Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax Verizon Wireless Theater September 26, 2010
With the end of this concert, Aftermath was sort of sad. Not only did it mark the end of a marathon music week in Houston and for Rocks Off, it also signaled that we had to stop listening to Slayer for countless hours a day at work to study up for the show. Not that we didn't listen to the band a lot before. Just ask our co-workers within ten yards of our headphones.
Now we have nothing much to look forward to. Sure, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is coming up in another couple of weeks and Fun Fun Fun Fest after that, but Slayer was something different altogether. Something heartier and more iconic than a bunch of rote festival bands and some indie-pop that we can't even shake our fist and scream along to.
To get to Slayer last night at though, we had to be lashed by the sounds of Anthrax and Megadeth, making a full three-course metal meal for all involved. The former is wholly underrated and the latter is regarded exactly as they should be.
Without Anthrax, a good portion of crossover thrash and hardcore would not have existed during the mid-'80s, and for that the band should be headlining venues as big as Verizon, and not playing 40-minute sets.
Their quick eight-song slot saw them not only rolling out mid-period album cuts like "Caught In a Mosh" and "Indians," but also "Only" from the band's John Bush-fronted era. Fans outside remarked that it was in good form for newly-reinstated singer Joey Belladonna to help dish out the Sound of White Noise track with the band.
The band has been working on new material, but none was included in this set. Fan favorites "Metal Thrashing Mad" and the Judge Dredd ballad "I Am the Law" more than made up for any dearth of fresh material.
Megadeth turned in pretty much the same show we saw six months ago to the day, if just a little out of order. Once again Dave Mustaine and his crew laid down 1990's Rust In Peace in its entirety before running headlong into the new "Head Crusher" from last year's shadowy Endgame LP. Classics like "Symphony of Destruction" and "Peace Sells" were flung out before the band took an extended bowing session in front of the crowd.
A massive white sheet (of all colors, right?) came down in front of the stage as Megadeth left. We could spy Slayer's equipment getting put in place through the sides, like peaking inside an armory, or at the very least, a fireworks show being staged. Two huge metal Slayer logos came down on either side of the band's stomping grounds.
Slayer live is a force of sound, probably the closest you can get to true calamity without being outright noise. Like a freight train, there are no stops. If you get hit or run over, that's the breaks.
But, Good Lord, does it have a groove to it. We are probably only one of seven people in the world who think Slayer has a head-nodding, hip-shake to their music. A band stamping on human ear drums forever. And of course we had to be on the barricade.
The band began their set with "Hate Worldwide" and the title track from from last year's World Painted Blood. A man behind us screamed every single lyric in our ear, while a father and his 11-year-old son threw up metal horns and headbanged.
People changed within a matter of two minutes, gaining weird evil grins drenched in sweat. Families, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, held each other close in utter metalhead fandom. We couldn't get over how many families were there. One kid, no taller than our belt buckle, told us he had now seen Slayer "this many" times, holding up three fingers.
The band got the new material out of the way to start in on the whole of 1990's Seasons In The Abyss, which was released 20 years ago next month. For us, it's always amazing to hear something two decades old burn with such a ferocity, while things released yesterday drag ass.
Lead singer and bassist Tom Araya hasn't lost anything in his playing or his voice after his recent surgery. The only that we noticed was a little more gray in his hair and goatee, and he almost stationary during the show as always. As for guitarist Kerry King, you could hear the five industrial-strength chains he was wearing around his waist over the music at times when he would stalk the stage. That's something you won't forget.
Seasons In The Abyss is 42 minutes of pure metal, just a punishing grind. It came after Reign In Blood and follow-up South of Heaven, and at the time was the band reclaiming a bit of their hardness after Heaven's distinctive shift into what we now call sludge, but it was also the sound of the band adding elements to their work that they hadn't used before. It's very much the twin of Reign In Blood.
"Dead Skin Mask" is probably our personal favorite off the album, with "Skeletons of Society" coming up close behind. For the whole of the presentation of the album, nothing moved in the venue except for the constant waterfall of kids coming over the barricades up front. We counted seven in a one-minute span. One teen girl made four laps by our count.
There were no stops in between for Slayer fans. If you didn't piss before the set started, then you were screwed. One drunken metalhead couldn't wait for the end of the show and pissed in the corner near the left bar. An EMS attendant came up behind him to stop him, only for the kid to turn around and piss on the attendant and another fan. So much for a quiet night at the opera.
As the title track wound down, the band revved up a quick hits set, starting with "Raining Blood," which to us may be the most pop-like metal song ever recorded. It's like the "Blitzkrieg Bop" of thrash metal.
It's got sound effects and the lyrics are easy to remember, and it makes any activity done with it playing in the background all the more better. We could be putting together Ikea furniture on a Sunday and the song would still rule hard. Sometime before "Blood" we took out our earplugs. This had to be heard full-force without precaution. Sorry, 2046.
"Angel Of Death" closed out, as the place dripped with sweat and saliva from people screaming and howling in the air. All told, the band only played material from only four albums, but it was an ace primer in Slayer and a perfect gift to fans.
We watched whole families walk out into the night together, fathers and sons wearing matching Slayer tees, holding hands. For a band that wrote a song called "Mandatory Suicide," you can't ask for much more.
Personal Bias: Um, it's Slayer.
The Crowd: Equal parts hair, sweat, beards, weed, tattoos, beer and joyous aggression. Mix well and serve.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Satan laughs as you eternally rot, motherfucker," said one friend to another as he bummed a smoke in the smoking area outside. Those anti-smoking Truth kids could learn something at a Slayer show.
Random Notebook Dump: There was a blind guy in the crowd wearing a Metallica shirt holding his cane just a few feet from the mayhem of the pit. They say that blind people hear things on a whole different level than people with sight. We can only imagine what it's like to hear Slayer with that extra sensitive set of hearing involved. It's also that level of fandom that makes us love our job.
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SET LIST (SLAYER)
World Painted Blood Hate Worldwide
Seasons In The Abyss: War Ensemble Blood Red Spirit in Black Expendable Youth Dead Skin Mask Hallowed Point Skeletons of Society Temptation Born of Fire Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven Raining Blood Aggressive Perfector Angel of Death