Slayer’s most recent tour announcement came as a bit of a surprise. They’ve already cycled through town several times in support of their latest shredder Repentless, and it sounds like Tom Araya is getting sick of the road. I was glad that they were coming back around, but it left me wondering if we would see the thrash masters that we know and love, or a road-wearied group bound by contractual obligations. Support from Carcass and Testament filled out a lineup rich with decades of material.
Carcass stepped up to the Fillmore stage first on Thursday night. Jeff Walker apologized for his voice, which was weakened by the flu, but it made no difference in the band’s menacing delivery. Walker was flanked by his axemen on either side, who were grinding away at their guitars with no mercy. A view from the balcony clashed the hall’s sparkly chandeliers against the gory surgery footage that looped behind the band.
Testament took over with a set that shook the walls of our city’s newest venue. Compared to the concentrated deathgrind of Carcass, Testament felt like a spontaneous fit of tribal dance. Chuck Billy is a formidable force on his own, but backed by the classic lineup of guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, plus returning bassist Steve DiGiorgio, he was unstoppable. The sold-out pit stopped thrashing only once: to rev up for the wall of death, executed on Billy’s cue. Their forty minutes blew by, but Testament will likely be back soon after releasing their next album, which is expected this summer.
When it came time for the almighty Slayer, I realized I was foolish to think that they might disappoint. The raucous new single “Repentless” set off an aural firestorm that intensified as the set worked backwards in time. They bulldozed through twenty-two songs in all, covering everything from “Disciple” to “Mandatory Suicide”. Cuts from Seasons In The Abyss turned the place inside-out, with “War Ensemble” stirring up a whirlpool of bodies. Someone in a wheelchair was surfed to the front not once, not twice, but three times. Tom Araya watched the crowd carefully and signaled to security when things got too rough, even though most fans seemed more than happy to be crushed senseless into the barricade. When the commotion simmered to a safer level, Araya relaxed, and a sly grin danced over his face between screams.
Kerry King is always a thrill to watch. He’s able to make his guitar howl, bark and shriek on command, never missing a note, his trademark chains swinging from his hip to the beat. His counterpart Gary Holt is a fitting replacement for their fallen comrade, Jeff Hanneman. No one can truly replace Hanneman, but Holt does a respectable job of sustaining his legacy. Holt’s guitar is inked with his own blood (symbolic, perhaps, of his commitment to Slayer) and it glistened under the lights. Behind the kit was Paul Bostaph, who worked with the band in the ’90s and returned in 2013 following Dave Lombardo’s exit.
“Raining Blood”, “Black Magic” and “Angel Of Death” were saved for last, giving us a predictable but satisfying finish. There was no fancy pyro or video animations, and each man carried an inherent placidity that comes with age, but make no mistake: Slayer can still do some damage. We may not see them much more before the allure of a well-deserved retirement wins out, but for now, the fire still burns.
C’mon, say it with me: SSLAAAAYYYERRRRR!
Born of Fire
God Send Death
When the Stillness Comes
You Against You
Pride in Prejudice
Seasons in the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
World Painted Blood
South of Heaven
Angel of Death
Words & Photos by Sara Patrick