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 – Slayer / Repentless (2015)

Live fast, on high, repentless, and always listen to Slayer.

Rating3

Slayer_RepentlessGet the most blasphemous Black Metal band in the world, mix it with the goriest Death Metal act you can think of, and even after that you won’t get close to the wickedness that American Thrash Metal masters Slayer have been providing us all since their inception in 1981. They’re the meanest, the most badass and, above all, the most unrepentant band in the history of mankind. And it’s due to their obstinacy and devotion to their roots that this undisputed band has dauntlessly braved the darkest period of their lives, marked by the terrible loss of the one and only Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.) in 2013, to finally release the eleventh studio album in their distinct career, the raging Repentless.

However, as the guys from Monty Python would say, “always look on the bright side of life”, which in the case of Slayer translates into Tom Araya and Kerry King recruiting Mr. Gary Holt to the band (the guitar behemoth and mastermind behind another of my favorite bands, American Thrash Metal warriors Exodus), and also the return of the beast Paul Bostaph behind the drums for the first time since their 2001 onslaught God Hates Us All. You can get a good sense of the entire process until Repentless was finalized by watching some amazing videos from their official YouTube channel, including the “enlistment” of Gary and the recording of drums, always noticing how Slayer never lost their core essence amidst such turbulence and grief in their recent past.

Delusions of Saviour, a profane intro the likes of the spine-chilling “Darkness of Christ” (by the way, Repentless has tons of similarities to what Slayer did in God Hates Us All), opens the gates of hell for the piercing riffs by Kerry and Gary in the title-track Repentless, where a deeply infuriated Paul proves why he deserved to be back to the place where he thrived the most in his career. This awesome tune mixes the musicality of their latest albums, with its Hardcore/Punk Rock vibe being perfect for its main objective which, according to the band, is working like a tribute to the deceased Jeff through its simple but effective lyrics (“My songs relive the atrocities of war / Can’t take society any fuckin’ more / Intensity, anarchy, hatred amplified / Playing this shit is all that keeps me alive / I leave it all on the road living on the stage / This is my life where I kill it everyday / So take your shot, bottom’s up, this is no lie / I’ll be beating this guitar ’til the day I die / Live fast, on high / Repentless, let it ride”). And the devastation goes on in Take Control, a high-speed tune where it’s interesting to notice that, although Tom Araya cannot bang his head like before due to his back issues he’s still a devil on vocals, leaving a message to all songsters in the world: no matter how deep your guttural is nor how hard you try, you’ll never reach the incredible level of violence, despair and hatred of Mr. Araya.

Then we have the excellent Vices, which truly sounds like a track from God Hates Us All, and by that I mean it has the same vibe, rhythm, beats, riffs and vocal lines. I love the fact that even when Slayer slow down a little they still sound brutal. In other words, let’s bang our fuckin’ heads and get high with Tom, Kerry & Co. before the next track, Cast the First Stone, offers us such raw and strong beats it feels like Paul wants to intimidate us all, also adding more obscurity to the music and therefore getting closer again to the sounding in God Hates Us All. Besides, I don’t need to say how thrilling the solos by the two demented guitar heroes of Slayer are, right? Anyway, When the Stillness Comes, one of the songs released a while ago in an early version, might push some people to say “this is not Slayer” as it’s not really fast or thrashy, but diehard fans will instantly link it to the sonority found in Divine Intervention, Diabolus In Musica and, again, God Hates Us All. It should sound a lot better when played live (which doesn’t mean it’s a bad studio song), with highlights to the outstanding drumming by Paul, to the desperate vocals and primeval bass lines by Tom, and obviously to its deranged lyrics (“This violence finally sets me free / Brings demons back to torture me / There’s no god pulling at my strings / I’m above all sorrow that fate can bring / Disengaged, I see your face / I turn and rush, I can’t replace”). I just wish the ending could have gone on for a little longer, but it’s still very entertaining the way it is.

Chasing Death is a good example of how the music by Slayer has evolved in the past 20 years, getting modernized but still vicious, with the aggressive vocals by Tom leading this somber tune while the other band members develop a solid ambience in the background; followed by Implode, which sounds a billion times better than the first version released. To be honest, that early version made me really skeptical about how the entire album would sound, but as we’re talking about Slayer, I somehow knew they wouldn’t let their fans down. And Piano Wire, the only song from the album written by Jeff, keeps the level of destruction really high in Repentless, showcasing Tom’s amazing harsh vocal lines blended with many top-notch rhythmic variations.

While listening to Atrocity Vendor, I couldn’t think of anything else but just how amazing the sound of the guitars is, and also that this electric tune has to be part of their live performances for the mosh pits to get seriously physical. Kerry and Gary are like metallic brothers, not to mention that Paul keeps nailing it with his sick beats and fills and that it’s yet another perfect example of how violent lyrics are always supposed to be (“You’re staring at the atrocity vendor / A mother fucking equal opportunity offender / I’ll introduce you to my own morbid charm / And fist fuck you with your own severed arms”). You Against You, another classic Thrash Metal tune where the guitar riffs and solos will please all fans of the genre, could have easily been a song from Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood, sounding as cohesive and precise as almost all Slayer songs, while Pride in Prejudice is not only the most different of all songs but also the worst by far. I’m not sure if the final result was exactly what the band wanted, but it’s in my opinion too slow and not as heavy or dark as it should have been. Of course, if Metallica had a song like this in one of their latest albums that would have been a blessing for their fans, but we know Slayer are capable of creating something infinitely better than that.

I was going to give it “only” a 3.5 after the first listen, but after a few more listens, all the issues faced by the band in the past couple of years (especially the passing of Jeff), the stunning artwork by Brazilian artist Marcelo Vasco (the fuckin’ booklet becomes a fuckin’ inverted cross!), the bonus DVD from the special edition with their killer performance at Wacken Open Air in 2014 and the making of Repentless, and particularly after watching one of the best and most sanguinary videos I’ve seen in my life shot for the title-track (watch it yourself at the end of this review) with some very special guests such as Danny Trejo (aka our beloved anti-hero “Machete”), it deserves a 4.0 or even more than that. In the end, they’re still FUCKIN’ SLAYER no matter what, a band that’s 100% repentless of everything they’ve accomplished through their undisputed career. With that said, always remember to live fast, on high and repentless, listening to Slayer until the inevitable end finally comes.

Best moments of the album: Repentless, Vices, Chasing Death and Atrocity Vendor.

Worst moments of the album: Pride in Prejudice.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Delusions of Saviour 1:55
2. Repentless 3:19
3. Take Control 3:14
4. Vices 3:32
5. Cast the First Stone 3:43
6. When the Stillness Comes 4:21
7. Chasing Death 3:45
8. Implode 3:49
9. Piano Wire 2:49
10. Atrocity Vendor 2:55
11. You Against You 4:21
12. Pride in Prejudice 4:14

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