Perhaps no other band is more synonymous with true heavy, heavy metal than Slayer. Think about it. Even people who have no real understanding or reference to one Kerry King riff still know that when it comes to some seriously damaging eardrum straight down your gullet rock n’ roll, Slayer is the first name in the unholy catalog. Last night, in Pittsburgh, PA, a gathering of those who do have reference and reverence came to worship the band that truly has stuck to their roots of Bay Area thrash and owes much of it to some “little unknown guy” named Rick Rubin who first believed in them.
Pouring into their classic hits with firm gusto, Tom Araya immediately did what he does best by letting that deep growl hit the crowd with “Hell Awaits”, “The Antichrist”, “Necrophiliac”, and “Mandatory Suicide”. By the time that third song hit, Tom broke out in a huge grin and the audience who was just going completely ‘ape shit’ at what was before them. The middle of the floor had cleared into a massive mosh pit, the balcony was buzzing and swaying with frenetic energy as male and female alike sang every word as their arms swung up and down in rhythm. Of course Kerry King was holding his position down on stage left, blazing away with impossible flurries of notes and hitting the strings so hard it’s hard to believe they don’t break constantly (on a side note this writer caught his guitar pick and for the limited time he used it, it took a beating like a red headed step child). On the other side of the stage, Exodus’ main man and Hanneman replacement, Gary Holt seemed to be in a trance of pure mission oriented destruction to blow everyone’s faces off with his power playing. Looking more like Zakk Wylde these days, Gary fits like a glove in this band for a guy (Jeff Hanneman) that everyone knows, including Gary, that cannot truly be replaced. Speaking of replacements, the controversy before the tour of Dave Lombardo’s departure was a debate for many a fan, but former member come back Paul Bostaph was not only reliable but spot on last night with serious technical ability and pounding away like a furious madman.
Other songs that Slayer wailed away on were “Captor of Sin”, “War Ensemble”, “Postmortem”, “Altar of Sacrifice”, “Jesus Saves”, “At Dawn They Sleep”, “Die By The Sword”, “Spirit in Black”, and “Hallowed Point”. While many of these are amazing songs, and sure to be somebody’s favorite, they probably are not the absolute ‘ones’ that the crowd came to see. And so the anticipation built…and then came “Seasons in the Abyss”…the crowd ALL sings, “Close your eyes Look deep in your soul Step outside yourself And let your mind go Frozen eyes stare deep in your mind as you DIE”, and one watches the hair raise on their arms.
Throw in an Exodus cover of “Strike of the Beast”, “Dead Skin Mask”, the absolute classics and all time faves of many a fan “Reigning Blood”and “South of Heaven” and the ultimate tribute to Jeff Hanneman, “Angel of Death” and you have yourself one helluva complete package and damn near dream show for any fan.
Slayer will only be on the road for a bit more in Canada and the U.S. before they shut it down at the end of the month. From there it looks like they are headed back to the studio for new tracks and a new tour and plan to hit Pittsburgh (hopefully) again. Whether that will be on a headlining tour of their own or the much speculated headlining spot of mayhem remains to be seen, but regardless Slayer is still at the top of the metal heap slaying them all.