The Rickety Old Shack

Live Show Review: Slayer — May 30th, 2018

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For the most part, I have no regrets in life. One of them, however, is that I squandered a lot of my prime concert-going years and missed opportunities to see a lot of bands at their peak of their powers. In recent years, I've been working on rectifying that problem and getting out of my house more. So, when metal gods Slayer shocked the world with the announcement of their final tour, my attendance was effectively made mandatory. That I had never seen these veterans live before was reason enough to buy a ticket, but the supporting acts were incredible to behold: everyone else on the bill was a headliner in their own right!

I had 2 options to catch this tour: Toronto or Montreal. I opted for the latter, as I was already going to be in Montreal for Satyricon's final tour, and there was a Bloodbath show scheduled for May 29th, the day before, so everything looked to line-up perfectly. As the date approached, my trademarked propensity for strange luck and bad circumstance began to assert itself. I had some hotel and navigation problems related to the aforementioned Satyricon show, but ultimately worked around them and made it to the concert. The Bloodbath gig was cancelled due to visa problems (story), and has yet to be rebooked. I was able to alter my reservations and avoid staying in Montreal for an unneccessary day, and figured everything was in order — I had triple-checked everything!

Such was my surprise when I arrived at the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal, to be informed that the venue I needed to go to was Place Bell, located in Laval, Quebec. I'm positive I turned a few different colours and probably looked like I was on the verge of tears, but managed to keep it together and got some general information from the person at the ticket counter. I don't remember ever being more embarassed in my life — I must have looked at my concert ticket dozens of times and never once noticed the location. There was no one to blame, no excuses to be had, this was just incredible idiocy on my part. At this point, it was 4:50pm, and the concert was slated to begin in 10 minutes...

I was able to find a cab easily, but my problem was now the fact that the arena I needed to get to was a half-hour's drive away and it was rush hour in Montreal. That "half-hour" was actually closer to an hour, due to highway congestion I'd never experienced back in Ottawa. I was able to make it in time to catch Behemoth, but unfortunately caught absolutely none of Testament's set. I resolved to make a point of seeing them live some time in the future, and hastily made my way to my seat.

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Poland's Behemoth did not disappoint. While I only saw the second half of their set, their sound was crushing and ominous, and every bit as dark as it sounds on their albums. I will admit that I am not as familiar with their songs / albums as I would like to be, so I can't even tell you what they played — just that it sounded great and I enjoyed it. Their set was very 'black metal' in the sense that it lacked any banter or acknowledgment of the crowd, with the band going from one long, crushingly heavy song to the next. I wish I had caught the whole set, but regardless I was reminded why I like Behemoth in the first place and that I need to listen to them more often.

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I was quite surprised that Anthrax was not the second-last band on the bill, but that was a minor point. Of all the bands on the tour, Anthrax is the one I was least enthused about seeing. Not that I have a strong dislike for the band, but when it comes to Anthrax, I'm a John Bush guy, and never got into the Joey Belladonna era of the band, even though I can admit the riffs were solid — I just don't like the voice. Obviously that wasn't enough reason to skip the show, and I did leave myself open to the possibility that seeing them in the flesh might change my mind.

Much to my (pleasant) surprise, they did a really good job of winning me over. The set was comprised almost exclusively of older hits, and I have to admit that they sounded awesome live. I am never going to become a fan of the classic metal style of vocals, though I will admit that Joey is really good at them. This day, they sounded better than I can ever remember. They ripped through "I Am The Law," "Evil Twin," and "Indians" to close out a really engaging, high-energy set. I am very glad to report that Anthrax vastly exceeded my expectations, and I am going to have to see them play a longer set and give Belladonna's material another listen.

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The final act before the main event, my expectations of Lamb Of God were quite high. Ashes Of The Wake is one of a select few records I would describe as being essentially perfect, and I have always wanted to see how their material translates to a live setting. The set opened with "Omerta," and for the next 40 minutes the band waylaid the audience with a concise set of their best, most recognisable songs like "Walk With Me In Hell," "Now You've Got Something To Die For," "Redneck" and "Laid To Rest." Everything had the requisite groove and crunching tone, but the material was actually enhanced by the fact it was performed live — removing a lot of the mechnical sterility that can come with such precise music in recorded formats.

As a somewhat waning fan of Lamb Of God, this show definitely rekindled my interest in them. I didn't even mind VII: Sturm Und Drang, but it was far less memorable than their first 3 albums which got me into the band to begin with. I was very impressed with the technicality of the live performance and the quality of the venue's sound; all the bands sounded great, each with very different tonal qualities.

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Finally, at long last, Slayer took the stage. Their set opened with a really impressive video package, and a pyro display, before the band appeared and burst right into "Repentless." The band was firing on all cylinders from the start, and the energy of their performance was almost indescribable; I was watching true veterans do their thing. Like every other band on the bill, Slayer's set was a collection of hits and I don't think anyone would be disappointed with it. Hearing the whole of Place Bell shouting "god hates us all" during "Disciple" was a particularly memorable moment, as was the reaction when the band broke into "Raining Blood" near the end of their set.

For as long as I have been talking and writing about music online, Slayer's live show was always lauded as one of the best things going in metal. Following my experience at this show, I finally understand what all those old metalheads were talking about. Aside from Metallica and Run The Jewels, no other live music performance compares to the energy of this show. And Tom Araya isn't even that outwardly charismatic, the power of Slayer's show is entirely in the performance of their material. I've honestly never been a huge fan of Slayer's records; I like a lot of their songs, but almost never do I listen to entire albums. The material always felt like it was meant for a live show and just happened to be recorded, and this show reaffirms that belief.

The band closed their set with a tribute to their deceased guitarist Jeff Hanneman, performing "Chemical Warfare" and "Angel Of Death" in front of a memorial backdrop. It was a very fitting end to a set on the band's farewell tour. I walked out of the arena buzzing both with the experience of an amazing set of live performances and the 5 large beer I had consumed. I had almost impossibly high expectations for this concert, specifically of Slayer, and somehow those were hugely overshot. As much as I was filled with anxiety and terror when I had shown up to the wrong arena, I was now elated and satisified upon having made it to the show. It really was everything I had hoped for, and more; this was easily among the best live shows I've ever seen.

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—by Derek

Published: June 3rd, 2018.