SLAYER, TESTAMENT, CARCASS Hitting The Hellish Trifecta
March 5, 2016, 2 years ago
What a week: checking out Holy Grail, Helloween, Bullet For My Valentine/Asking Alexandria and these three legendary heavyweights! Is that ringing in my ears? Under a giant backdrop sport the Surgical Steel circle of "cutlery," Carcass had the unenviable position of opening for Slayer. Luckily, many of the diehards were still in the neighboring bars (too chilly to tailgate), like The Handle Bar, a smoking permitted, union hangout just down the street from The Fillmore. Onstage, the Brits had white, guitar amp shaped projectors/TV screens that played alongside the music, flashing an array of video nasties. An electrical fan blew bullet-belted bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker's hair throughout the short set, roughly half of which was culled from the aforementioned platter. At one point, early on, he apologized, "I do feel like shit. I have the flu." Having witnessed the original incarnation in dingy bars, as well as the mid-afternoon 08’ Wacken reformation (where Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow joined in), tonight was truly something to see, with full light show, on a big stage. Guitarist Bill Steer was content to stay off to the side, until the “Heartwork” finale, where he came to the fore.
Testament decided to hit the faithful with an ultra-heavy set, attempting to compete with Slayer's bludgeoning. The red lit “DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)” opens, Chuck Billy roaring into his half mic stick. A sea of blue and green lights shine down on the band, the bearded face artwork from Dark Roots Of Earth smiling behind. First time at THIS Fillmore (despite having a live album from the famous named venue in their canon), Billy referenced Philly venues visited on earlier trips to the city. By now, the crowd started filing in. Who needs a mosh pit/wall of death, try walking through the drunk/stoned and those too stupid to understand "excuse me.” Speaking of the Wall Of Death, the Bay Area outfit unveiled a new twist, prompting a competition, between left and right sides, band adding the winner to their ongoing tour "score." “Legions Of The Dead” gives way to newbie “Rise Up”, Billy flickering his tongue, as guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson thrash about. At one point, with Alex on the opposite side of the stage, the hulking frontman repeatedly threw Skolnick's picks into the crowd (new song: Into the picks?) “Dog Faced Gods” has always been a brutal track, the last before a classic, old school trio: “The New Order”, “Practice What You Preach” and “Into The Pit”. A barrage of crowd surfers hurl themselves over the barricade. Billy claims “The Formation Of Damnation” is one of his favorite title tracks performed. Tonight, it was the magenta lit finale.
Pay no attention to that band behind the curtain. No way! Unlike Europe, where photogs are assumed to be able to dodge a falling bolt of material, in lawsuit-happy America, we waited outside the pit, until the fallen curtain had been removed by a couple of roadies. Rushing in, as the title track from the current Repentless was already underway, Kerry King (truck chains once again hanging from his waist), pummeling his guitar. Take a look at the elaborate guitar picks in the accompanying photos. The staging/lighting was perfect for a DVD. Hopefully one of the dates will be filmed, the spectrum of colors (yellows!), the Jesus head artwork prominently behind the band, inverted crosses, embossed with band logo, rising like pillars, either side of the stage. Tom Ararya might not be headbanging anymore, but he's now free to wander about, when not delivering vitriolic lyrics. Still looks like late Grateful Dead patriarch, Jerry Garcia, though. Vintage “Postmortem” is up second in the set, sending an already fever pitch, even higher. Intriguing blue and yellow light combination for “God Sent Death” which precedes a green/blue tinted “War Ensemble”, complete with stage shrouding fog. During, Kerry King ventures to guitar partner Gary Holt's side of the stage, the first such foray by either. King is spotlighted, in orange to begin the “When The Stillness Comes” follow-up.
Those familiar notes to kick off “Mandatory Suicide” are met with icy blue lights, punctuated (at just the right moments) by a bank of flashing white headlights, staring right into the audience's face. Whether familiarity, or just loosening up, Araya's expressions are more pronounced on said track. The Fillmore is constructed so that a large, lower level bar has a louvered back wall, enabling the sound to flow through (and not reverberate back into the main room). Genius! 'Prior to “Chemical Warfare”, Araya reminisces about the early days of touring, coming East, in support of Show No Mercy. The final third of the evening was packed with "the hits," beginning with blackened stage for “Seasons In The Abyss”. As the lights come on, the backdrop is changed to the familiar crossed swords Slayer logo. Fog and gently sweeping lights greet the jangly, almost acoustic (this band's standard) guitar. Then it shifts into high gear, white light as King and Holt trade places. Where do these 50+ year old renowned hard partiers get all their energy?
Fans have been anticipating “Hell Awaits”, which is over all too quickly. When finished, Araya begins “Dead Skin Mask” with a spoken word recitation of the chorus. A mix of blue/green lights become lost in an "explosion" of fog emanating from beneath the twin bass bins underneath the drum riser. Add the rapid fire strobes and war films have had less impressive "battle scenes." Another blackened stage sees blue search lights scan overhead as “South Of Heaven” commences. Sick orange hues announcing “Raining Blood”, well that and some telltale drum beats, as the band exaggerates the intro, tormenting the faithful. Chugging riffs and stage obliterating fog storm ensue. This is as close to a heavy artillery fire fight as I ever want to witness, live. Paradoxically, “Black Magic” comes under "cover" of white light, before the set closing “Angel Of Death” threatens to blow the roof off this six month old concert hall. Despite withstanding a 90 minute battering, the crowd provided the strongest recognition of the night. A backdrop dedicated to fallen guitarist Jeff Hanneman (borrowing from a Heineken beer label) now hangs from the rafters.
Stunning visual and aural spectacle. Respect!