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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Anthrax Acts as Main Attraction

In December, Anthrax opened for Ozzy Osbourne at the Long Beach Arena. On Sunday, the New Yorkers returned to the hall as headliners. While this jump in status seemed like a risky venture, the group pulled it off: The arena was filled to the rafters with thrash fanatics, and Anthrax managed to keep them enthralled through most of its 90-minute show.

Much of the credit for this successful graduation goes to the band’s personality. These five unruly imps are loaded with charisma, from lead guitarist Danny Spitz’s laid-back cool to rhythm guitarist Scott Ian’s maniacal bursts to singer Joey Belladonna’s wacky wildman antics. They kept a high profile while pounding out their upbeat tunes. While most groups in its genre reflect the darker side of life, Anthrax keeps its music lighthearted and entertaining.

Seccond-billed Exodus carried a slightly more dangerous aura than Anthrax, but this San Francisco quintet is also in it for the fun. Songs from its new album “Fabulous Disaster” such as “Toxic Waltz (about a thrasher’s favorite sport, slam dancing) and “Cajun Hell” pack a primal punch, but the group doesn’t take its death-and-destruction lyrics too seriously.

Opener Helloween, a melodic heavy-metal group, seemed a bit misplaced on this bill. But the German quintet added some dignity to the evening without being stuffy. In fact, singer Michael Kiske occasionally poked fun at the usual Euro-metal pretensions while his vocals came across clear and true.

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