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Four bands demonstrate the magnitude of heavy metal at the Midland

Anthrax lead vocalist Joey Belladonna gestured while singing during the Anthrax and Lamb of God show at the Midland Theater.
Anthrax lead vocalist Joey Belladonna gestured while singing during the Anthrax and Lamb of God show at the Midland Theater. skeyser@kcstar.com

Riley Gale of Power Trip dedicated the brutal song “Murderer’s Row” to the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Tuesday. Gales’ menacing group was part of a heavy metal equivalent of a formidable lineup of baseball sluggers at the downtown venue.

Four powerful purveyors of extreme sounds — the contemporary titans Lamb of God, the legendary thrash band Anthrax, the arty experimentalists Deafheaven and the punk-inflected Power Trip- pummeled an audience of almost 2,000.

Lamb of God, leaders of the new wave of American heavy metal movement for 15 years, headlined the show. The Virginia band played 15 jagged songs in 80 minutes. Images of nuclear destruction flashed across video screens during an unforgiving reading of “Walk With Me in Hell.” Footage of natural disasters accompanied “Still Echoes.”

The group’s bleak vision is bolstered by pliant rhythms, slashing guitars and the desperate howls of Randy Blythe. The chorus of a scathing rendition of “512” — “my hands are painted red, my future’s painted black” — alluded to Blythe’s 2012 imprisonment in the Czech Republic on manslaughter charges. He was acquitted in 2013.

Fans vigorously celebrated Blythe’s freedom. During “Set to Fail,” crowd-surfers recklessly skirted the edges of a violent mosh pit. Others jubilantly chanted the name of his band between songs.

Blythe referred to the members of Anthrax as “dudes who helped create the music that we all play today.” Anthrax revived influential material like “Antisocial” and “Caught in a Mosh” during its 50-minute outing. The New York group delivered its aggressive music with affable charm. In addition to providing the night’s most amusing showmanship, vocalist Joey Belladonna’s shameless mugging served as a reminder that Anthrax represents a bridge between the hard rock tradition of earlier generations and recent developments on the metal landscape.

Deafheaven is a foremost representative of the latest wave of cacophonous innovators. The daring San Francisco quintet balances rapturously beautiful passages with bursts of atonal noise. While much of the audience didn’t know what to make of Deafheaven’s 40-minute appearance, the group’s apocalyptic symphonies provided the evening’s most compelling sounds.

Deafheaven’s finesse was countered by Power Trip’s brute force. The young Dallas-based quintet lacks the experience of their tour mates, but the enthusiasm they invested in their blunt 30-minute attack prevented the audience from being subjected to a single strikeout.

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