My introduction to Slayer was the Live Undead cassette that my friend Malachai let me borrow in the 8th grade, right after he moved to my neighborhood, with the cool cover art and awesome song introduction (“They say the pen is mightier than the sword… Well I say fuck the pen, cuz it can DIE BY THE SWORD!”) I was sold and dove headfirst into their current and prior albums. I remember being on the bus in 1988, heading to the start of 9th grade, and Malachai being so pissed at how slow Slayer’s new record, South of Heaven, was. He handed it over to me; I popped it into my Walkman and was like HOLY SHIT THIS IS HEAVY. Somewhere out there are two pictures of me from Halloween 1989 wearing my old jean jacket and Slayer “World Sacrifice Tour ‘89” Slaytanic Whermacht shirt; with eye makeup done up like Jeff Hanneman’s from the layout of Show No Mercy. You couldn’t tell me in High school that Slayer didn’t straight up rule.
|this makeup, but NOT as cool.|
|The best photo ever taken of the author in a slayer shirt|
Today, I got in a brief discussion about Slayer with a friend and it caused me to reflect briefly on all the times I had seen them. I first saw Slayer in the summer of 1991 on the legendary “Clash of the Titans” tour, which, though they played before Megadeth, they were the clear true reason why people were there. I think that was the height of their popularity and the last year (1991) that thrash metal was on top of its game. I was 17 and seeing Slayer meant a lot to me, even if I had to cram myself into the back my friend Jeff’s brother’s car- a Pontiac Firebird (they had no backseat) and tough it out for the 60 minute ride there and back.
|The European leg of this tour had Testament and Suicidal opening and we get the very not thrash AIC, explain that.|
I remember some Nazi skins from Rochester holding up some weird Slayer Nazi banner very briefly before they played and the pit being insane, but mostly, I watched Slayer, in awe. By this point, I had listened to them for 3-4 years and seeing them devastate an audience was awesome. As the crowd’s personal regard for safety had completely gone out the window, I found myself drifting further and further to the left of the stage, hoping to not catch a boot to the face. Hell Awaits/ The Antichrist/ War Ensemble/ South of Heaven/ Raining Blood/ Altar of Sacrifice/ Jesus Saves/ Dead Skin Mask/ Seasons in the Abyss/ Mandatory Suicide/ Angel of Death. Decade of Aggression came out a few months later and the first 11 songs were literally the set I had seen, though recorded 2 1/2 weeks later in Florida, not in an amusement park amphitheater in Buffalo. It remains one of my favorite live records (and Slayer releases) to this day.
Slayer came back around in early 1995 and played Buffalo again at the Connecticut Armory, but at the time, I was really down on Divine Intervention, their current album. Their new drummer, the “capable-but-too-many-busy-fills” Paul Bostaph and Tom Araya’s kl really detracted from the album for me. I think I enjoy it now, but then, it was too close to their “classic” material for me to really buy it wholesale. Most of my friends went; all of them praised the show. WHOOPS.
When Slayer came back around in the June of 1998, we went, even though the sampler we heard for their new record, Diabolous in Musica, was pretty bad. It came across like they were now trying to emulate the bands that they influenced to stay musically viable, than just being Slayer. Still we trekked up to Toronto and caught a great gig, with a setlist that only featured two songs off the current record (it had only come out 2 days prior) Hell Awaits/ Spirit in Black/ War Ensemble/ Death's Head/ South of Heaven/ Dittohead/ Captor of Sin/ Die by the Sword/ Black Magic/ Sex. Murder. Art./ Stain of Mind/ Dead Skin Mask/ Raining Blood/ Altar of Sacrifice/ Jesus Saves/ Chemical Warfare/ Mandatory Suicide/ Angel of Death. I remember losing my mind for Die by the Sword, Black Magic and Chemical Warfare. Though I saw them MANY times after, this was the last time I would see a great Slayer show.
About a month later, my band at the time, No Reason, went on a mostly disastrous tour, riddled with cancellations. After NOT playing a show in NJ with art metal band Isis opening- "listen, there's only ONE paying person here and she's here just here to take pictures of Isis." We called the promoter of our next show (Mike Riley, later of Pulling Teeth), two days away in Baltimore and asked if we could come out early. He was kind enough to let us stay at his place, but we did have some time before he got out of work, so we went to the inner harbor area of B-more to kill some time. After roasting in the sun for a while, we went into what seemed like an upscale mall attached and for whatever reason, there was former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo in a Bath and Bodyworks, with (what I assume was) his wife. He looked at us, sized me up with my Samhain shirt and quickly looked away, probably not wanted to be accosted by fans. When we passed him again in the thoroughfare of the mall 20 minutes later, he was wearing sunglasses (indoors) and was slouching his body posture, so we didn't bother him, because he clearly didn't want to be bothered and because we thought the sunglasses/ slouching thing was fucking hilarious.
|Everything here says "this show will be bad," but it was actually good|
|the "metal wall" at my first apartment Circa 1995|
Although the aforementioned Toronto show was the last great Slayer show I saw, I did see some good and decent shows during the God Hates Us All era, and I think that record is OK, but since then it’s been a slow slide down, with me ultimately deciding not to go see them live again after witnessing a miserable, muddy sounding performance in 2012 at the very same amusement park I had seen them at in 1991. Disciple/ War Ensemble/ Die by the Sword/ Hate Worldwide/ Mandatory Suicide/ Altar of Sacrifice/ Jesus Saves/ Seasons in the Abyss/ Hell Awaits/ Dead Skin Mask/ Angel of Death/ South of Heaven/ Raining Blood. The setlist isn’t even bad, it was the performance and that they followed Motorhead, who, even with an ailing Lemmy, blew the roof off the place. When a sick man, who is 20+ years older than you, levels your band, maybe it’s time to stop. Regardless, I still bought Repentless when it came out… old habits die hard.