SLAYER – "Unholy Alliance – Chapter III"
Ice Hall, Helsinki on November 27th 2008
Live review by Luxi Lahtinen
Live pictures by Marko Syrjälä
The third annual “Unholy Alliance” tour hit the European metal-loving soil together with Amon Amarth, Mastodon, Trivium and naturally Slayer, the creators of this tour. The “Unholy Alliance” – Chapter I & II tours proved to be quite successes both in Europe and in the States – and according to the respectable number of people that had arrived to the Helsinki Ice Hall on November 27th to witness this event, this surely wasn’t an exception. The “Unholy Alliance” seems to be a winner´s concept, drawing about 5000-6000 people to the Ice Hall of Finland´s capital city, Helsinki.
Due to this very hectic period in my life, I (un-)fortunately missed all other bands´ live sets on this tour this time except Slayer´s, only managing to see a glimpse of Trivium´s last couple of songs because of arriving so late to the venue. So, fans of the other 3 aforementioned bands: please go and read your reviews about them from some other sites/music publications if that´s your main target of interest then because this review is about Slayer, and Slayer only, the greatest existing thrash band of all time (in my opinion) that is a true epitome and cornerstone of thrash metal for many metal heads around this globe.
I have lost count how many times I have seen Slayer live in my life whenever I have had a chance to see them (maybe about 10 times – maybe even more), but it´s very hard for me to avoid going to their concert whenever they play near my location. The Helsinki Ice Hall is just a few kilometers/miles away from my current location, so stopping by a Slayer show after a hard day at work, isn´t something I should even pause to consider.
Slayer started their set 15 minutes before due to a scheduled playing time, which happens quite rarely. I mean, people have used to it when concerts start like 15 minutes – sometimes even 1 hour late, so it took all of us by a positive surprise indeed that Slayer were 15 minutes ahead of their scheduled time to conquer the stage at Helsinki Ice Hall. Starting off their set with “Fleshstorm” off of the band´s well-received CHRIST ILLUSION album, the crowd went crazy immediately – and the circle pit that was arranged by very young looking kids created a setting for an intense and great metal evening that most of us will remember days and even weeks after.
The next three classic songs from Slayer, “War Ensemble”, “Chemical Warfare” as well as “Ghosts of War”, threw more high-octane fuel to the Slayer machine, and the fans loved and appreciated every single moment of them. For some strange reason, the guitars´ sound was kinda messy (especially Jeff´s – what happened to that one?), and therefore it really didn´t have the best impact on the songs. What also felt a bit odd, Slayer´s much respected frontman Tom Araya, didn´t communicate with the crowd too much, or simply kept his words to the minimum, which isn´t something you´d expect from one of the most popular thrash bands. On the other hand, Slayer has always let their music do all the talking for them, and I for one, wouldn´t want Tom to be like some sort of a twin brother of Henry Rollins, loaded with an incredible gift of gab. Less talk, more sheer slaughtering by the power of their frantic and aggressive thrash – now that´s what all of us expect from a Slayer show anyway. So whatta hell I´m complaining about here anyway?
“Jihad” seemed to excite especially younger Slayer fans in the audience (you could tell that by watching the ever-growing circle pit getting bigger and bigger during the band´s performance; they definitely had lotsa fun at that night, no doubts), but somehow seemed to leave most of older fans of them a bit cold, that have followed the band´s ups and downs through their entire career – still, we never even considering turning our backs on these Cali-veterans of thrash. When Tom shortly introduced a new Slayer track from their upcoming yet untitled album to the crowd, it got all of us burning in our seats/feet again. “Psychopathy Red” sounded great. It´s basically a typical Slayer song: Fast, aggressive and just murderously insane – not to mention the song itself pretty much gives us something to keep our faith as far as the band´s next studio album is concerned.
“Seasons in the Abyss” sounded good live as it has always sounded, and kinda worked out sort of a ´calm-before-the-final-storm´ watershed by its gloomy and mid-paced atmosphere, before the Slayer guys were about to unleash their own furious inner beasts onstage. When it came to the guys´ live appearance, I don´t know, was it just me who felt like Slayer weren´t fully into performing their songs – with their hearts full of passion and dedication, but their performance looked a bit sloppy and not that energetic what we have used to see from them in the past years. There have also been lots of rumors going around for quite some while already about Slayer quitting for good, so maybe even some of those rumors hold some truth in them after all – you just never know. As we all know already, aging doesn´t come alone…
Nevertheless, Slayer throwing us next such raging numbers as “Dittohead” and “Live Undead”, surely made us to forget all the speculation going around Slayer´s future for a moment as Slayer full-bloodedly delivered the songs – and simply gave us a good reason to think about them as one of the strongest and most impressive live bands that ever existed on this planet that can still deliver their goods far better than so many other bands nowadays. Just try to recall how many awards Slayer have won during their whole career as the ´best live band of year-this-and-year-that´, and you are about to realize very soon that they haven´t achieved this reputation for themselves for nothing. So yes, Slayer can still kick our fancy and fragile asses severely in ANY kind of circumstances.
Both “Cult” and “Disciple” somehow came and went by without me paying that much attention to them at all because I already knew what was gonna be ahead of us. Slayer had avoided touching on the songs off of their REIGN IN BLOOD album thus far during the on-going night, so it surely was a clear signal of some great things to come for sure…
A so-called ´Grande Finale´ of this Slayer feast undoubtedly wouldn´t have come in any better form than Slayer giving us the legendary R.I.B. album its entirety – from start to finish, and in a chronological track order. A half hour of pure neck-wrecking and ear-nailing thrash was surely enough us Slayer fans to chew on for many months to come – until Slayer visit us again. What an ending for this Slayer show indeed.
Despite Slayer´s performance on this 3rd annual “Unholy Alliance” tour seeming to lack a bit of passion and heart, I guess Slayer choosing to perform the whole R.I.B. album in the end of their set, pretty much made up for those of us who had attended to the show. The intensity, the energy and the untamed aggression are still a crucial part of a Slayer show – and watching and hearing them playing the songs off of R.I.B., this particular part in question was also very easy to subscribe by each of us.
Whatever happens to Slayer in the future regarding all these rumors about Slayer calling it quits, I can only say that just try to enjoy your Slayer shows while you can. Slayer is still a very good live band although it´s only realistic to state the best days of theirs are unfortunately behind them already, as rude as it may sound to some of your ears. Let´s hope, however, there will be at least a couple of Slayer albums and “Unholy Alliance” chapters more to come from them. Time will tell – and we will wait and see…
01. Flesh Storm
02. War Ensemble
03. Chemical Warfare
04. Ghosts of War
06. Psychopathy Red
07. Seasons in the Abyss
09. Live Undead
12. South of Heaven
13. Angel of Death
14. Piece by Piece
16. Altar of Sacrifice
17. Jesus Saves
18. Criminally Insane
22. Raining Blood
More Slayer pictures from the Helsinki show below…