Slayer just kicked off the European leg of their final tour the same way they’ve played every gig in the last 35 years – a 20-song headbutt and a realisation there’s no metal band anywhere near them.
You could review the gig by just chanting SLAYER a few hundred times, and you’d be halfway there to bottling the deranged energy of 10,000 heads who took a left turn in their life and ended up at the undisputed greatest metal band of all time.
Slayer are officially on the road for their 12th album Repentless, but earlier this year they announced this would be their last, so there’s an air of jumping into the Abyss a final time.
They start with the double-drop of ‘Delusion of Saviour’ and ‘Repentless’, their late period thrash belters and a chance to nail the crowd with spinning inverted crosses and pentagram projections. But after that it’s a trawl through their depths, with every period covered. At one point they hammer home ‘Dittohead’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’ and ‘Hell Awaits’ in the most brutally brilliant 10 minutes you’ll ever hear in a big commercial arena.
The shadow of fallen angel Jeff Hanneman has been hanging over the band since he died in 2013, and he gets his own backdrop during ‘Angel of Death’. It’s a moment that’s passed off without any outward display of emotion from Tom Araya and Kerry King, but you know every solo that sounds like a thousand horses being stabbed to death is dedicated to him.
Slayer have a bank of songs they have to play or they’d be sued, but still – when ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Chemical Warfare’ or ‘War Ensemble’ kick in you’re still battered, shocked they’re still as hardcore decades later. And when they do ‘the bit’ in ‘Raining Blood’ and it turns into the heaviest thing on any record ever – you know it’s coming but you go into that weird ambient state anyway.
The so-called ‘Big Four’ of thrash in the 80s doesn’t really make sense anymore. Metallica had it for a few years, Anthrax might’ve had it with a different singer, and Megadeth were always a joke. Slayer has always just been ‘the one’. The encore is basically Tom Araya slowly pacing the stage for 10 minutes while thousands predictably scream SLAAAAAAYYYYYYERRRRRR. It’s actual love – long may it Rain.