So Slayer came to town. Great news for those with a bullhorn, a perverted love for Jesus and nothing but free time on a Friday night. It’s also good news for fans of the band as anyone who’s a Slayer fan will tell you, a Slayer show is both cathartic and an obelisk of the oneness of metal. Plus there’s usually butt loads of upside down crosses.
I was 18 when I first found myself yelling “SLAAAAAAAAYERRRRRR!!!!” in a parking ramp as me and my fellow delinquents slammed a sixer on our way to the venue. And they were by far the most extreme and heavy band I would be willing to purchase a ticket for at that time. Truth be told I was just as pumped to see Christian rockers Petra that same summer as I was to see my first Slayer show. I just didn’t bring beer to Petra. Please don’t tell anyone.
I last saw a Slayer show on the God Hates Us All Tour, making my anticipation greater. I covered the current lineup when the Repentless record was released so I won’t get into it now. Besides, as the show grew closer, I morphed more and more into that idiot shotgunning beers in a Minneapolis parking ramp in 1988. Waking up knowing you are going to see Slayer is a special thing. KISS is the only other band that has given me that feeling. Slayer may be the only band that still can. Knowing I’m going to see Slayer not only puts me in a good mood for the day but also makes me a hippie-hating obnoxious butthole. I love that.
I’m not sure there is a bad place to see Slayer, but you’re going to have a hard time finding a better place the Myth Nightclub in the Saint Paul suburb of Maplewood. Not only is it a state of the art facility built for nights like this, but there’s a Pizza Ranch across the street in case you enjoy food with no flavor. Jokes about pizza buffets aside it is an impressive venue.
I missed the opening band Carcass because it took 90 minutes to get into the venue. I’m guessing it was over-reactive ‘just for Slayer’ pat-down security. But at least, I was serenaded by some religious dipshit with a soap box (he was literally standing on a box) spewing bible related hate-speech in a disingenuous attempt to save our souls. While it gave me time to opine the idea of going to a local church with my own megaphone I was thankful I got in just in time to catch Testament.
I saw Testament and Slayer in 1990. Souls of Black and Seasons tour. Amazing show. But tonight’s reunion of that tour (Spoiler alert. This show was better.) OH! MY! GOD! Testament were fucking blood flowing to your genitals good. Chuck Billy may look a bit… chunky. But he sounds amazing. It was cool to hear recent songs “Rise Up” and “Formation Of Damnation” but it was when they played “Practice What You Preach”, “The New Order” and “Into The Pit” that got the crowd (and me) fired up. Still I got a feeling I may have been the only one in attendance wishing they had played “Return To Serenity”. And would it have killed them to play “Signs of Chaos”?
Shortly after Testament left the stage a giant white curtain dropped across the front of the stage. Imagine the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk‘s bedsheets. Once the lights went down and the intro to Repentless started playing over the PA, images of all things Slayer were imposed upon the sheet. Crosses that turned upside down. A few pentagrams. Ensuring the largely male audience was full of Slayer induced boners. “SLAAAAAAAAYERRRRRR!!!!”
Once the curtain dropped and the minions pulled it to the side they, of course, are playing the title track of their latest record Repentless. With it, all the “Oh my God I’m going to see Slayer tonight” exhaustion exploded from the crowd. There’s Tom. There’s Kerry. There’s… “SLAAAAAAAAYERRRRRR!!!!”
Fans of stage banter should wait in the car at a Slayer show. Tom Araya is among the more celebrated front men in metal but he makes James Hetfield seem chatty by comparison. Which, if you prefer songs over solos, is a good thing. If going from one song to another without a break were an art form, Slayer would be Picasso. At the very least they put the ASS in PicASSo.
Seeing Kerry King 6 feet in front of me made me think of Slayer 30 years ago. When they traveled in Tom‘s Camaro and wore eye black. But I was quickly brought back as Kerry‘s braided beard reminded me that the only thing grosser than Tom‘s beard is probably Gary’s. Speaking of…
Exodus is a fine band I guess, but Jeff Hanneman was a totem among Slayer faithful. No one can blame the band for Jeff‘s untimely passing. But can anyone replace him? Personally, I was way past the idea of the band carrying on without Jeff sometime back. But seeing them live with Gary for the first time, I get why he was the man. As a matter of fact, being a four-decade fan, I only found myself missing one thing. Tom‘s head banging.
Tom had neck surgery or something related to headbanging sometime back. The lack of seeing him bang his head, with the addition of his gnarly gray beard, well it reminded me of how long I have been a fan. It made me feel older than Dave Lombardo‘s beef with Kerry. But they sound anything but old. And by the time they played “War Ensemble”, I was back in college yelling “SLAAAAAAAAYERRRRRR!!!!”
More than music. More than metal. More than a band. Slayer is communal. Being at a Slayer show you feel a sense of purpose. A sense of loyalty. Slayer and Tom‘s risible beard are there to offer a warm space to metal fans everywhere. But no-one else. Slayer isn’t for everyone. That’s ok. With me anyway.
So what did I think of the show? It was stunning, stirring, imposing, awe-inspiring and breath-taking. Awesome. It was, Slayer. I could talk about the excited teenager I became when they played “Reign In Blood” or the longing I felt to actually be that teenager and dive into the mosh pit during “Angel Of Death”. But the reality is as Slayer has grown as I have with them. And at times watching Tom not bang his gray-bearded head, it felt like we are both fighting the same battle to not grow old. I hope Tom would find my refusal to submit to age as impressive as I find his. I could nitpick the set list but with any band with such a large catalog, you can’t please everyone. In that scope the covered something for everybody.
The show sold out while I was waiting to get in. And there are plenty of shows to come. Kerry and Tom have both said Slayer is the type of band they can’t go on forever. Based on the show I saw, we don’t have to worry about them trading in their guitars for a room at an assisted living facility for some time.
See this band. See this tour. And please. Somewhere between the parked car and the front door of the club. Take a moment to appreciate the moment and yell…