Milestones — they're what music is made of. And for bands like Lamb of God and Slayer, their tour kickoff on Thursday, May 2, offered Phoenix heavy metal fans the perfect combination of nostalgia, celebration, and sadness.
After openers Cannibal Corpse and Amon Amarth, Lamb of God embraced a crowd equal parts stoked on the under-90-degree evening and the band’s 15th anniversary edition release of Ashes of the Wake, coming out today, May 3. Recalling the debut that went gold, frontman Randy Blythe hit a high point of energy when he launched into “512,” a song about his 2012 one-month stint at a Czech prison after being accused of manslaughter in the death of a concertgoer (he was acquitted a year later).
The crowd surged and the mosh pit swirled, proving that, when it comes to Lamb of God, no one should worry about who carries the influential torch in modern metal.
While LoG was celebrating the anniversary of their best-selling record, which was also named the fifth greatest metal album of the 21st century by Metal Hammer, Slayer was commemorating a different kind of occasion. Not only were they kicking off the fifth leg of their final world tour, but May 2 was the sixth anniversary of legendary guitarist Jeff Hanneman’s death.
The five-time Grammy-nominated, two-time Grammy-winning band unleashed its fury with around 20 songs, almost half of which included eyebrow-singeing pyrotechnics that could be felt even 10 rows behind the pit.
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Since forming in 1981, when all the members were under 20, the band have long been hailed for their pioneering breed of metal that combines structured thrash and elements of punk, focusing on the seedy underbelly of society and government. Their lyrics are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago.
From the opener “Repentless” and the haunting buildup of “World Painted Blood” to the twisting, burning, riff-laden “South of Heaven” and the mandatory “Seasons in the Abyss," Slayer plucked some of the best jams from their extensive catalog for the Phoenix show. The pounding music reverberated through my bones and rattled my teeth.
The audience was a mixed bag: The kids that grew up with Slayer on tape were content to headbang from their seats while their own kids beside them huddled down on iPads. One might look around and feel slightly worried that the diehard fans are fading out, that the next generation may be opting out, and whether or not Slayer will actually follow through with the this-is-our-last-tour-so-don’t-miss-out situation peddled by the likes of Mötley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne.
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But then, you see the fans one or two decades behind the youngest kids, some preparing to go AWOL in the moshpit. And no matter where you walk, you hear the obligatory scream: “Slaaaayyeeeerrr!” And you realize this fandom will survive.
For Slayer, a solid set list, minimal stage set, and maximum pyrotechnics are what works for their fans — and that’s what matters at the end of the day. The fans don’t care about production. They care about the songs, which is rare now. It's a mentality that we need more of. The show revealed Slayer raw and pensive, giving themselves to the crowd for one final time, succumbing to the beauty of their heavy metal legacy. Plus, how can you not love guitarist Gary Holt donning a “Kill the Kardashians” T-shirt?
Finishing off their hour-and-a-half set with “Angel of Death” among hundreds of fans pumping fists, headbanging, and screaming, it goes without saying that if Slayer do retire, there will never be a replacement, and there will never be anyone like them ever again.
"Evil Has No Boundaries "
"World Painted Blood"
"Born of Fire"
"Seasons in the Abyss"
"South of Heaven"
"Dead Skin Mask"
"Angel of Death"