TESTAMENT w/ EXODUS & DEATH ANGEL – The Circus, Helsinki, 10.02.2020

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Let us return to a simpler time. A time before lock-downs and quarantines in the faraway era known as this February. The Bay Area Strikes Back was a very special collaboration between some of the finest thrash metal acts from the 80s. Aside from the Big Four, these bands remain, to this day, arguably the titans of their genre. The tour came to The Circus in Helsinki on February 10th, 2020, to a sold out show full of both middle-aged lifers and 20-something young’uns.

I’ve been a fair-weather friend of thrash metal since I was a pizza-faced youth and occasionally have a week or so wherein I need my fix of Slayer. I’ve seen Testament before and they’d always been solid live. Exodus I was a bit lukewarm on. Death Angel, though, are so seldomly seen in Finland that I couldn’t bear to miss it. The schedule was delayed by about 30 minutes due to heavy winds – this was a bit of a nuisance since it was a school night; however, seeing as how The Circus frequently has people queuing outside quite for a while past showtime, it gave more people a chance to catch the first band.

Check out the gallery from Tampere HERE!
Follow the setlist as a playlist on Spotify:

The Bay Area’s invasion began with Death Angel. The venue was already filled with anxious thrashers who had spent the entire delay screaming anxiously in hopes of having the show start. Presumably, a large portion of the crowd hadn’t seen them before and most, if not all, wanted to and Death Angel finally graced the crowd with their relentless battery. The first song was “Humancide” from their latest album of the same name. It was beyond heavy; the double bass drums blasted on in rapid bursts, while the guitars shredded and trilled away with reckless abandon. The guitars had been set with a lot of treble, allowing the bass guitar to sound out clearly. The singer, Mark Osegueda, was every bit as over the top as on the records. It was pure ecstasy and their enthusiasm was absolutely infectious. Just watching bass player Damien Sisson‘s face as he controlled the crowd with a mere wave of his hand was remarkable in itself. The set had lots of classics from their most popular albums, The Ultra-Violence and Act III without forgetting the crowd-pleasing “The Moth.” There really wasn’t any clear difference between older and newer songs as they have obviously not slowed down one bit since they started. “How on earth are Death Angel not the biggest name in thrash metal!?” I wondered aloud.

Death Angel setlist:
1. Humanicide
2. Voracious Souls
3. Claws in So Deep
4. Aggressor
5. The Dream Calls for Blood
6. The Moth
7. Seemingly Endless Time
8. The Ultra-Violence / Thrown to the Wolves

Next up was the mighty Exodus. By the time they came out, the crowd was all lubed up and ready to go and the entire show turned into a near continuous moshpit. Even though Exodus was a bit sloppy with their solos, the crowd ate it up; they were unmistakably brutal. They played a number of their better known songs, including “Deliver Us to Evil,” “Blacklist,” “Bonded by Blood,” “Toxic Waltz,” and “Strike of the Beast.”

They were thrilled to have guitarist Gary Holt back in the group; he had been busy replacing the late Jeff Hannenman in Slayer for a few years. Incidentally he was wearing another shirt referencing the petty one-sided feud with the entity known as The Kardashians. The singer, Steve Souza, was happy and went ahead of himself and announced the wrong song at first, “…for which I will be doing a penalty shot, of course,” he joked. They later recalled how the journey over from Stockholm went with Souza crediting their survival to the devil. Holt remarked, “I thought I was gonna die. I thought I’d meet God but then I remembered… there ain’t no God.” The crowd seemed to agree. Not everything went smoothly during the show, though. During “Toxic Waltz” someone in the crowd got a bit too rowdy and the other guitarist had to point him out to security. They brought it back to a high note when they promised they’d be back soon with a new album.

Exodus setlist:
Intro: Black Metal by Venom
1. Body Harvest
2. Blood In, Blood Out
3. Deliver Us to Evil
4. Fabulous Disaster
5. Deathamphetamine
6. Blacklist
7. Bonded by Blood
8. The Toxic Waltz
9. Strike of the Beast

After a half-hour breather, the crowd was ready to welcome the esteemed headliner to the stage. Testament began their set with two classics from the 1988 album The New Order. They had not aged a day. Soon after singer Chuck Billy pointed to what he described as their “beautiful backdrop” – it contained the new album artwork on an impressive, huge screen… on a T-shirt, prresumably because they couldn’t get the real backdrop on time due to the storm. Billy clarified that they were borrowing Exodus’ and Death Angel’s equipment, “So it’s gonna sound like Exodus covering Testament.” Also because they didn’t have their full gear, they had decided to play a lot of old-school stuff. This resulted, among other things, in a one-two-three gut punch of “Practice What You Preach,” “Into the Pit,” and “Raging Waters” back-to-back. Newer songs such as “The Brotherhood of the Snake” and “Night of the Witch” also had the moshpit going crazy.

The sound was not without its problems though and the guitarists were clearly making do with what they had. There were EQ issues such as sudden spikes and muting. The bass sounded choppy as well. It wasn’t their fault, the balance was just off. On the other hand, being stripped of their more fine-tuned modern gear made for a more raw and analogue sound, really lending new life to songs like “The Haunting” with its classic guitar harmonies.

Testament setlist:
1. Eerie Inhabitants
2. The New Order (Tour debut)
3. Practice What You Preach
4. Into the Pit
5. Raging Waters (Tour debut)
6. The Haunting
7. Brotherhood of the Snake
8. The Pale King
9. The Preacher (Tour debut)
10. Night of the Witch
11. Over the Wall
12. Disciples of the Watch

This was the ultimate celebration of Bay Area thrash. I have no idea how this many people had the stamina to run around in a moshpit for some 3 hours. The crowd was something else and all three bands brought their A-game. I had come in thinking I was just in it to see Testament but ended up with a newfound appreciation for Exodus and Death Angel. Did you know Exodus’ “Body Harvest” is an absolute banger? Because I sure didn’t! I’d be willing to see any and all of these guys again, any time… if this horrible plague upon us ever lets up, that is.

Photos: Sami Hinkkanen, Tampere 2020

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