April 13th was marked on my calendar for months for what I considered to be one of the best concert photography opportunities I’ve had yet. House of Blues was hosting The KillThrax Tour which consisted of Killswitch Engage and Anthrax as co-headliners and support from The Devil Wears Prada and Code Orange. The bands have provided hardcore metal to their fans for many years. Code Orange has been together for 9 years, The Devil Wears Prada for 12 years, Killswitch Engage for 18 years, and the legendary Anthrax now going on 36 years! And none of them show any sign of slowing down.
When I arrived at House of Blues Orlando, all of the other photographers I expected to be there were picking up their photo credentials. As we all picked up our credentials and went inside we headed over to the pit. Inside it was packed. A crowd of metalheads looking to release some energy into a mosh pit. I had to squeeze my way through most of the venue. Unfortunately, we had missed Code Orange’s set as they went on earlier than expected. They are touring on their latest album titled ‘Forever’ and reviews of the album have been very good.
I waited at the pit with anticipation for The Devil Wears Prada to hit the stage. As the lights went down, the photographers quickly filed in. It didn’t take long for Mike Hranica (vocals), Jeremy DePoyster (rhythm guitar), Andy Trick (bass), Kyle Sipress (guitar), touring keyboardist Jon Gering, and the bands long time friend, session and touring drummer, Guiseppe Capolupo, to come out and ready to rock the crowd. Immediately, I noticed that House of Blues Orlando dropped the height of their stage. This was awesome for us as the bands would be much closer than before with the six foot stage height. The Devil Wears Prada weren’t pulling any punches as they smashed the crowd with “Daughter” from their recent album ‘Transit Blues’. It’s heavy bass, thundering drums, quick guitar rifts, and Mike’s screaming vocals immediately had the crowd jumping and moshing. They followed it up with “Sailor’s Prayer” from ‘8:18’. Another hardcore song with rapid drums, screaming vocals, and some quick guitar and bass work. Mike does step away from the screaming in parts of the song and works his way back into it.
Lighting for the band was lots of purples, oranges, and greens with the occasional white/blue light. I was surprised not to see as much red lighting for them as they are the type of metal band I’d expect to see drenched in red lights. This is also a band that is filled with energy on stage. They are constantly moving around on stage. The energy they display on stage is the same type of energy they want the crowd to give back. And the crowd was definitely giving it back tonight.
Next up was “Planet A” from their album ‘Space’. Though still maintaining their metalcore sound, the song is filled with pauses for keyboard work providing the intergalactic feel to the album. Afterwards, I headed out of the pit and headed upstairs to the balcony for some more photos. From upstairs the crowd below was bouncing and moshing. The Devil Wears Prada banner hung on the back of the stage was beautiful. And the band was leaving it all on stage. Their set also included “Outnumbered” from ‘Dead & Alive’, “Worldwide”, and “Assistant”.
I made my way downstairs for some shots from behind the soundboard as they finished with “Dead Throne”, “Evergreen” and “Mammoth” from ‘Dead Throne’ a great fast, hardcore tune, to close out their set. The Devil Wears Prada came out strong and finished even stronger. The fans were definitely pleased with their performance.
I headed back to the pit area waiting for Anthrax to come on stage. I admit I was nervous and excited to be photographing one of The Big Four bands. Their legacy includes 11 studio albums, 6 live albums, DVDs, and multiple awards. It would be first time getting to see them perform live and I knew it would be amazing. Finally, the lights went down, and we quickly descended into the pit. I could tell even the other photographers were excited and no one wanted to miss a moment. The curtain pulled back as Joey Belladonna (vocals), Frank Bello (bass). Scott Ian (rhythm guitar), Jonathan Donais (lead guitar), and Charlie Benante (drums) made their way on stage. The crowd roared seeing Anthrax on stage ready to rock their brains out.
They kicked off with the title track “Among the Living” from their third studio album. The song starts off with some great drum beats and guitar riffs and then rips into a fury of drums, bass, and quick guitar rips. The crowd was roaring and singing along to the tune. Joey sounded just as good as ever and the band was having fun. It’s a long song, which the photographers loved since it gave us all more time in the pit, with some great guitar solo work from Jonathan. They followed it up with “Caught In A Mosh” also from ‘Among the Living’. Another very fast paced song urging the crowd to let loose even more and the crowd sang back to the band “Caught in a mosh!” each time it was sung. Anthrax was following suit as The Devil Wears Prada ready to play their hearts out for their fans.
As I expected, Anthrax used red lighting on stage mixed in with some greens. What I didn’t expect was going full white light on stage so the fans and photographers could see everything clearly, They also had a nice mix of blue and white mix. And then they played “Madhouse” from the album ‘Spreading the Disease’. A fantastic old school Anthrax song that true fans immediately recognized and singing back the chorus “It’s a madhouse!”. And Joey could still hit those high notes within the song which made the crowd scream in delight.
After they were done I headed out of the pit and back upstairs to the balcony. I was quite pleased with the three long songs Anthrax provided the photographers to give us ample opportunity to photograph them. They also played up to us on stage with the best was Joey Belladonna using his mic stick as a dumbbell doing reps with it on stage. When I got to the balcony I looked down to see a frenzied pit moshing to “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t”. The stage view was great and seeing their banner fully looked incredible. Anthrax had a platform on stage where the drums were set upon and there were two sets of stairs for band members to walk up onto the platform to play from there. They all used it frequently providing some great shots for us.
It was then that I heard the beginning to one of my favorite songs, “I Am The Law” also from ‘Among the Living’. Anthrax was playing some songs not normally played at other shows and truly going old school. I love this song as it’s about one of my favorite comic characters, Judge Dredd. The fans were eating it up. They followed up with “Breathing Lightning” from their recent album ‘For All Kings’. At this point I headed downstairs for some shots behind the soundboard.
Anthrax then decided to amp it up with the crowd by playing “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” also from ‘Among the Living’. The crowd went ballistic singing along with Joey and the mosh pit got more intense. The followed up with “Evil Twin” and then a cover of “March of the S.O.D.” from the artist Stormtroopers of Death off their ‘Speak English Or Die” album. They closed up the show with “Blood Eagle Wings”, a cover of “Antisocial” by the band Trust, and lastly “Indians” also from ‘Among the Living”. The fans absolutely were delighted to hear this song sing along from beginning to end. Anthrax put on an amazing, hardcore, performance for the fans. They thanked the crowd throwing out guitar picks and drumsticks before they headed offstage and the curtain closed behind them.
I headed back to the pit and waited with the rest of the photographers. Anthrax’s set felt like a closing set, but we still had Killswitch Engage to come on stage. The energy in the venue was buzzing with anticipation. The lights went down and security let us into the pit. We all waited for Killswitch Engage to take the stage but they weren’t ready yet. Those standing at the front by the barrier looked like they were ready to jump over they were so antsy. Finally, the curtain pulled back where Jesse Leach (vocals), Adam Dutkiewicz (guitars), Joel Stroetzel (guitars), Mike D’Antonio (bass), and Justin Foley (drums) walked out on stage. The crowd erupted in cheers.
Unlike Anthrax’s elaborate stage setup, Killswitch Engage kept theirs simple to one large banner and two smaller ones. It made the stage look bare, but once they started off I realized they like to have room to move around. They started off with “Hate By Design” off of ‘Incarnate’. True to their nature, this hardcore song starts off with Jesse’s guttural screaming vocals, rapid bass and guitar riffs, and strong drumbeats. I was very impressed with how easily Jesse transitions his voice from screaming to clean singing. They followed up with “Vide infra” from their self titled album. This song was even harder than the “Hate By Design” and the crowd went into a frenzy for the song’s frantic pace.
The band was playing hard and moving all over the stage. The lighting ranged from reds to purples and yellows. The true fun part was the band was playing it up for the crowd to provide the photographers with some great poses. Mike held and played his bass in the air numerous times. Adam and Joel stood on speakers engaging the crowd. And Jesse yelled out to the crowd to get them even more excited (like they needed it). They followed up with “My Last Serenade” from ‘Alive or Just Breathing’. Though the song starts quiet, it doesn’t last before it settles into a perfect headbanging beat. And then things went frantic.
I noticed security starting to move forward towards the barrier, which meant people were crowdsurfing into the photo pit. First it was one person, then another, and then it seemed like people were surfing in droves. I truly expected for the photographers to get pulled out of the pit for our safety. But, we didn’t. Instead, House of Blues Orlando security made a barrier between the stage and the crowd so they could safely catch the crowd surfers and move them out of the pit while allowing us to finish our photo set for the third song. Huge kudos to House of Blues security team for allowing us to stay in there.
After the song, the photographers left the pit and we headed to the balcony again for overhead shots. When I looked down at the crowd this time the mosh pit was frantic. They appeared to be enjoying themselves as did the band. Killswitch Engage continued on with “A Bid Farewell”, “Fixation on the Darkness”, and “When Darkness Falls” from ‘The End of Heartache’. The song also appeared on the ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ movie soundtrack. Killswitch Engage was on full steam rocking the crowd and they appreciated it. Crowdsurfing continued though not as heavily as before. I headed back downstairs to get shots from behind the soundboard.
The Killswitch Engage banner behind the stage was stellar using the image from ‘Incarnate’. Some of the other songs they played from their setlist included “Alone I Stand”, “The End of Heartache”, “Rose of Sharyn”, which got the mosh pit crazed again, “Beyond The Flames”, and “In Due Time”. The band thanked the crowd for coming out and how much they appreciated the support from the fans over the years. The Orlando crowd was given a treat as they closed the show with a cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver”. A legendary rock tune that Killswitch Engage put their own metalcore edge. It was a great tribute to close out the show.
What I expected to be a legendary night went beyond my expectations. The fans attending this show definitely got their money’s worth and more. The bands put on a performance that will be remembered for quite some time. If you have the opportunity to attend a KillThrax Tour stop, go. You will not regret it.