Sunday marked a monumental and historic occasion in the history of heavy metal. For what is supposedly the last time ever, Slayer, one of the 'Big Four' band in the metal community, took the stage for their final North American tour date. The band chose San Jose's SAP Center as the house for their farewell show (no surprise, given the history that the Bay Area has with the thrash metal genre and its rise in the '80s.) Bringing forth a live performance showing the band at the top of their game, a packed lineup of thrash and heavy metal favorites, and a shit ton of pyro, Slayer ended their final North American tour with a bang.
Rounding out the lineup for the evening were UK grindcore act Napalm Death, who opened the show with a visceral and brutal performance that worked well, even for such a large venue. Bay Area thrash legends Testament followed with a set that proved why they've earned their status as legends in the thrash metal world after all of these years. Another 'Big Four' act, Anthrax, took the stage for an extremely energetic set that spanned their decades-long career, what we could consider one of the best heavy metal sets to grace a Bay Area stage in the past few years. Main support was provided by the enticing Lamb Of God, with a powerful set built around popular cuts from two of their most acclaimed records Ashes of the Wake and Sacrament.
A massive black curtain adorned the stage as the opening instrumental track, "Delusions of Saviour" (from Slayer's last album, Repentless), filled the arena. But even behind the curtain, jets of fire shot out from around every nook and cranny in the stage, topped off with two steel-box Slayer logos that went up in flames. It signaled the return of one of the biggest bands in metal, and the energy in the air made it clear that everyone knew this would be the last time. The curtain dropped, and all hell broke loose.
Slayer opened with three of their most vicious tracks: "Repentless", "Blood Red", and "Disciple". Crowdsurfers flew over the barricades in the front of the venue. A massive circle pit opened in the center of the arena. Vocalist/bassist Tom Araya spoke only once (maybe twice?) throughout the entire hour and a half show. This was a band committed to just playing, knowing exactly what their crowd feeds off. The band, rounded out by Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostaph played a career-defining set, pulling songs from nearly every Slayer album, with the exception of 1996's Undisputed Attitude and 1998's Diabolus in Musica. Tracks that followed came from albums like Seasons In The Abyss ("Blood Red", "Dead Skin Mask"), World Painted Blood ("Hate Worldwide"), Divine Intervention ("Dittohead"), and even their lone EP, Haunting The Chapel ("Chemical Warfare").
Two of the biggest moments of the night indeed came from two iconic Slayer tracks, both from their breakthrough 1986 album, Reign In Blood. The reaction was a bit more intense from the crowd knowing that this would be the last time they'd be hearing that iconic opening guitar riff during "Raining Blood", and the powerful shriek from Tom Araya during "Angel of Death" as the logo honoring Slayer's late guitarist Jeff Hannemann appeared behind the stage. It was unlike anything I'd seen throughout the past several years at a metal show; this was a special one.
Song after song, it becomes clear why Slayer have such a loyal fan base, and why they've stayed at the top of their game, packing venue after venue, no matter where they play. They're a band that have rarely deviated from the formula of a great thrash metal song. Fast tempos, heavily distorted guitars, screeching vocals and lyrics that focus on a wide variety of subject matter, some of which would be considered too much for the "mainstream". While they've taken some risks musically, their core performance and song ideals have stayed similar to what got them so popular in the first place. They're one of the craziest live performances you'll ever see, and it's a damn shame that they're bringing things to a close. But they went out with one hell of a show.
Slayer Set List
When the Stillness Comes
Seasons in the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
South of Heaven
Angel of Death