RIP Jeff Hanneman: Slayer at Verizon Theater In September 2010

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Ed. Note: Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a founding member of the band, passed away Thursday in Southern California due to liver failure, according to Rolling Stone. Hanneman, 49, had contracted the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis, which doctors believed was the result of a spider bite, and stepped away from Slayer in early 2011. In late September 2010, he was part of the Jagermeister tour that stopped by Verizon Wireless Theater (now Bayou Music Center) with Megadeth and Anthrax. Former Rocks Off staffer Craig Hlavaty brought us this report.

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 [the Hanneman-written] "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" [also written by Hanneman] 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.

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