SLAYER Shows No Mercy In Cincy!
June 18, 2018, a month ago
Allow me to wax eloquent for a moment. Unless you have been living under a rock (and BraveWords’ readers don’t live under rocks) you know Slayer is on their farewell tour. The reasons for this are immaterial. I predict that Slayer’s stature in our music will only grow with time, and I place them in the same league with bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden because, like those bands, they influenced metal bands who don’t necessarily play their particular brand of metal. While Slayer may rightfully be considered a thrash metal band, and while Slayer certainly influenced most thrash metal bands, they certainly also influenced most death and black metal bands as well. They were, and are, truly original. Like all bands they had their influences. They just don’t sound like any of them. They sound like Slayer.
This farewell tour is yet another reminder that time keeps moving, and the things we thought were timeless are not timeless. We age. We assume those bands we’ve grown up with will always be here to remind us that we are not as old as the calendar says we are. We should appreciate those musical originals while they are still here. And Slayer is here with us for a little while longer.
Slayer and friends rolled into Riverbend in Cincinnati on June 6th. Each of the openers had a good chunk of stage on which to operate, and each had full backdrops during their sets. Testament took the stage at almost exactly 5:00 p.m., and played for thirty five minutes. I’ve seen Testament many times, and there are always tunes I wish they played in a ninety minute set. I saw them play an abbreviated set opening for Heaven and Hell/Judas Priest, so this is not unchartered territory for them.
Chuck Billy appeared to have some technical issues for parts of the first two songs, “Brotherhood Of The Snake”, and “Rise Up”, which seemingly has deservedly become their anthem, but those issues were ironed out in time for “The Pale King” from Brotherhood Of The Snake, after which the set list was basically New Order material – “Preacher”, “Pit”, “Order”, with “Over tThe Wall” from The Legacy. The seats were probably half filled for Testament, the turf lawn fairly crowded. They seemed to take the energy they have for ninety minutes crammed into thirty-five. As usual, kick ass.
Next up was Behemoth, and the seats were pretty much filled by the time they took the stage at. While they combine elements of death metal, black metal, and thrash metal, they no doubt took their Slayer influence in their own direction. They had thirty five minutes for their six song set. Nergal’s snake mike stand can create some challenging shots, but he frequently leaves the stand to walk to the edge of the stage to engage with the crowd leading them in metal prayer like an evil priest. The crowd loves it. Their set was pretty much from Satanica onward, two from the Satanist, including the set closer “O Father O Satan O Sun.” The end of the closer slowly continues into silence after they leave the stage, and we realize they finished their set. A unique way to end the show.
Anthrax received a little longer set at minutes, as they drove through a tight seven song set that began with “Caught In A Mosh.” They followed that up with “Got The Time,” which I don’t recall hearing from them live since they supported Iron Maiden with Persistence Of Time. I’ve always loved their punked up version of that Joe Jackson tune, and given the limited set, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that unexpected gem. They also snuck in “Evil Twin” from their latest release For All Kings which slightly broke the older catalog which followed: “Madhouse”, “I Am the Law”, “Antisocial”, and the closer “Indians”.
Scott Ian commands the stage as always – is there is a rhythm guitarist who draws more love from an audience? Frank Bello always acts like the kid who snuck in the candy store after hours – there is no place he’d rather be – and it shows again on this evening. And for the first time I spied Charlie Benante’s Homer Simpson doll next to the snare – companionship for a lonely drummer?
Then Lamb Of God. As another photographer mentioned to me, Randy Blythe is like a caged animal on stage, pacing back and forth, stopping only momentarily on his riser to lead the assembled masses in metal prayer. Thankfully there were walls on the sides of the stage, otherwise, we may be still looking for him. His face constantly shows his intensity.
Mr. Blythe reminds us that this is the International Day of Slayer, is Tom Araya’s birthday, and that Slayer has been great to his band. There is a palpable respect. While the sun sets, LOG cuts through nine tunes in their allotted minutes. “Laid To Rest” is appropriately dedicated to Tom Araya for his birthday. They don’t waste time: “Omerta”, “Ruin”, “Walk With Me In Hell” are the songs we get to shoot. “Die For”, “Engage”, “Fear Machine” are the middle third. Standing in the lawn, I count no fewer than three mosh pits. The metalheads in attendance are clearly familiar with LOG – I see many singing along with Randy Blythe. “Cursed Son”, the aforementioned “Laid To Rest”, and “Redneck” round out the set.
The sun has now set. A packed house waits. A curtain covers the stage. The flames diving across the stage. And then the curtain falls. Four figures on the stage waiting to melt the masses. First is “Repentless”, then “Blood Red”, and “Disciple”. I saw a fair number of kids in attendance with their parents. It did not take long for no fewer than five mosh pits on the lawn to add to the chaos. Fortunately they did not meet, otherwise there may not have been any survivors.
Slayer shows are usually a non-stop assault. But this night would be a little different. It was clear that this was Tom Araya’s night. Slimmer, the gray hair and beard gone, with only a slim goatee, he looked ten years younger. Before introducing “Payback,” as he stood alone bathed in light on the stage, the crowd, thousands strong, began singing “Happy Birthday” in unison. Tom Araya was visibly moved, and was literally speechless for a few moments, and then thanked the crowd. He then took a few deep breaths, and reminded us that when we go through life we do good or bad. When we do bad, Paybacks are a bitch.
Kerry King occupied his usual spot stage left, complete with heavy chains, long goatee, and that intense brooding look that communicates pain for those who come too close. Gary Holt has filled some big shoes for a couple of tours now, and has carved out his own identity in what is a band with strong personalities. Although Paul Bostaph is hard to see behind the drum kit, he is always heard, and clearly has the chops which are the foundation of the Slayer live show.
They pretty much hit every release with the exception of Diabolus in Musica, and most the songs you expect to hear at a Slayer concert. But there were some surprises. “Dittohead” was one. I don’t believe they played it the last two times I’ve seen them. They also started the intro to “Raining Blood” early in the show, and I remember wondering why they were playing “Raining Blood” so early in the set. “But Raining Blood” never came. Instead they blasted into “Hell Awaits. “ Then came “South Of Heaven. “ Then at the end of “South Of Heaven” came the thunderous sound of bass drums repeating over and over, and then the guitars of Kerry King and Gary Holt blasting into one of my favorite two or three riffs in metal – “Raining Blood”.
“Angel Of Death” ended the evening, leading to dropping the curtain on the backdrop to reveal a huge sign dedicated to Jeff Hanneman in the form of a Heineken sign with the statement “Still Reigning.” So true. After “Angel Of Death” ends Tom Araya is again on stage with the only light on him as he surveys the crowd and very emotionally reminds us that he is really going to miss “you guys.” And then he and the band leave the stage.
Metalheads need to get to this show. Slayer sounds great. They are bringing great opening acts with them. It is a mini-metal festival with not a clunker band you have sit through to get to the good stuff. And you’ll be able to tell the grandkids you were there.