PHOENIX — One word continuously comes to mind when one thinks of metal music: catharsis. According to Google dictionary, catharsis can be defined as “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” Look around the audience at any metal show and you will see catharsis taking place in many forms. Maybe it’s the down-tuned, insanely heavy guitars palm-muting and blasting you with power chords, or the syncopated rhythms of the double bass drums beating fan’s ears into submission. Whatever it is about the music, metal brings people together and serves as a one-stop shop for the release of myriad types of emotions; happiness, anger, sadness, etc.
There’s a sort of camaraderie between fans at metal shows as people bond over their love for the music and in some cases, their equally great love for alcohol. The evidence supporting that love for metal is alive and well could not have been greater last night at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix as heavy metal forefathers, Slayer took the stage in front of about 22,000 in attendance after several intense opening sets from Lamb Of God, Amon Amarth, and Cannibal Corpse.
Picture this: flamethrowers perfectly synced to the frequent stops of the music with heat you can feel on your face from the audience, a giant, banner adorned the back wall of the stage replete with a devious-looking Baphomet among other satanic imagery, bright strobe and giant spot lights occasionally resembling double helix shapes. These were only a few of the visual treats fans were given Thursday night as some stared silently in awe, while others rarely stopped screaming their favorite lyrics to take a breath. Slayer has been around a very long time and yet despite their collective ages, their energy has not wavered in the slightest. From the opening speed metal riffs of the first song, “Repentless”, to the final onslaught of songs culminating in “Angel Of Death”, Slayer proved that they’re still masters of their metal domain.
Vocalist and bassist, Tom Araya has always had a distinct vocal style; it’s not singing but it’s not your average metal-scream either. It’s visceral, primal shouting from a man who otherwise comes off very kind and cordial on stage during the quieter moments in between songs. He’s a living legend, as are the other members; longtime guitarist Kerry King, recent stand-in guitarist and Exodus alumni Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostaph. Last night at Ak-Chin Pavilion, these four, with their powers combined, recreated some of the heaviest music ever written. King and Holt’s blisteringly fast riffs caused fans to headbang themselves into a state of whiplash, while Bostaph’s drumming undoubtedly caused plenty of heart arrhythmia from the sheer force with which he hits the many pieces of his instrument of choice.
Watching Slayer is a musical experience of course but also one you can feel; physically and metaphorically speaking. Their lyrics are some of the most brutally honest words shrieked into microphones worldwide. For example, “World Painted Blood” (the 3rd song into their set) contains the lines “Gomorrah’s dream to live in sin, has reached its critical mass, man himself has become God, and laughs at his destruction…”, which gives an unrepentant glimpse into what’s on the band’s minds. Death, destruction, the unstoppable collapse of humanity due to its own ignorance; the band frequently come off as messengers of the impending doom that will surely befall humanity should we choose to ignore it. This serves for a powerful concert experience that’s not to be missed should you ever get the chance to see them perform.
It’s worth mentioning that the supporting bands all brought the energy to critically high levels long before Slayer even took the stage.
Florida death metal legends Cannibal Corpse started off the evening with incredible stage presence and easily one of the best renditions of “Hammer Smashed Face” played to date.
Next, Swedish natives Amon Amarth brought along their trademark viking theme, with the drummer sitting atop a replica of a viking ship complete with glowing red eyes. Their unique take on metal and lead vocalist, Johan Hegg’s friendly demeanor, was warmly received by fans.
Finally, Lamb of God stole the show with an insanely heavy set despite a few technical difficulties with the wireless guitar rigs. The other band members never missed a beat and effectively carried on regardless of any technical glitches entirely out of their control.
These are the marks of great live performance and each band, in their own unique ways, served as the perfect appetizers to temporarily appease everyone’s metal palate.
Other high points of the night included one of Slayers more ambitious songs, “Seasons In The Abyss” as well as other brutal numbers like “Mandatory Suicide”, “Hate Worldwide,” “Disciple”, “Temptation”, and “World Painted Blood”. Slayer saved most of the classics like “Raining Blood”, “Hell Awaits”, and “South Of Heaven” for the very end of the night, which made for an extremely captivating finale to a great show on their “Final World Tour”.
Local 98KUPD FM afternoon announcer, Fitz Madrid, prefaced Slayer taking the stage by announcing their imminent arrival as well as commenting on how he first saw the band in 1991 and that he considered it one of the best concerts he’d ever seen. That’s saying a lot coming from a person who has frequently attended many shows because of his line of work and love for music. Slayer’s music left a powerful impression on Fitz after witnessing what they could do live. That impact surely carried itself over to just about everyone else in attendance at Ak-Chin Pavilion last night, many of whom will one day describe their experience of this show as equally life-changing.
Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo
Openers: Cannibal Corpse | Amon Amarth | Lamb of God
Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved