls with glowing red eyes oversee the performance. The second track is ‘Rise Up’ from another recent album Dark Roots of Earth, and CO2 canons seem to trigger the flow of crowd surfers, who are pushed back into the crowd by the trend-bucking Vicar Street security staff. The production of the show leaves nothing to be desired, with impressive lighting and perfect sound quality throughout. Having a smaller discography than Annihilator, Testament manage to squeeze songs from almost all of their albums in their lengthy 1 hour 45-minute set. And with such a long set, solos are an unsurprising way to give aging rockers a chance to catch their breath, but the four instrumental indulgences prove a bit tiresome for many of tonight’s attendees and are probably the only complaint from an otherwise overwhelmingly satisfied audience.