Slayer is one of the bands that defines metal, their fan base are full of die hard fanatics. It’s not often you get the chance to go to a show and know it will be the last time you will see the band perform. Sure, other bands have had farewell tours but more often than not bands break up or fade away and you don’t have that opportunity to say goodbye in a live setting. Slayer gave that to me and over 8 thousand other fans on a Sunday night in Nashville, Tennessee. As we rolled up to the venue there was already protesters lurking about warning us of our sins and our eternal damnation for attending such an event. I hate to tell them but with all the flames and fire Slayer had on stage it was probably hotter than hell, and we’d go to straight to Lucifer lair if it meant we got to hear “Disciple” one more time. For this leg of the tour Slayer brought an amazing cast of characters with them. The lineup included 3 of the Big Four of Thrash; Slayer, Testament, and Anthrax. In addition to those veteran acts we also were “blessed” with Lamb Of God, and Napalm Death opening the show while the sun was still high in the sky.
I’m a long time fan of Napalm Death but this was my first time seeing them live. The English grindcore band really stuck out on this lineup being the only non-thrash band on the bill. It was around 4:30pm when the band took the stage, which is pretty early for a band of their caliber to perform. Vocalist Barney Greenway appears as the band kicks off “Multinational Corporations” the first of their 12 song set. Barney lurks about the stage like a madman unleashing his vocals with his signature head shaking posture. After that first song he looks out through the crowd and explains how playing in the Nashville Municipal Auditorium feels like he is performing inside a space ship. The band cranked through songs one after another. They were spot on, heavy as hell and gave us all precisely what we expected from the band. At one point Barney makes the comment the band is old, and it’s true the band has been performing and creating music since the early 80’s. For an established band of their magnitude to take an opening slot on this tour shows the amount of respect they have for Slayer and also shows how humble the band is as well. Though Napalm Death filled their 30 minute set with 12 songs I wish we had another 30 minutes with them. Of course the one thing I was looking forward to was saved for last. Their closing song is usually a cover of the Dead Kennedy’s song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and they sure didn’t disappoint on this faithless night. It was as if the crowd knew it was being saved for last and the entire crowd went berserk when they played it. As Barney prepared to tell the crowd the final song’s title we all chanted it aloud with him. Shane Embury’s thunderous bass tones chimed in and the song was mastered and over before we knew it. It was a flawless performance for one of grindcore’s pioneering bands.
Next up began the overhaul of thrash with Testament taking the stage. The band has almost became a supergroup with Chuck Billy on vocals and air guitar, Alex Skolnick and Eric Petersen on guitar, The Atomic Clock Gene Hoglan on drums and bassist Steve Di Giorgio. Testament started off their performance with one of their newer tracks “Brotherhood of the Snake”. The duel guitar riffs by Skolnick and Peterson is hard for any band to compete with. On the next songs that followed “Rise Up” and “Dog Faced Gods” it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the axe men as they shred relentlessly. When the start playing “Practice What You Preach” Chuck Billy really takes control of the stage. With his signature mic stand and his air guitar playing during portions of the song it shows shows how much fun he is having on stage and his jovial presence gets the crowd even more amped. You can’t talk about Testament of course without mentioning The Atomic Clock Gene Hoglan and his drumming capabilities. He is by far one of the most talented drummers in metal having played for a a long list of veteran acts. He has been performing with Testament since 2011 after having a one year stint with the band in the late 90’s. His thunderous pounding of the drums keeps the band in time and just adds another dimension to the talent that is encompassed within the band. We got a total of 8 tracks from one of the best thrash bands in the world. They finished off their set with “Into The Pit” and “Over The Wall”.
Anthrax really turned things up a notch when they rushed out to the stage and immediately put the crowd in motion with one of my favorite Anthrax songs “Caught In A Mosh”. They started off the song though with a “Cowboy’s From Hell” intro by Pantera, which I thought was pretty cool and classy of them to do after the recent passing of Vinnie Paul. If this song doesn’t increase the size of the mosh pit it simply isn’t going to happen. But with Anthrax’s persuasive lyrical content and fast paced thrashing the mosh pit grew exponentially. Another one of the biggest thrash bands around, they know exactly how to keep the attention of the crowd. I can’t complain at all with Anthrax’s set list, they played some of their best songs and there really isn’t a song that I would have exchanged on the set list. They gave us 7 tracks which also included “Madhouse”, “Evil Twin” and “Antisocial”. Anthrax began to come toward the end of their set and they kicked off one of my favorites with his “Indians”. As the track began vocalist Joey Belladonna belted out “We all see black and white” and Scott Ian and Jonathan Donais’ riffs filled the room it instantly inspired everyone. There was movement within the arena that we had yet to see on this Sunday night. The song came to a halt about midway through and Scott Ian stated “This ain’t church mother fuckers” and urged the crowd to get even more pumped than they already was. As the song started back up there was a sea of crowd surfers one right after another. Then out of nowhere Joey appears with a knights helmet on momentarily on stage. The best part of the night was how this song ended. The very first song of the band set began with a “Cowboy’s From Hell” Pantera outro and it ended in the same manner. “Indians” slowly transformed into “Cowboy’s From Hell”. The band book ended their set with the intro and outro essentially dedicating their entire set to the late great Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell.
Lamb Of God won the spot as direct support for Slayer. The band formed almost 10 years after Anthrax and Testament, but let me tell you they earned the direct support slot on this tour. Lamb Of God is one of those bands that gives you every ounce of energy they have from the time they step on the stage until the time that they step off. Opening with “Omerta” lead singer Randy Blythe was like a ball of energy moving about the stage screaming into his mic and headbanging furiously. You can always tell when things are about to get heavy when he takes a couple quick steps and jumps into the air and comes stomping back down on his feet. It’s his signature move that easily gets the crowd moving around even more taking notes from his energetic stage presence. “Ruin”, and “Walk With Me In Hell” followed as the second and third song of their 9 track setlist. This is the first time I have seen the band perform without drumming powerhouse Chris Adler. He was replaced with drummer Art Cruz who you may have seen previously with Prong or Winds Of Plague. Chris and Art are both amazing drummers and Art quickly adapted to the style in which Chris plays and every beat was precise and you would have never known that he was a last minute fill in. While most eyes are drawn to Randy as he expels his harrowing screams many of us were locked in on Willie Adler as he would shred constantly from track to track. As the end drew near you kept wondering; when are they going to play “Redneck”? As they wrapped up the songs “Blacken The Cursed Sun” and “Laid To Rest” you knew it was either going to be the next song or they weren’t playing it tonight. As soon as the first riff came through the speakers everyone screamed in applause. “Redneck” would close out the night on a high note leaving the crowd pumped up to the max with only Slayer left to deliver their musical testimony.
It’s the moment we have all waited for and the moment we all have dreaded. As the lights dim and Slayer is projected onto the curtain we come to a realization this is quite possibly the last time we will ever see one of America’s greatest metal bands. Even after seeing the band 15 times in my lifetime this would likely be the most memorable and the last memory I would have of the band live on stage. As the intro music kicked in and the curtain fell my eyes were locked onto Kerry King as he turned around and flames arose behind him. Slayer has a massive catalog of epic songs and they chose to open with the title track from their 2015 album ‘Repentless’. Slayer effortlessly gets the crowds blood pumping to a boil. The song has become an instant classic similar to most Slayer songs. The next track takes us back to the bands 1990 album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ as the riffs rang out to “Blood Red”. Everytime the flames would erupt you could feel the heat on your face and that’s from about 30 yards away from the pyro itself, which shows how important the theatrics are to the band as i’m sure it was boiling hot on stage. Next up was “Disciple” one of my favorite tracks of all time. Everyone in the crowd was singing, screaming and headbanging along to the song. As Gary Holt and Kerry King moved about the stage unleashing their jaw crushing riffs you could see a slight smile on Tom Araya’s face. It’s that faint smirk that also looks a little sinister and lets us know Tom is having a good time. We got a total of 19 songs. It has been a while since I’ve seen Slayer on their own headlining tour and though seeing them headline a festival is amazing the more time they are on stage the better. After you get halfway through the set list you are just eagerly awaiting those classic thrash anthems, and they were just about to come. “Dead Skin Mask”, “Hell Awaits”, “South Of Heaven” and “Raining Blood” were played in a row. The most pit was working on fumes trying to keep up with the nonstop aggression. The best moment of the night came as the band began playing their final song “Angel Of Death”. As the riffs kicked in the banner fell and showed a huge Hanneman background resembling a Heineken can and showing the song title “Angel Of Death” as well. It was a great tribute to one of the founding members of the band Jeff Hanneman who passed away in 2013. While Slayer still sounds amazing and Gary Holt is a tremendous guitar player we all certainly miss Hanneman and the incredible power he had on stage. As the final song was being played and the flames grew higher and higher what seemed like ashes began to fall from the sky. The heat from the pyro was flaking paint from the auditorium’s walls and ceiling. I guess you could say Slayer ignited the place and left only ashes in their wake. The night came to a close as the song ended as powerfully as it began. If you have an opportunity to get out and see Slayer do their thing on this final tour I highly suggest you do, this may be your last opportunity to see this legendary band before they hang up their horns.