» Blog Archive Slayer Bid Farewill To NJ Alongside Fellow Titans -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews, Tours

This tour needs no introduction. You know what it is. In what can only be described as the biggest metal tour in the past few years, Slayer know how to announce their end in nothing short of the greatest of ways. Combining forces with Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax, and Lamb of God, there was no stopping this tour from being the stuff of legends. You knew it was going to be amazing, and actually witnessing it all happen within six hours was a major feat. Like Iron Maiden’s World Slavery Tour,  this one is for the books.

Even in the shade outside PNC Arts Center, it was humid and unbearably discomforting. Though it looked beautiful, it felt far from it. As everyone crowded into the amphitheater plenty of people showed up to greet Testament as they opened the show up. As if they were headlining themselves, Testament didn’t care that they were on so early. If anything, everyone looked more than ecstatic to be there as rows of metal horns flew up into the air in sync with vocalist Chuck Billy. Along with his bandmates, each band member took complete advantage of the space given to them, stretching out to the sides of the stage and along the fans rushing to the front of the barrier, seats being a non-issue as the laxed nature of the venue didn’t get in the way of anyone from having a good time.

Though the early selections in their set consisted of newer songs from The Brotherhood of the Snake and Dark Roots of Earth (“The Pale King” is still an instant classic) the band played right into the nostalgia factor of their longtime fans with a three-way hit with picks from The New Order. Given that the album is now 30 years old, it was only appropriate that the band acknowledged it extensively. And this more than made up for not hearing songs from albums such as Souls of Black or even Formation of Damnation, because nothing could sum up an excellent, if not condensed, Testament set better than the band closing it out with “Disciples of the Watch.” Fittingly perfect, possibly worthy enough to be considered a closer for their sets in the future.

Given the entire stage needed to be changed over for Behemoth to take the stage, the Polish blackened death metal act came out in a truly ominous manner. Blending their theatrical nature with truly rockstar-like personas, the entire band was in fine form as, suddenly, everyone wearing a Bathory or Mayhem shirt in the venue made themselves known. “Ov Fire and the Void” and a brand new song, “Wolves ov Siberia,” caused complete chaos between the four musicians, somehow amphitheater remained standing for three more bands to follow.

Anthrax were, by and large, the most enthusiastic to be there. I’ve always regarded the New York outfit to be the most fun of the Big Four, but when Joey Belladonna took to the stage and celebrated that the band were finally playing the Arts Center for the first time, you just knew this was pure joy. “Caught in a Mosh” hadn’t ever sounded more enthusiastic, and even as they went into a newer song like “Evil Twin,” the crowd still gave Anthrax back equal amounts of energy that they were giving forth.

Fitting in a career-summarizing setlist in 35 minutes isn’t an easy task, but it’s so fortunate that Anthrax’s fans are the same as the ones there for virtually every band. The band hit all the high notes needed for their set to work, Frank Bello and Joey Belladonna were constantly at the front of the stage and there for everyone to see, and the band didn’t let anyone forget that this was a predominantly thrash metal show. For a bunch of guys in their 50’s (Minus lead guitar Jonathan Donais) the band is in terrific shape and are only getting better with time.

Lamb of God followed soon after, and if the demonic red lights that signaled in “Omerta” wasn’t a sign, it was Randy Blythe’s mosh calls that really drove everyone crazy. Just as enthused as his colleagues in Anthrax, Randy dominated the stage and took control of the crowd with ease. A class act, there’s nothing Lamb of God can do to better themselves. Well-liked by many a Slayer fan, the reception for the Richmond-based metal titans wasn’t anything to scoff at: they were just the band that finished warming the stage up for Slayer.

Look, I’ll say this once: Slayer can do no wrong with their live shows. If you’ve gotten this far and everything I’ve said hasn’t convinced you yet that this was a top-tier tour worthy of every penny, then I don’t know what to tell you. But when the curtain came down and Slayer charged into “Repentless,” you’d have sworn this was the band ten years prior. I had seen Slayer the last time they had come through New Jersey when Repentless was just coming out, and they sounded great and all, but the form the band are currently in puts all the rest to the shame. Complete with fire being shot into inverted crosses, pentagram lights, and everything evil you’d expect from the band, this was Slayer recapturing their prime and everything great about what the band has always been about.

In the times I’ve seen Slayer, I’ve always wanted just one more song, just one more in particular to make me say the set was perfect, but time and again one in particular always eluded me. That wasn’t the case, where on the final time with the band, they actually played everything you could have wanted to hear. Every classic the band is known for, (“Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood,” obviously) all of the fan favorites, (“Black Magic”)  and a select choice of deep cuts that I hadn’t even known I wanted to see live (“Payback,” “Dittohead”) wove together into what was ultimately a structurally perfect set.

It was Tom Araya who stole the show, among everyone present there. While he wasn’t moving as quickly as Joey Belladonna or Randy Blythe, Tom sounded the best he had in, I’d argue, ten years. He looked and sounded healthier than he has on recent recordings and shows, he was smiling while talking to the crowd, and at the end of the night he stayed a few extra moments to say his thanks for the crowd before joining his bandmates in throwing picks and drumsticks out into the crowd.

We take bands today for granted and don’t stop to think about the impact they’ve had on the musical climate or rather what they mean to us. Slayer means a lot  to a great amount of people around the world, and though we all knew one day that the band would come to an end, it’s bittersweet to see the band begin to wrap it up as they’re closing down shop. Even still, the beginning of this farewell tour is undeniably going to be the event of a lifetime as they start to wind down and call it a day. Even at the eleventh hour, Slayer are firing on all cylinders and aren’t letting the hype die down.

If you were waiting for Slayer to do something special, this is that time. Don’t sleep on it.

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