LIVE: Slayer @ the Times Union Center, 8/1/18

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

Slayer is calling it a career.

This trek is being billed as their “final” World tour. Given the consistent uncompromising nature of the Californian thrash metal kings’ reign of blood, I wouldn’t doubt it.

Slayer definitely decided to err on the side of bang rather than whimper for this farewell jaunt. The show that bulldozed the Times Union Center on the first day of August was a six hour Metalthon that featured five bands including the headliner, all well respected in the headbangers’ universe.

First up from Birmingham, England are Napalm Death, who decidedly blur the line between punk and metal. The dentist drill cacophony of Shane Embury’s bass and Mitch Harris’ guitar blend both instruments together so that neither are distinguishable. Behind them Danny Herrera hammers his “Euroblast” (yes, it’s a thing) style of drumming while vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway howls above the maelstrom. The words are, of course, unintelligible, but Greenway helpfully introduces each number with a brief description. It’s all very much punk lyrical content – alienation, oppression, uniformity etc. They play “You Suffer,” famously in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest song ever recorded at 1.3 seconds long. Or should that be short?

And just to reinforce their punk cred and political bent, they end with a blowtorch version of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Napalm Death’s 30-minute assault on the senses is well received by the scattering of fans who have turned up for the long haul.

Next, from San Francisco, is Testament with my favorite performance of the evening. They serve up a punchy streamlined eight-song set which showcases the outstanding instrumentalist of the night, guitarist Alex Skolnick. His jaw-dropping virtuosity brings a much needed splash of color in comparison to vocalist Chuck Billy’s monochrome growl. Drummer Gene Hoglan lays down a carpet bomb of rhythm, in lock step with bassist Steve DiGeorgio and second guitarist Eric Peterson. But Skolnick is the MVP, gleefully peeling off blinding solo after solo as the band races through its paces.

We go from the Bay to Queens as Anthrax now takes the stage.

The only other member (with Slayer) of Thrash’s “Big Four” present tonight deliver a fun and energetic 45 minutes. They also provide some much needed humor in an evening that can be a little, well, intense. Joey Belladonna is an old-fashioned, flamboyant metal lead singer with the hair and attitude to match, good naturedly whipping up the crowd. Bass player Frankie Bello gets the “Most Happy to Be Here & Having a Total Blast” award, beaming throughout and blissfully singing along to every word. Guitarists Scott Ian and Jonathan Donais put their heads down and do the twin lead guitar thing, and Charlie Benante’s meat ‘n’ potatoes drumming anchors the whole shebang. They also cover a Joe Jackson song, much to this writer’s delight. The set is quickly over, and no one would have minded more.

I mentioned intense? If you look that word up in the dictionary there’s probably a picture of Lamb of God. The main support act, although no spring chickens themselves, are the youngest band on the tour, having formed in 1994 compared to the ’80s vintage of the rest of the line-up.

So there’s definitely a generational thing going on, with the younger fans in the venue totally in thrall to their hour-long set, whilst older metal heads I talk to generally find their music dour and one-dimensional.

Vocalist Randy Blyth certainly rouses the rabble, inciting the previously rather sedate mosh pit into a violent swirling vortex. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, bassist John Campbell and drummer Art Cruz grind out their punishing sound behind Blyth’s guttural bark.

A large curtain was drawn across the stage as Lamb of God exited.

After a short break the curtain fell, and an impressive backdrop is revealed in all its gory glory as the headliners appear. Hues of sickly green and bloody red, flames belching, skulls grinning, the insignia and images of war and destruction, suddenly the Times Union Center seems transformed into that place South of Heaven that Slayer constantly refers to.

The band is simply remorseless, thundering through a career-spanning tune stack that touches on virtually every album in their catalog. Vocalist-bassist Tom Araya stoically roars the lyrics of death and doom, as guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph put the thrash into the metal with a vengeance.

No love songs.

All hate songs.

Traditionally they close with “Angel of Death” as a poster is unfurled honoring their late guitarist Jeff Hanneman.

And then they are done, and the onslaught suddenly ceases. No encore, just a few heartfelt words of thanks from Araya as the band departs.

Will Slayer return again, rising from the dead for a lucrative reunion?

As I said at the beginning, I don’t think so. This band made their name by keeping it real and playing for keeps. So catch this tour for a last look at true legends of metal.

Hell awaits, but not for much longer.

Multinational Corporation
Instinct of Survival
When All Is Said and Done
Smash a Single Digit
Suffer the Children
Silence Is Deafening
How the Years Condemn
You Suffer
Nazi Punks Fuck off (Dead Kennedys)

Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
Dog Faced Gods
The New Order
Into the Pit
Over the Wall

Cowboys from Hell – intro (Pantera)
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time (Joe Jackson)
Be All End All
Evil Twin
Antisocial (Trust)

Walk with Me in Hell
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
Engage the Fear Machine
Blacken the Cursed Sun
Laid to Rest

Blood Red
Mandatory Suicide
Hate World Wide
War Ensemble
When the Stillness Comes
Post Mortem
Black Magic
Seasons in the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Chemical Warfare
Angel of Death

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