Live Show Review: Slayer — May 22nd, 2019
A few days shy of the 1-year anniversary of my first Slayer show (review), I was able to see the band again in my home city of Ottawa. As much as I like having an excuse to go to Montreal, the convenience — and lack of travel costs — of being an hour's walking distance from the venue was appreciated. I would have gone just to see Lamb Of God and Slayer again, last year's show was so entertaining and memorable. The fact I also got to knock 2 more names off my bucket list was just gravy on the cake. (I'm pretty sure that's how the expression goes, anyway.)
As with the last time I saw Slayer, the most ridiculous circumstances waylaid me in my attempt to actually get to the venue. I somehow misread the postings for the shuttle buses to the arena, so I wasted a half-hour going to the wrong bus station. Then, strapped for time, I decided to take an alternate route which also involved walking part of the way. My memory was a little hazy from the last time I made that trek, but I managed to figure it out. I then proceeded to lose my paper ticket during my walk, resulting in a near-panic attack and my frantically trying to access the Ticketmaster app on my phone. Things worked out but I managed to bungle just about every step on the process; at least I didn't show up to the wrong venue this time — I guess this is technically an improvement.
I was initially surprised to see Cannibal Corpse were the opening act, playing a short set. Regardless, the band brought their A-game and performed like pros as the arena was still filling up. They played a couple of newer songs and closed out with perennial live staples "I Cum Blood" and "Hammer Smashed Face." I love that I can write sentences like that in earnest, just another way Cannibal Corpse rewards their fans. It's unfortunate that guitarist Pat O'Brien was unable to be on the tour, but Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) did an excellent job in his stead.
My only complaint is that the band's set was short, approximately 30 minutes at most. While I can now say that I have officially seen Cannibal Corpse, I need to catch them at a show where they're headlining so I can get a stronger dose of their live performance. George Fischer's live vocals are ridiculous, the sheer power of his voice is shocking to behold, as was his headbanging. Truly, Fischer's enormous neck is the key to why he is the ultimate death metal frontman. At any rate, the band served up the quality, no-frills, death metal performance one would expect from such legends of their genre.
Amon Amarth are a band that I have not listened to since before I went to college. I remember listening to Versus The World and writing about it back in 2002, but I have no useful recollection of the album. I've seen the band's popularity growing, however, and their frontman, Johan Hegg, even provided some backing vocals on an old Project Hate MCMXCIX album (review), so they've been on my radar for a long time — I've just been lazy in giving them another listen. I mean, I like vikings and I like metal, I don't know why I wouldn't like viking metal.
I did not recognise a single song from the band's set, but it didn't matter; Amon Amarth were excellent and the material from their new album, Berserker, has piqued my interest in the record. I'm going to make a point of reviewing it in the near future. The band's stage show was fairly elaborate, and included a longship in the middle of the stage — in case you needed the whole viking motif underscored. There was also a cool moment where a song kicked off with Hegg smashing the stage with a massive hammer (Mjolnir?), triggering a smoke and light display. The band's combination of melodic and thrash metal came off really well live, so I'm all but completely converted to their cause at this point. If you get a chance to see these guys live, please do it.
Just as they did last year, Lamb Of God opened their set with "Omerta." I can't say I blame them, as the song rips. The band played the exact same setlist, in fact, although I'm not going to put that down as a complaint. The band was on point, as expected, even with the crowd being somewhat docile initially. Frontman Randy Blythe was able to coax some energy from the crowd, however, and there was a massive circle-pit for the show closer, "Redneck." Like the majority of the lineup, Lamb Of God don't put a lot into their stage show beyond their musical intensity.
I'm still not overly fond of the band's last album, VII: Sturm Und Drang, even if the songs played live — "512" and "Engage The Fear Machine" specifically — sounded very good. Lamb Of God played the hits, showed a lot of energy, and delivered another strong performance. Given how much their frontman runs around the stage, even leaping off the drum riser at one point, I'm amazed how unaffected his vocals were. Everyone else was on their A-game, executing such technical material and effortlessly segueing into pit-fuelling grooves right on cue.
And finally, the main event of the evening: the mighty Slayer. The light show which opened the band's set was the same as the one used last year, although the set list was not the same as before. The obvious classics were all performed: "South Of Heaven," "War Enssemble," "Disciple," "Raining Blood," "Angel Of Death" and "Chemical Warfare," along with material from the band's past few albums. The pyro show seemed more elaborate, although it's not like I rigorously documented it last time, but there were extended periods, late in the set, where there was a wall of flame on the left and right side of the stage as well as intermittent flame jets. In short, it was absolutely bad-ass in the context of a Slayer show.
The band was strictly business, with Tom Araya providing very brief banter, mostly just thanking everyone for coming out. Gary Holt seemed to be given more of the spotlight this time, shredding his way through some amazing solos. I'm glad to see Holt in the band for their final run, as his talent really deserves the added attention and his performances at both shows I've been to have been truly elite. Everyone else was up to their usual standard, and Slayer ripped through 20 songs in about 80 minutes. Everything sounded great, the crowd was into it and I felt the same general energy as I did the year before. I'm glad I got to experience a show like this, twice, before Slayer finally call it a day.
I cannot say enough good things about this show. Every expectation I had was either met or exceeded, and my only complaints were that I would have liked to have heard more Cannibal Corpse and there was an incredibly drunk dude who got somewhat annoying by the end of the night. All I'm going to say is this: don't go to a show and drink to the point that your headbanging looks more like a seizure and you start repeatedly trying to give someone the Fresh Prince handshake. After about the 7th attempt, I was a little annoyed but nothing came of it and the show ended without incident. Hopefully he remembered how he got there — and didn't drive...
Published: May 23rd, 2019.