Before I started typing this, I put Slayer on. I began with “Evil Has No Boundaries” on their 1983 debut “Show No Mercy”, and it wasn’t until “Criminally Insane” on their 1986 masterpiece “Reign in Blood” that I decided it was time.
I began listening to Slayer in December 2001 at age 14. Instantly blew my mind wide open. To this day, nothing had ever directly influenced me in such a powerful way within seconds. Within months, I owned their entire studio discography up to that point. They were the 5th concert I ever went to, and the 1st one I ever saw in Las Vegas after moving here in the summer of 2002. This was the 7th Slayer experience I had the pleasure of witnessing. 3 with the classic lineup, and 4 with the Gary Holt/Paul Bostaph lineup. It was always 100% Slayer every single time. I never left with an ounce of disappointment or felt like they phoned it in or say “Man, I’m glad they’re hanging it up.”
Most would agree that the bands chosen for this final tour were a bit strange, but Lamb of God had already toured quite extensively with Slayer, and Chimaira hasn’t existed for several years now. Still, Ministry and Primus on the final tour raised a lot of eyebrows. Phil Anselmo & The Illegals did not, however.
I’m not sure what MGM’s system is, but it took me nearly half an hour to walk to more than 1 ticket area, and to have my ticket delivered to me. I was only able to catch the last half of “Fucking Hostile” and “Walk”. My photographer also missed the entirety of Phil Anselmo and wasn’t able to start shooting until Ministry came on. Major disappointment, as I was truly looking forward to seeing the Pantera set from Phil’s band. But what I was able to see, was amazing. His voice was there, he looked great, his band were note for note, and the arena was SUPER into it. I got a ball hair of a glimpse of what I missed from the 90’s… and I want more. It was easy to see that Phil appreciated being in an arena environment again.
In basic terms, Ministry really isn’t too different from Slayer musically. The industrial aspects don’t make them poppy or anything like that. There’s a ton of speed and thrash in their sound, and Ministry have been around just as long as Slayer, and are respected and more than influential in their own right (Nine Inch Nails, Fear Factory, Static-X would attest to that), and they got some pits moving. This was surprisingly my 1st time seeing Uncle Al. They’ve been to Vegas several times in this decade and I’ve somehow missed all of them. I have a feeling I’ll see them a 2nd time sooner than later.
I witnessed a fantastic local Primus tribute band a few years ago and I sorta figured that would be the extent of me experiencing them. I never had any direct intentions of seeing Primus live. I always expected I’d see them open a show or festival eventually, and I wasn’t wrong. While they were totally fun and worth a watch, I didn’t think they felt right on this tour bill. Before and after seeing them. Trippy visuals, Les Claypool’s in your face bass sound and unusual vocal style, a 3 man band to hard-funk you for a solid hour. There wasn’t much movement from the crowd until of course “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver”. Then the action picked up some. In reality, I think Primus was a way to let everyone relax and build up the anticipation for the event we know as Slayer.
Now I’m up to “Seasons in the Abyss”, from the 1990 album of the same name. I’m taking my time writing this one because I don’t want to rush it. I want to feel what I’m expressing. Slayer wasn’t just any other Metal band, or even any other Thrash band. They were FUCKING SLAYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And here I am typing “were”, and now it’s beginning to sink in. Slayer is over. THE Slayer. The band that fans carve and burn their name into their arms. The band that countless people have gone to the hospital for over broken noses, arms, legs, busted eyebrows. The 1 band from the “Big 4” that never really deviated from their aggression and sound even once. No, “Diabolus in Musica” doesn’t count as changing their sound, because it was still Slayer, even if it was a modernized attempt (at the time).
Slayer were road warriors. They’ve toured relentlessly for over 35 years, whether they had an album to support or not. They just kept playing and playing. Especially once I got into them. In 18 years, I was able to get 3 new albums from them. In the process, I had all that time to absorb everything they’ve ever done. Play 3 seconds of any song from any album and I’ll tell you what it is and the year it was released, including the b-sides and rarities.
The curtain fell and “Repentless” began the assassination of everyone at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. We were prepared for war, and a war we received. It was the last stand of Slayer versus Slayer fans in Las Vegas. They pulled out some not so often played songs like “Show No Mercy”, “Jesus Saves”, “Born of Fire”, “Stain of Mind”, “Payback”, and “World Painted Blood” – All of which were refreshing to hear.
Of course they can’t play EVERY single classic, but I’m pretty sure you know what was played. You know. I know you know. But you know what? I’m mentioning them anyway. The classic staples LIKE “Chemical Warfare”, “Hell Awaits”, “Postmortem”, “South of Heaven”, “Mandatory Suicide”, “War Ensemble”, “Dead Skin Mask”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, “Disciple”, and “Hate Worldwide”.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t mention a couple. Do I need to mention “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”? Do I really? Obviously they played them. Would Def Leppard not play “Pour Some Sugar On Me”? Or Black Sabbath not play “Paranoid”? It’s gonna happen.
And by ALL accounts, “Angel of Death” was the song of songs, not that other one that everyone knows. It was king daddy. It’s the god damn definition of everything that is Heavy Metal, Thrash, and just fucking Slayer. Tom hit the high note. Yes he did. And it sounded devastating.
At any given time throughout their performance, there were always 2-3 pits going on simultaneously. With 1 gigantic stirring circle of hell, and 2 smaller minion pits in different areas. It was a beautiful sight. I would have gone in myself, but of the 7 times I saw this legendary band, this was the 1 and only time I was in a seat and not in general admission. It’s ok though. I left my best pit experience with them in Nashville 2 1/2 years ago. I prefer it that way.
As abruptly as “Angel of Death” ended. After the intensity, the pyro, the sweat, the craziness, the loudness, it was suddenly over and they were throwing out guitar picks and setlists and water bottles and waving out and throwing horns.
And then we watched Tom Araya walk all across the stage to standout and look at all of us. Soaking it all in. Fans young and old. 1st timers to concert veterans. We showed him our appreciation. He knows we love him. We love Slayer. We love this lifestyle of music and Rock and Metal obsession. Slayer has long been a staple of it all. We said our goodbye…
Then Tom said goodbye to us. He said he will miss us. And thanked us for everything. And with a crack in his voice, and a wipe to the eye, he walked off the stage, and onward to Los Angeles for the 2 final shows.
Much like Lemmy passing 4 years ago; Nothing will be the same without Slayer being present. No new album to look forward to. No tour. Nothing.
And by some divine intervention (pun completely intended)… I ended this with the song that got me into them. “Bitter Peace” from 1998’s “Diabolus in Musica”. I wish I could say I planned this but I didn’t. Without late guitarist Jeff Hannemann and founding drummer Dave Lombardo at their final tour and shows, or show for that matter… many would look at it as ending bitter peace.
In any case, I’m glad to finish this article, but am not glad that my favorite band is finished.
Review and 2 cell phone shots (Phil Anselmo and Tom Araya farewell) by Marcus Miller, photos by Casey Jade