Farewell tours are always a bit bittersweet but the way I look at it is = at least the band was thoughtful enough to play one last time for their fans. The Dallas area heavy metal fans were treated to one last brutal concert from the mighty SLAYER last Tuesday night at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum. As if that wasn’t enough, they brought along quite a few of their old tour mates to make this night one of the most unforgettable concerts in recent memory: Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament.
With a late afternoon start time (5:00pm), I totally missed California’s Testament but a few people were raving about their songs “Brotherhood of the Snake” and “Disciples of the Watch”. Guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick have been ripping up the thrash metal scene since the early 80’s and show no desire to slow down now. I did arrive halfway through Behemoth’s brutal set and all I can say is that these guys lay it down pretty heavy with a ferociousness rarely seen. This death metal band from Poland has been around for over twenty years now and the crowd’s reactions to their set were immense. Lead singer Nergal led his troops through six solid songs with “Wolves ov Siberia” and “Chant for Eschaton 2000” standing out the most.
I’m asked over and over again if there are bands that I will see in concert every time I can and the answer always starts with “… yes = Anthrax”!!! I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen these New York thrash gods but what I can say is that every time has been great. It’s especially meaningful now that Joey Belladonna is back as lead singer and the rest of the band is still clicking on all cylinders. The short set they played on this night was made up of mostly older hits but that was exactly what this old school crowd was looking for. “Caught in a Mosh” was played at a million miles per hour, Frank Bello’s bass intro to “Got the Time” was pure perfection while Scott Ian’s fingers worked up and down his fret board (if you know the song = you’ll understand) and they went wayyyyy back into their bag of tricks to pull out “Madhouse” as guitarist Jonathan Donais thrilled the audience with his expertise.
One surprise Anthrax threw in tonight was “Be All, End All” from 1988’s State of Euphoria – not sure when I heard that live in concert last but the extended version with Scott and Jonathan taking turns shredding worked well for me!!! Their most recent album, For All Kings, gave us a good dose of drummer Charlie Benate’s pounding on “Evil Twin” but I noticed the audience was not so familiar with this tune. Nonetheless, they finished up with two solid classics = “Antisocial” and the ever crazy “Indians”. Joey was extremely energetic & personable throughout the set, Scott and Jonathan feed off each other greatly while Frank & Charlie keep the pace glowing throughout.
Lamb of God have had their ups & downs throughout their career but they seem to be on a pretty high plateau right now and their energetic set proved just that. Randy Blythe is a whirlwind of a lead man – running all over the stage, jumping off of risers and singing his heart out. The audience was alive from the first beat of “Omerta” and never really slowed down as they moved to the double bass drum laid down by Chris Adler. The audience sang the chorus parts of “Ruin” for Randy but they were too busy thrashing about to sing during the brutal “Walk With Me in Hell”. The speed metals riffs of “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” gave way to the piercing guitar work of Mark Morton & Willie Adler during “512”.
I kind of thought that Randy would have lost his voice or slowed down a bit at some point during the show but he got stronger as the night wore on. A newer song, “Engage the Fear Machine” lost the crowd for a minute but they came roaring right back with “Blackened the Cursed Sun” off of their 2006 Sacrament album. “Laid to Rest” was pretty sweet as well but when Randy dedicated their last song of the night, “Redneck”, to Dimebag Darrell – the audience went headfirst straight into pure pandemonium. This set ender nearly brought the roof down with its pulverizing beats, shrill guitars and John Campbell’s thumping bass. Lamb of God once again proved that they’re a force to be reckoned with and I for one was thoroughly impressed with their show.
There is not really much left to be said about Slayer – they rose from one of the earliest thrash metal bands into a worldwide phenomenon with their relentless touring in support of some of the most enthralling music of all time. What vocalist/bassist Tom Araya and guitarist Kerry King have done is nothing short of amazing: they made music they liked, never ever changed and simply became one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time. Do you remember your first Slayer concert? I remember it like it was yesterday (and my old butt barely remembers anything) but it was quite a few years back – the one thing that stood out to me the most was Tom’s voice rolling off the stage like he was shouting down on high from the top of a mountain. Also, with Kerry leading the way, the unrelenting powerful music coming out of the speakers was beyond comprehension. This last Dallas show was just confirmation that they are going out on top of their game and they will be sorely missed.
Starting things off with the taped track “Delusions of Savior”, Slayer strolled out onto the stage behind a translucent curtain backlit with the Slayer logo shining bright. Ripping into “Repentless” from the last studio album of the same name, Kerry and guitarist Gary Holt (of Exodus fame) were taking turns making ears bleed. Continuing with more of the same – they reeled through “Blood Red”, “Disciple” and “Mandatory Suicide” before I could catch my breath. One of my favorite Slayer songs ever was up next, “Hate Worldwide”, and while my infinity for it is hard to explain – this night’s version was the best yet. It starts with a flourish, packs a powerful punch during the middle (Kerry was really bending the strings on this one) and ends abruptly as it started.
Tom finally took a moment to speak to the audience (so soft spoken you could barely hear him) that elicited enormous applause just before they tore into “War Ensemble”. After that fantastic anthem, the hits just kept coming: “Jihad”, “When the Stillness Comes” and “Postmortem”. The audience never really let up either, each song was met with more and more enthusiasm & I’m pretty sure being in the presence of greatness was a high for every one. Tracing their history through the years and tears of heavy metal songs, Slayer continued with another half dozen songs (highlighted by “Seasons in the Abyss”) before they finally walked off the stage. Always knowing that there would be an encore (they had still not played three or four of their most famous songs), the audience clamored for more until their screams were rewarded. Blazing through “South of Heaven” (brilliant), the hard & heavy “Raining Blood”, “Chemical Warfare” and the finishing (and utterly hardcore) “Angel of Death”. I was exhausted but glad I got to witness the greatness of Slayer one more time before they hang it up. They will go down as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) heavy metal acts of all time and I’m sure their music will continue to inspire/influence/please for years to come.