Concert Review – Slayer (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 05/29/2018)

And Slayer said goodbye to Toronto in the most pulverizing (and best) way you can imagine.

OPENING ACTS: Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God

I don’t know what to say about the absolute devastation that happened at the always perfect (and I dare you to name one place in this planet that’s better than that for a live concert) Budweiser Stage yesterday in Toronto. When it was announced that there was going to be a Slayer Farewell Tour, I guess they forgot to say it was going to be a farewell to their diehard fans, brave people who lost their lives while crushing their heads and spines into the nonstop, infernal mosh pits that took over the entire venue (and I believe I saw some smaller ones even in the seated areas) during the more than SIX HOURS of brutal Thrash and Death Metal blasted by some of the best bands in the history of heavy music. As a matter of fact, whoever had the initial idea of putting together on the same day/night the great Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Slayer deserves a huge prize and our utmost respect forever. It was totally and amazingly insane from start to finish, on a beyond beautiful and sunny day in the city. My neck hurts and I’m as tired as hell, so I’ll try to be brief in writing a little about what was supposed to be the last fulminating performance by the almighty Slayer in Toronto (and I really, really hope it was not the last time we saw those guys here).

It was past 4pm when the gates finally opened and the fans could enter the venue for some beer, for getting a little shade away from the scorching sun, and for a few curious ones to enjoy the official pre-show party with Canadian Black Metal horde Panzerfaust at the River Bar at 4:30pm. As I was dying for a beer and pumped up already for TESTAMENT at 5pm, I unfortunately couldn’t attend that mini-gig, but I guess the band won’t be mad at us for doing that, right? Anyway, at 5 o’clock high there they were Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick, Steve Di Giorgio and the demonic stone crusher Gene Hoglan for a short and demolishing lecture in Thrash Metal, still promoting their latest installment, the flawless Brotherhood Of The Snake, from 2016. It was insanity in the form of seven faster-than-a-bullet songs (who doesn’t love the thrashing classic Into the Pit?), with the bestial drums by Gene sounding like he was hired by TTC to help with the excavations for a new subway station, making our chests and even hats tremble with his beats. Yes, as awesome as that.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
Practice What You Preach
The Pale King
Into the Pit
The New Order
Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

After a short bathroom break, it was time for Poland’s most iconic metal band of all time to darken the stage with their blasphemous and sulfuric music. Polish Blackened Death Metal institution BEHEMOTH lived up to the expectations even playing a shorter setlist than usual (and at daylight, something they might not be used to), mixing classics with kick-ass songs from their latest album, their 2014 opus The Satanist, plus a brand new song named Wolves ov Siberia. Mr. Adam “Nergal” Darski was on fire throughout the entire performance, proving why he’s one of the most respected metal artists of the past decade, leaving the fans eager for more of their obscure music in a not-so-distant future. One funny thing is that Behemoth were the only band to not throw to the fans any guitar picks or drumsticks, but instead they were spitting blood on the people at the front row. If that doesn’t tell you how dark their music is, I don’t know what would.

Setlist
Ov Fire and the Void
Demigod
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

Another bathroom break, another beer, and at 6:55pm sharp (don’t you feel amazed with how punctual all events are in Toronto?) it was time for the old school, slamming, riff-oriented Thrash Metal by the one and only ANTHRAX, who (guess what?) delivered a sequence of seven ass-kicking, frantic songs, including Evil Twin, from their 2016 album For All Kings, and beautiful classics such as I Am the Law, Madhouse and Indians. Scott Ian and Frank Bello were in their usual “I’m playing on stage but I’m also moshing up here together with you guys in the pit” mode, while Joey Belladonna was beyond happy with the warm reaction of the fans to each one of their songs. The low point of the show was that unfortunately Charlie Benante couldn’t play with the band as a result of an ongoing battle with carpal tunnel in his wrists, but the good thing is that he was replaced by the monstrous Gene Hoglan. Do I need to say more? In addition, Mr. Belladonna said that the concert yesterday was Anthrax’s biggest crowd ever in Toronto, and I’m sure everyone who was there banging their heads to their music was more than happy to have been part of such important day to the band.

Setlist
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law
Madhouse
Evil Twin
Antisocial (Trust cover)
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Gene Hoglan – drums*

*Replaced Charlie Benante due to illness.

After all the havoc generated by Testament, Behemoth and Anthrax, there was still more to come with Groove Metal titans LAMB OF GOD, still promoting their 2015 album VII: Sturm und Drang, and let me tell you the show was so heavy and insane I think some people went missing after the demented circle pits ignited by Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen. Playing a solid mix of songs from all of their albums, with all of them of course being as brutal as hell, Lamb Of God put a huge smile on the faces of their diehard fans, with Randy also praising all the bands of the “mini-festival”, requesting everyone to pay a humble tribute to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair with a few WOOOOO’s, and jumping up and down like a maniac on stage nonstop. Well, everything a Redneck loves in life, right? And please correct me if I’m wrong, but was Randy wearing some sort of ankle monitor still due to the manslaughter case he was involved and arrested for a few years ago? If that’s the case, well, that’s what I call a badass frontman, ladies and gentlemen.

Setlist
Omerta
Ruin
Walk With Me in Hell
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
512
Engage the Fear Machine
Blacken the Cursed Sun
Laid to Rest
Redneck

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

SLAYER

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” It’s with these classic words that I want to introduce you to the end of all days in the form of the Satanic Thrash Metal blasted by the heaviest, the most awesome and the most destructive band in the world, the all-powerful SLAYER. Actually, I should say FUCKIN’ SLAYER, or even SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR, as this is the right way to refer to the unrelenting Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and the second stone crusher of the night, the barbaric Paul Bostaph (another guy that probably got some money from TTC to speed up the subway excavations yesterday). Playing at least one song from each one of their crushing albums, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy to their 2015 opus Repentless (with the exception of their 1998 controversial album Diabolus in Musica), Slayer put on a flammable performance (and I’m not using the word flammable in vain, as there was A LOT of fire during the whole concert), turning the entire floor section into one supreme, hot-as-hell, motherfuckin’ savage circle pit.

And that mix of classic Slayer with their more contemporary albums workd extremely well, creating a hellish balance of sounds for the total delectation of all admirers of their undisputed Thrash Metal. It was fantastic watching them performing faster, newer tunes like Repentless, Disciple, Hate Worldwide and Jihad, while at the same time delivering their classic infernal melodies in Mandatory Suicide, Postmortem and Black Magic. For instance, in my humble opinion the sequence comprised of Payback (one of the most pulverizing songs of the night), Seasons in the Abyss, Dittohead and Dead Skin Mask simply proves how timeless their music is, and how important they’ll always be to the world of heavy music. Then from Hell Awaits until the grand finale with the all-time classic Angel of Death it was an absolute chaos, with the circle pit getting bigger and bigger, people screaming at the top of their lungs and crowd surfing nonstop like if there was no tomorrow, and sweat and beer flowing everywhere. And I’m not going to say how cataclysmic the metal hymn Raining Blood was. If you were not there, you don’t deserve to know.

One thing I’ll never understand is how Mr. Paul Bostaph managed to play drums at that insane speed and intensity with all those blistering hot fires burning almost all the time all around his drum set. I think that proves he’s not human, as none of the guys from Slayer are. As a matter of fact, Slayer are a four-headed, rabid beast that would make even the “hound of Hades” Cerberus put his tail between his legs and run away, and if this was in fact their farewell tour, well, they’ll be beyond missed by all of us, diehard Slayer fans who consider Dead Skin Mask one of the best “ballads” ever composed by any band. Let’s wait and see if we’ll be treated to at least one more Slayer apocalypse in Toronto in the coming years as a second, third or whatever leg of their farewell tour, I don’t care, as long as they return. Now it’s time to take some rest from all madness from yesterday, do the body count (and maybe there are even some bodies floating in Lake Ontario near the venue), take a deep breath and keep doing what we all know how to at home, at school, at work or anywhere else where some good and reverberating screaming in required. And you know what word you need to burst your lungs screaming, right?

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Blood Red
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Jihad
When the Stillness Comes
Postmortem
Black Magic
Payback
Seasons in the Abyss
Dittohead
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Chemical Warfare
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Album Review – Lamb of God / VII: Sturm und Drang (2015)

Braving all the storms and stress in their lives, Mr. Randy Blythe and his squad boldly externalize their deepest fears through their aggressive new album.

Rating4

CoverSeveral bands and artists all over the world would love to benefit from the type of exposure frontman Randy Blythe got on the media after his manslaughter case, focusing on the external situation rather than on the music itself to sell more and consequently make more money. Fortunately for fans of high-quality heavy music that’s not the case with his own band, American groove metallers Lamb of God, who put together instead their talent and personal experiences to generate another excellent and violent studio album, this time entitled VII: Sturm und Drang.

Of course there are many references to Randy’s period in prison, but this is not a “prison record” according to him.  The whole album is in fact about the psychology of humans reacting under extreme conditions, which also explains its subtitle “Sturm und Drang” (a German term that means “Storm and Stress”), how we deal with our personal demons and what to expect for our future. And when the music supporting such emotional concept is as thrilling as what Lamb of God can craft, you know the album is already more than halfway to success.

Longtime fans of Lamb of God will connect instantly to the new album as soon as the brutal and vicious Still Echoes begins, led by an enraged Randy Blythe and with Chris Adler, who will drum on the new Megadeth album, proving here why he was chosen by Mustaine for the duty. And the battle rages on in the awesome Erase This, a violent but still very melodic tune where the band will break your neck mercilessly, with highlights to the great job on guitars by Willie Adler and Mark Morton, especially their solos. Then in the dark and heavy tune 512 you will be able to feel in details the time Randy spent in prison. He actually wrote the lyrics to the song in Pankrác Prison, in the Czech Republic, cell number 512 (most of his time was spent in a basement dungeon), while he was contemplating how the experience was changing him, and you can feel his desolation and pain flowing through his words (“Six bars laid across the sky / Four empty walls to fill the time / One careless word, you lose your life / A grave new world awaits inside”).

Embers, featuring lead singer Chino Moreno of Deftones, whose clean vocals sound good but nothing truly remarkable, is a rhythmic and melodic devastation perfect for their live performances to ignite some circle pits, while Footprints showcases a modern version of the band’s Groove/Thrash Metal with an amazing dark atmosphere, with Chris kicking ass on drums and Randy vociferating all his anger and frustrations. Randy is definitely not in a good mood in this song, no doubt about that. Following that bestial massacre, Overlord cools down the animosity a bit, reminding me of some of the old classics by Stone Temple Pilots but obviously heavier. It’s a good “break” from all the havoc the band has delivered so far, but that’s just until its melancholic and introspective instrumental suddenly becomes another demonic metal feast.

lamb of godThe magnificent Anthropoid is the perfect depiction of contemporary extreme metal, where although violence is the most important element present in the music, its level of complexity is still extremely high and astonishing. It’s a nonstop headbanging tune fueled by huge doses of madness and electricity, and knowing this song hasn’t been included in their most recent setlists makes me deeply sad. In Engage the Fear Machine, they slow down the rhythm once again without losing their ferocious vibe thanks to the growling vocals by Randy, to its groovier than usual riffs and to its frantic drums, which sound like bullets hitting solid metal to be more precise.

Closing the regular version of the album, it’s time for war with Lamb of God in Delusion Pandemic, where the cohesiveness among band members beautifully enhances the song’s obscurity. In addition, the metallic guitar lines by Willie and Mark provide Randy all he needs to keep kicking ass and delivering aggressive words (“Allocate your future to the delegates / Relegate your muses to the surrogates / Long green apron stings that end in hooks / Sunk deep, written off, and on the books”). And finally, Torches, featuring lead singer Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, is in my opinion the weakest of all tracks, very bland and generic compared to the rest of the album with nothing special to offer to the listener like most of the other songs of the album. Moreover, if you acquire the limited digipak edition of VII: Sturm und Drang, you’ll be treated to two bonus tracks, Wine & Piss and Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House), both as good and exciting as the regular album tracks.

To sum up, it’s good to see Lamb of God are leaving their comfort zone by exploring new approaches and heights and facing their inner demons, which in the end translates into more meaningful music for the total delight of their loyal fans as we can enjoy in VII: Sturm und Drang. That is to say, if there’s a band that truly learned how to externalize all their weaknesses and fears through their music, braving all the storms and stress in their lives without showing any signs of backing off or giving up at any moment, that’s undoubtedly the ruthless squad led by the one and only Randy Blythe.

Best moments of the album: Footprints, Anthropoid and Delusion Pandemic.

Worst moments of the album: Embers and Torches.

Released in 2015 Epic Records/Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Still Echoes 4:22
2. Erase This 5:08
3. 512 4:44
4. Embers (feat. Chino Moreno) 4:56
5. Footprints 4:24
6. Overlord 6:28
7. Anthropoid 3:38
8. Engage the Fear Machine 4:48
9. Delusion Pandemic 4:22
10. Torches (feat. Greg Puciato) 5:17

Limited Digipak Edition bonus tracks
11.Wine & Piss 3:33
12.Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House) 4:56

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

Guest musicians
Chino Moreno – additional vocals on “Embers”
Greg Puciato – additional vocals on “Torches”