Slayer: Then And Now
The mighty Slayer have just been in London, proving once again that there are few metal bands who can match their intensity and power. So, we sent Xavier Russell along to compare and contrast the 2010 model with the one he witnessed in 1988.
Venue: London Hammersmith Odeon
Date: September 20, 1988
How could Slayer top their Reign In Pain 1987 tour, promoting perhaps the the greatest thrash album of all time namely Reign In Blood ? By going one better on 1988′s World Sacrifice Tour, of course!
Slayer were on a total high following the worldwide critical acclaim for the masterful R.I.B. Now the band were back in London, to plug the recently released South Of Heaven, which although not as instant as its predecessor was nonetheless a grower. Such gems as Mandatory Suicide, Ghosts of War and Live Undead have all since became Slayer mainstays. Simply, Slayer had to slow down on S.O.H which is reflected in the running times for the two albums. While R.I.B clocked in at a ridiculously fast 28 mins 25 secs, S.O.H staggered home at a more sedate 36 mins 42 seconds.
So, back to the Hammy Odeon. And as the houselights dimmed I took my usual place adjacent to the mixing desk to get the full benefit of what Slayer were about to throw at me. Guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King rocked back and forth in unison as the gloomy riffs that open South Of Heaven came blasting forth, the ol’ Hammy Odeon was being rocked to its foundations. Cracks began to appear in the plasterwork, as the intensity of Dave Lombardo’s skin pounding and Tom Araya’s rumbling bass hit me full on in the chest. Fuck, this was sounding totally awesome. In all my years of going to gigs I’d never heard anything this loud, yet at the same time so crystal clear.
I turned to Gem Howard (Metallica’s tour manager at the time) and shook my head in total disbelief. He too was shocked. ”This isn’t right,” he said, ”Thrash bands aren’t suppose to sound this good. It’s normally just a rumbling mass of distortion like a builder’s drill.” We had to investigate further to see who was responsible. The answer: Tina Turner??? Well not her exactly, but her sound crew!
The mixing desk was awash with natty Tina Turner tour jackets not Slayer-like at all!
”How come you guys are doing Slayer’s sound,” I inquire of one of the guys on the mixing desk. ”Well dude, we normally do Tina Turner’s sound, but the minute she’s off the road, we come and do Slayer. We just love the intensity of these guys!” He’s not kidding, as Slayer blast out the mind numbingly fast Raining Blood and even faster Silent Scream, with Tom belting out the lyrics so fast, he got ‘em back to front! A trip down memory lane for Fight ‘Til Deat, from Slayer’s first album Show No Mercy, followed, then it was straight into Mandatory Suicide, thankfully slower in pace, but still potent as Hanneman and King trade off high whining solos.
Thankfully special effects were kept to a bare minimum, bar the occasional upside down cross descending from (south of) the heavens. Kill Again, Post Mortem, Reborn and Die By The Sword kept up the intensity count, until the arrival of Chemical Warfare – this Total Speed Death, as the semi legendary Dave Constable (a name for those who recall Shades Records!) used to say. Constable knew his thrash, and was right of course. This is still one of Slayer’s finest songs.
The highly charged set closed in overdrive with a selection of newies- Ghosts Of War, Spill The Blood and Live Undead. Encore? Well it could only be the Josef Mengele inspired Angel Of Death, which still sends a shiver down the spine every time I hear it. For once my ears weren’t ringing when I left the Hammy Odeon.
Venue: Kentish Town Forum, London
Date: June 2, 2010
This was the first time I’d clapped eyes on Slayer since their short but mesmerising set at Donington in 1995, when Paul Bostaph occupied the drum stool. But here we are some 15 years later, back with the original line up promoting the World Painted Blood album.
As I tried to find a decent vantage point in the packed Forum, Tom Ayara was welcoming us to his church (of metal) Not surprisingly, Cult from Christ Illusion followed and was typically… well, Slayer-like.
The big screen behind Dave Lombardo was showing off various Slayer album covers and logos from yesteryear as Dave lambasted his kit furiously on Expendable Youth. Sadly the imagery deteriorated as the show went on, to the point when it looked like the worst type of early 70s Dr. Who special effects – really inept!
Did we really need to see static bullet holes during War Ensemble? And a revolving skull on the otherwise excellent Hell Awaits?! It would have been funnier if the skull had started headbanging!
But hey, Slayer were great. Yes, they’ve put on a few pounds over the years, but the energy and intensity is still there. Rousing versions of Seasons In The Abyss
Chemical Warfare and Raining Blood were greeted by Tom’s loyal metal church followers as if they were singing thrash hymns! Tom, though mysteriously kept his sermon to a bare minimum; no nasty necrophobic stories about boning the dead, as in the past. Instead we were treated to a barrage of classics, including Silent Scream, South Of Heaven and the immortal Angel Of Death. The last named just improves with age, like a good red wine.
Although the sound was not as good as the aforementioned Hammersmith Odeon show, Tom, Kerry, Jeff and Dave still know how to deliver, and on evidence of their display at The Forum, I think Slayer will be a real threat to Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax on the up-and-coming Sonisphere Euro trek, when the Big Four finally come together.