Photo by DAN LONG
Nothing says ‘father/son outing’ like a Slayer concert, am I right? The ear-raping wall of guitar thrash, the blood red stage lights, the chest-thumping double-kick drum pummeling, the demonic, blood-curdling vocals. These are the building blocks of male bonding, at least in my household. So this show was on my bucket list – I wanted my 17-year-old son to see Slayer before any more of them die. I’ve been bringing him to shows since he was nine, so he’s no stranger to the scene, but this was Slayer. Scratch that, this was motherfucking Slayer! He was more than ready – couldn’t wait to hear his favorite, “South Of Heaven.” Good choice, son. I would fill him in on the stuff he didn’t know. “This one’s about Vampires!” I shouted into his ear during “At Dawn They Sleep.” “This one’s really scary – it’s about human sacrifice!” I shouted during “Spill the Blood.” “Hey Dad, is this the one about the guy who was that serial killer?” my son inquired during “Dead Skin Mask.” Yes, son, yes it is!
But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since the band started back in 1981. I have to admit, I was worried that Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt weren’t going to be a fair trade for Dave Lombardo (fired last year over a money dispute) and Jeff Hanneman (who gave up the ghost in 2013 after a two year battle with necrotizing fasciitis, reportedly contracted after a spider bite in a friends hot tub). I was also worried that Tom Araya and Kerry King, both now north of 50, wouldn’t be able to bring the requisite intensity to the brutal aural assault that is the key ingredient to every song in their repertoire. My worries soon proved unfounded. Bostaph pounded the kit like he caught it screwing his wife, and Gary Holt wielded his guitar like it was Attila The Hun’s battle axe. Tom Araya doesn’t head bang like he used to back in the ’80s and ’90s, but he hasn’t lost the capacity to make grown men shit their pants with the sheer satanic power of his leather-lunged vocals. It seems the only thing that would slow Kerry King down is the massive neck muscle that has developed after 30-plus years of head banging. Alas, his playing and showmanship were on point.
The show began when the three-story white curtain stretching across the stage dropped to reveal our anti-heroes who then tore into a trifecta of explosive thrash – “World Painted Blood,” the title track of the new album, the merciless “Postmortem” (sample lyric: “Do you wanna DIE?”), and “Hate Worldwide” — before moving onto two of their oldest works – “Die By The Sword” and the concert staple “Chemical Warfare.” The fans were frothing at the mouth as some mild mosh pits erupted and the obligatory crowd surfing ensued. At this point, the four huge upside down crosses behind the band started moving via the elaborate rigging setup as the lights went blood red (for the first of many times) as the band galloped into “War Ensemble.” The crowd went apeshit — father and son included. — DAN LONG