Slayer

support Lamb Of God + Anthrax + Obituary
author AP date 03/12/18 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

Ever since it was announced, there was never any doubt as to what the most important metal event of the year was going to be: Slayer’s final farewell to their Danish fans. But many an attendee — yours truly included — will have been looking as much forward to the astonishing support cast, as to waving goodbye to the thrash metal legends. Indeed, seldom do touring packages come loaded with such history, let alone quality, as this hard-hitting line-up built to ensure that some 12,000 necks will be aching come the next morning. Although the concert was scheduled for a Monday, nothing about the buzzing, festive atmosphere inside the arena suggests that people are going to restrain themselves from reciprocating the extreme energy that is about to erupt from the stage. Considering myself a little too old for such shenanigans, I thus position myself a safe distance away from where the violence is going to be, teeming with anticipation.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsenclick here for a gallery

Obituary

The festivities open to the deep and gorging tune of Obituary, who, despite their belonging to a different genre, fit right in with the rest of the line-up. The Gibsonton, FL-based five-piece have forged their fame by means of groovy, old-school death metal, but as the opening track, “Redneck Stomp” off 2005’s “Frozen in Time”, quickly reveals, the group’s sound carries lots of similarities to thrash metal, having also arisen during the ‘80s. If the heavily dropped tuning and occasional breakdown were removed from Obituary’s palette, there would be little to tell the band apart from their thrashing colleagues, with the likes of “Threatening Skies” and “By the Light” (both taken from 1997’s “Back from the Dead”) loaded to the brim with squealing notes and lightning-fast soloing, courtesy of lead guitarist Kenny Andrews. The rhythms of drummer Donald Tardy also tend to alternate between those headbang-inducing grooves and windmill-driving discharges that have made thrash metal a firm favourite amongst metal’s connoisseurs over the years.

Although Obituary’s approach to showmanship is one of no frills, their music thus gets the job done. But at the same time, it frustrates me that whenever the band kicks into gear and gets a badass groove going, they tend to grind to a halt shortly after while vocalist John Tardy riles up the audience. People do respond to his calls for horns, but it would serve Obituary’s cause much better to just keep those intoxicating grooves going for longer. For me, this stop/start dynamic written into the music only ever has the effect of pulling the steam out of the death metal machine and admittedly taints my impression of Obituary as a tight and imposing live act somewhat. But even so, once the classic “Slowly We Rot” (off its namesake 1989 album) has brought the show to a conclusion, the band has nonetheless managed to churn out a satisfying warm-up, helped along by a crisp yet also powerful sound mix.

6

Anthrax

Beginning their set by jamming out the intro to Pantera’s track “Cowboys from Hell”, these Yonkers, NY-based speed/thrash metal legends deliver an explosive start to their 35-minute set, by segueing straight into one of the most classic riffs on the planet: that of “Caught in a Mosh” (taken from their 1987 masterpiece, “Among the Living”). The five musicians are all in a splendid mood, jumping and spinning around with an energy that belies their veteran status as their famous cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time” is given an airing, drawing a thick line beneath the fact that Anthrax has always been a more positive and uplifting experience than their Bay Area brethren. But while I personally do like the this song, its inclusion on the setlist does raise some eyebrows, especially as a cover of Trust’s song “Antisocial” is also played. It is true that Joey Belladonna (vocals) & co. have completely transformed both of these tracks, to the extent that many people are unaware they are not original cuts, but with a discography spanning 36 years and 12 full-length albums, would it not have been better to focus on songs that were actually written by the band?

But regardless of the setlist’s questionable construction, it is difficult not to get pulled into the euphoria unfolding on the stage before us, with Belladonna in particular behaving like a kid in a candy store despite his 58 years of age, even picking up a video camera from one of the production personnel to film the audience during the aforementioned “Antisocial”. Indeed, as opposed to the evening’s headliner, Anthrax look to still have many years of touring left in them. The technical execution is tight — especially that of drummer Charlie Benante, whose performance in the newer “Fight ‘Em ’til You Can’t” (off 2011’s “Worship Music”) leaves me gasping for breath — and the only semblance of wear and tear is in the voice of Belladonna, which admittedly has lost some of its former venom over the years. The concert is thus a lot of fun to watch, even if after the classic “Indians” has finished it off one is left somewhat unsatisfied by the unnecessary omission of tracks like the eponymous “Among the Living”, “I Am the Law” or “Madhouse”. And ironically, as that last song comes to an end, it segues into the outro from “Cowboys from Hell”, really leaving me with this feeling of having seen a tribute set instead of the real deal like at Amager Bio last year.

7

Lamb Of God

From the construction of the stage onto which these Richmond, VA-born icons are about to walk, and from the thunderous roar of the audience when they do, it is clear that Lamb of God could just as well have headlined this venue on their own. It has been three and a half years since the band gave Roskilde Festival’s Arena stage a beating, but they return to Denmark in none the worse shape. Vocalist Randy Blythe fumes with vitriol as he leads his cohorts into a brutal rendition of “Omerta” — one of the tracks off their 2004 album, “Ashes of the Wake”. In the band’s usual style, the lighting is dim and eerie, giving the five musicians a malevolent appearance as they chug and growl their way through that classic song, lighting the long fuse of an audience who have been oddly pacific thus far. Blythe does everything in his power to set an example, striding back and forth across the stage and executing perilous jumps off the various fixtures on stage as “Ruin” takes us back even further, to Lamb of God’s 2003 outing, “As the Palaces Burn”. His efforts are subsequently repaid when “Walk with Me in Hell” kicks into gear after its ominous intro, with large swathes of the audience on the floor now jumping up and down and bellowing the words of the chorus right back at him.

Visibly taken aback by the crowd’s enthusiasm, Blythe gives everything he has to “512”, his shrieks of “… red, red, red!” at the end of each chorus cutting right to the heart, as he recalls his emotional ordeal in a Czech prison in 2012. Coupled with the following “Engage the Fear Machine”, it is the only instance of ‘new’ material (they both stem from the band’s latest album, “VII: Sturm und Drang” from 2015) to be included on this compressed take on a best of setlist, and as you might expect, the audience is lapping it up. Shouts of ”Hell no!” resonate through the arena as fists go up during the fantastic call-and-response segment in “Blacken the Cursed Sun” (a cut off 2006’s “Sacrament”), 12,000 heads bang in unison as stand-in drummer Art Cruz (of Prong & Winds of Plague fame) smacks down the instantly recognisable groove of “Laid to Rest”, and an stupendously big circlepit opens up for the ultimate groove metal rager that is “Redneck” to bring this exercise in live domination to its climax and conclusion. Indeed, Copenhell-attendees are in for a treat if this is the standard that we can still expect from the Virginians come next summer.

9

Slayer

As “Delusions of Saviour” — the intro piece to Slayer’s 12th and final record, “Repentless” — starts to ring from the speakers and white inverted crosses dance across the thin veil in front of the stage, there are unquestionably lots of people feeling emotional here. But in truth, it is a rather stunted incarnation of Slayer that has turned up to say farewell; from the original line-up, only frontman Tom Araya and guitarist Kerry King still remain, while even Gary Holt, who has been their go-to session guitarist since 2011, has been forced to quit this tour early in order to be with his father by his deathbed. His replacement (Phil Demmel) is no stranger to thrash metal of course, but it would nonetheless be a stretch to claim that Slayer are pulling the plug whilst ahead. This laying-to-rest has been a long time coming, with especially Araya having been a shadow of his former venomous self for many years already. But the intensity with which both “Blood Red” (off 1990’s “Seasons in the Abyss”) and the vitriolic “Disciple” (taken from 2001’s “God Hates Us All”) are delivered by this ragtag collection of veterans early on makes it easy to forget about those realities for a while. The stage, adorned with anti-Christian imagery, literally transforms into a firestorm, as this journey through 37 years of extreme metal history kicks off.

Demmel’s polkadot Flying V may look a bit misplaced next to King’s brutal signature B.C. Rich, but one must commend the former Machine Head guitarist for memorising 19 songs with only a few days’ notice. Although I don’t have the theoretical qualifications to say this for sure, he seems to nail Jeff Hanneman’s parts and even makes it look kind of easy in the likes of “War Ensemble”, the groove of which hits me with as much force as it did when I first heard, and was totally enamoured by the “Seasons in the Abyss”-song. It is an old and worn out joke that Slayer’s repertoire consists of one song only (“Angel of Death”), and even though they have stuck to their guns during their nigh four decades of existence, the setlist tonight should compel even the sternest jester to withdraw that stupid opinion. Where tracks such as “Jihad” (taken from 2006’s “Christ Illusion”) and the classic “Mandatory Suicide” (off 1988’s “South of Heaven”) present Slayer at their most militant, there is also counterweight from the likes of “When the Stillness Comes” and especially the titular “Seasons in the Abyss”, both of which are slower and eerier and provide welcome ‘respite’ from the material that stiffens your neck. There is plenty of rhythmic variation in the music, courtesy of drummer Paul Bostaph (who replaced Dave Lombardo in 2013), and the distinct periods of Slayer’s illustrious career are there for anyone to pick up on if you listen to the style and tone of King’s riffage. This truly is a trip down memory lane, and I’d be lying if it didn’t bring a couple of tears to the corner of my eye.

In one of the more shocking developments, the audience is not responding to it with quite as much enthusiasm as I had been expecting. Moshing and other pit-action is minimal even when the ferocious likes of “Payback” (off “God Hates Us All”) and “Dittohead” (which appears on 1994’s “Divine Intervention”) are fired at the crowd. I’d like to think that the lack of energy from the attendees stems from the most devout fans of Slayer having also grown older, but there are also so many instances during the concert that underline that these really are last breaths the band is drawing. When you can’t get much of a pit going for “Raining Blood” or “Angel of Death”, then it is time to quit, regardless of how deafening the applause is after the latter one of those revered classics finally brings this historic evening to its conclusion. Slayer have done well in delivering yet another devastating onslaught of thrash metal, revisiting all of the most beloved classics as well as a number of deeper cuts in the process. But, at the risk of inviting the wrath of diehard fans, I have to admit that it leaves me far from dumbfounded. It lacks that ceremonial feeling that you would expect from the culmination of a career, and yet… there is something utterly heartbreaking about the disbelief on Araya’s face after “Angel of Death” has rung out. “Is it really all over?”, he looks to be thinking as he silently paces the stage, with the only sound now in the venue the roar of the audience. The sheer melancholy emanating from the man thus ends this event on a very human note, even if the concert itself did not succeed in attaining the legendary status of many of Slayer’s previous shows.

8

Setlist:

  • 01. Repentless
  • 02. Blood Red
  • 03. Disciple
  • 04. Mandatory Suicide
  • 05. Hate Worldwide
  • 06. War Ensemble
  • 07. Jihad
  • 08. When the Stillness Comes
  • 09. Postmortem
  • 10. Black Magic
  • 11. Payback
  • 12. Seasons in the Abyss
  • 13. Dittohead
  • 14. Dead Skin Mask
  • 15. Hell Awaits

— Encore —

  • 16. South of Heaven
  • 17. Raining Blood
  • 18. Chemical Warfare
  • 19. Angel of Death

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXVIII Rockfreaks.net.