As Good as They've Ever Been, Slayer is Going Out in a Blaze of Glory

There was plenty of fire to go around while Slayer was on stage.
There was plenty of fire to go around while Slayer was on stage. Photo by Cory Garcia
Slayer, Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth, Testament
Smart Financial Center
June 17, 2K18

You know that theory that there are an infinite number of alternative realities, and thus an infinite alternative versions of you out there? There are realities where maybe you’re an astronaut or a pro wrestling manager or a jockey. I bring this up, because watching Slayer pound through the best set I’ve ever seen them play, I couldn’t help but think that even if there are an infinite number of realities out there, I bet in every single one of them there’s a man named Kerry King, and he’s in a band called Slayer, and he looks like the personification of whatever the equivalent of heavy metal is in that reality made flesh.

And what’s sad is that there are people who are never going to see this man create his art in person. Ten years from now there will be teenagers discovering Reign in Blood and Seasons in the Abyss, and they’ll never get to experience the songs they’re falling in love with as performed by Slayer. They’ll never feel that vibration in their chest as the drums build up to that amazing guitar intro in “Raining Blood.” They’ll never experience the beauty of “When the Stillness Comes” or be hit with the sonic changeup that is the intro to “Jihad.” They’ll never believe us when we tell them how much Tom Araya smiled as he sang the dark lyrics to so many Slayer classics.

The end of Slayer might not be here today, but it’s not far off on the horizon. I went into Sunday night working under the assumption that this would be the final time Slayer took the stage in the greater Houston region, even though I know that farewell tours are often extended a time or two. I thought that maybe the night would be bittersweet, and it turned out that it was; as they bashed their way through their set, delivering great performance after great performance, it felt like a shame that they’d be hanging up their guitars in the next few years and calling it a career.

The Final World Tour is meant to be just that, and if you didn’t think that was the case, the giant statues looming on either side of the stage like giant tombstones reinforced that feeling. But if this is the end of Slayer bringing their brand of thrash to Houston stages, it was a really good note to go out on. So much so that I won’t even be a tiny bit upset if they come back around one more time. Maybe I’m just not ready to wave goodbye to Kerry King just yet. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to him being here that I can’t imagine him doing anything else.

click to enlarge Can't imagine this is what the people behind Smart Financial Center had in mind when they put the project together. - PHOTO BY CORY GARCIA
Can't imagine this is what the people behind Smart Financial Center had in mind when they put the project together.
Photo by Cory Garcia

So, How Were The Openers?: This show had the most stacked opening roster for a concert this summer, and it’s not even really close. Each one of the bands that hit the stage arguably deserves their own 200 words or so, but alas, there is only so much space in this review.

Testament was a great opening act for this type of tour, getting the crowd pumped early, a full four hours before the headliners would start their set. Also, their lead guitar player looks a bit like WWE superstar Matt Hardy.
Behemoth was my favorite opening act of the show. I can’t imagine that there’s been any band heavier to take the stage at Smart Financial. Great music, great outfits, and a ton of enthusiasm made for great show, even if they’re brand of “Yay, Satan!” metal isn’t for everyone, even at a Slayer show.

Anthrax put on around half an hour of their classics with precision and enthusiasm, and around half an hour is really all you need from Anthrax, so good on them to boiling things down to their best and calling it a night.
Odds of you ever seeing a bad Lamb of God show are pretty low. The youngest act on the bill—but still above drinking age at 24—had the most spring in their step, and Randy Blythe remains an excellent front man. The crowd broke out into a “Lamb of God” chant at one point.

Personal Bias: Metallica > Slayer > Anthrax > Megadeth.

The Crowd: With beer starting at $9 a cup and going up from there, I imagine the venue had a very good night given the people near me who clearly had too much to drink but weren’t slowing down.

Overheard in the Crowd: “Texans tend to only think about Texas. They don’t think about the world,” said a man behind me, talking about the world of oil and gas. He’d proceed to spend the next two hours screaming “Slayer!” in a variety of vocal tones.

Random Notebook Dump: Smart Financial Center had a special Slayer-themed dish for sale, a Reign in Blood Roast Beef Sandwich. I did not partake, because that sounded kind of heavy for a long rock show, but I did carefully work my way through a box of Skittles, because nothing says heavy metal like the “taste the rainbow” candy.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia