Celebrating 32 years as a band, death metal pioneers Slayer have hit some obstacles in recent years. Co-founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman died at the beginning of 2013, and on-again off-again drummer Dave Lombardo was finally fired from the band. Despite the possibilities of new material for a future album, it has been stated by vocalist and bass player Tom Araya that even he doesn't know if Slayer is coming to its end.
Therefore it seemed fitting the band would reconfigure itself, as it has so many times before, for possibly their last go-around to finish out the year, which brought them to the Twin Cities Friday night.
Openers Gojira have been firing on all cylinders since last year's epic and further groundbreaking album, L'Enfant Suavage. As they discharged a symphony of angular metallic melodies, an immediate typhoon of a mosh pit erupted on the main floor that never even settled to a simmer for the entire night.
Determined bass drums wired the four members, and drove the French band's aggressive sound up a notch with each song. Gojira's inventive style combined math rock-like clusters of guitar, breakneck cymbal washes, and screeching melodies. Everyone in the packed house was submerged in the four piece's dissonant choruses and lead singer Joe Duplantier's growling vocals.
The sonic assault gave the Myth very short respites. During one, Duplantier's unsuspected candor and friendliness came through, "Anyone see us last time? Thanks for coming out again. You are all beautiful people."
As if catching themselves in a sweet moment, their music ignited the stage again for a couple more songs. With a light show that echoed the whiplash nature of Gorjira's music, the band continued to destroy the room. They finished off the short set with the precision of a race car and a similarly polite, "Merci beaucoup Minnesota! Slayer are up next."
Touring with an "old school" set of their signature songs, the band was filled out with Slayer vet Paul Bostaph back on drums and Exodus's Gary Holt continuing to respectfully play Hanneman's parts on guitar. The band took to the stage in thick smoke and blood-red lights. The curtain came down to reveal the band along with a massive skull and four upside-down crosses. The backdrop and suffocating strains of "Hell Awaits" satiated the rushing crowd, who were headed toward the pit and ready for more punishing thrash metal. The unmistakable opening riffs from guitarist Kerry King and penetrating rhythms incited a mass of energy as Araya quickly growled in his trademark vocal style.
Slayer's earlier material "The Antichrist" and "Necrophiliac" provided a similar wallop as the wailing leads from King and Holt shot directly toward the unstoppable mass of bodies. Legs and elbows flew through the air like jagged debris at a garbage dump. Sporadic crews of security were consistently dragging victims from the crowd out to safety only to be confronted with more debauchery from the audience. Clearly everyone was savoring every millisecond of Slayer's nonstop, pounding onslaught.
Moving forward in their catalog, the twin lead intro of "Mandatory Suicide" and its straight-ahead rhythm once again only served as orders for more head-banging and magnificent energy release as Araya's vocal descriptions of warfare echoed through Holt's strenuous lead guitar and Bostaph's rolling bass drums.
Looking not unlike Papa Smurf after several bong-ripping decades, Araya quickly addressed the room, "Are you ready!? Ah, ok... I'll accept that." He shrugged and then announced, "War Ensemble!!" diving into another masterpiece from 1990's Season's of the Abyss.
Unraveling notable tracks from their '86 hallmark Reign in Blood, Slayer conducted the show like a séance, devil horns raised among the gathering to complement everyone shouting along the lyrics. Sweat dripped from the tidal wave of hair and black T-shirts during "Altar of Sacrifice," the crowd chanting in unison, "Enter to the realm of Satan! Satan! Satan!"
Going back to their first record where Slayer's long career started, Show No Mercy, Araya gave the essential introduction to another standard. "They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, I say fuck the pen, because you can 'Die By the Sword'!"
As ripping, molten leads between Kerry and Holt were traded throughout each blistering song, bodies continued surfing atop the most adventurous in the audience. A cover of Holt's band Exodus, "Strike of the Beast," managed to fit right in with Slayer's large body of work.
Uniting all those present for "Dead Skin Mask," Araya took on a personal tone, "You guys are rowdy as fuck. It must be the weather I suppose. You work all week, deal with the cold and then come together in this loud and hot room, smashing into one another. Now, that's gotta be love." Fists were raised in the air as pummeling drums and guitar squeals coalesced for the band's most infamous, song "Raining Blood." Raising the bar for convulsing head banging, the place went completely ballistic with bodies strewn across the room.
As a conclusion for the encore, Slayer returned with a tribute to Hanneman, as the backdrop changed to display the appropriated Heineken logo and his name with "1964-2013 Still Reigning" below it. The sentiment was not lost on those present and provided some closure for the night as Slayer ripped through "South of Heaven" seamlessly into "Angel of Death" and Araya's most notorious scream.
Proving their legacy at this moment in time, the end of the night allowed for the band to take a bow and everyone to take a deep breath and show their support for these giants of metal who showed they've got nothing left to prove.
Should the band continue on or not, the evening displayed evidence that their initial intention three decades ago has stood the test of time in its potency and loyalty from their fans. Bathing in the smiles, cheers, and ringing eardrums in the audience, Araya left with a heartfelt, "Thank you very much for sharing this time with us."
Critic's Bias: A fan since day one, I'd never seen Slayer before Friday night.
The Crowd: Insanely loyal old and new, and I mean really new, fans. I delighted seeing 10- and 11-year-olds raising their devil horns, head banging and shouting along every lyric.
Overheard in the Crowd: Repeatedly, ad infinitum all night, "Fuckin' Slayer!!!"
Random Notebook Dump: You have to feel for the older lady who was trying to sell roses in the crowd Friday night.
The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
Toxic Garbage Island
Captor of Sin
Altar of Sacrifice
Jesus Saves At Dawn they Sleep
Die by the Sword
Spirit in Black
Seasons in the Abyss
Strike of the Beast
Dead Skin Mask
South of Heaven
Angel of Death