Slayer – The Final World Tour
With Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament
Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, Va.
June 10, 2018
Text and photos by Peter Atkinson
M’kay, guess it’s my turn for a Slayer send-off now.
But all good things must come to an end. And after 25 Slayer shows since 1986, it would seem No. 26 is to be my last. And while that sucks – as I had grown accustomed to an annual-ish battering by the fearsome foursome, in all of their various permutations – I can’t say this “Final World Tour” comes as a huge surprise to anyone. The writing has been on the wall since guitarist Jeff Hanneman died in 2013 – and better for the band to go out with a bang than limp to the finish line like so many others before them.
And go out with a bang Slayer did at “The Lube,” with a show that was much more festive than the last time they played there, during the ill-fated 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, where it felt like “empty-seat night” at the expansive indoor/outdoor shed outside of D.C. This time, the indoor seating area was essentially full, meaning about twice as many people showed up, and the overall lineup was much more formidable – no disrespect to King Diamond.
But with Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God opening up, the Final Tour is a veritable traveling all-star team of thrash. Add the odd beach ball, Behemoth mainman Adam “Nergal” Darski’s 41st birthday and a whole mess of pyro, and it made for a lively Sunday night that was more a celebration of metal – and Slayer’s place as one of its most revered, influential acts – than the somber end to an era.
Indeed, the only one who really made note of it, until the very end, was Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe. “We’re all here to recognize Slayer. These guys are thrash legends. They have been nothing but good to my band and to all of us here,” he said before the LOG launched into, I suppose fittingly, “Laid To Rest.”
Testament got things started with a brisk, if brief, 30 minutes that was almost half over by the time we navigated the maze that is The Lube’s parking lot and got through will call and security. They were just finishing up “The Pale King” as we got settled in. But that still left “The Preacher,” “Into The Pit,” “The New Order” and the always awesome “Disciples of the Watch,” and you can’t really complain about quality over quantity. And since these guys seem to constantly be on tour, their quick set was effortless, energetic and definitely set the tone for rest of the bill.
Behemoth took things on a blackened death metal detour for a stretch, but their corpse paint, cloaks and sheer ferocity were well received. Their set began and ended with the more dramatic and dynamic “Ov Fire And The Void” and “O Father O Satan O Sun!,” but the midsection was all fury, including the ass-ripping newbie “Wolves Ov Siberia” that sounded almost like a hardcore song set to blast beats. It was pretty vicious.
And it was preceded by a short interruption when Blythe and Slayer guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt came out to share a birthday toast with Nergal and his bandmates and lead the crowd in a run-through of “Happy Birthday.” For a band as dead serious as Behemoth, it was cool to see them let their hair down, so to speak, if only for a moment.
Levity has never been in short supply where Anthrax is concerned, which is one reason that the band has had as many detractors as fans over the years. But since frontman Joey Belladonna returned in 2010, the band has enjoyed a renaissance that has gotten them back into the good graces of many. And they have become a confident, assertive live act once again, offering little of the gimmickry and hokiness – although bassist Frank Bello still goes fucking nuts all show long – that was a crutch from them for years. They were still the most “fun” band on the bill, but because of the natural energy and spunk that made them one of the Big Four in the first place.
The band came out and kicked ass, plain and simple. Drummer Charlie Benante showed no sign of the carpal tunnel issues that forced him to sit out a few dates and played with abandon. Belladonna and guitarist Scott Ian got the crowd good and riled without resorting to tiresome baiting and the set — oldies “Got The Time,” “Madhouse,” “I Am The Law,” “Indians,” “Anti-Social” and “Caught In A Mosh,” and the crushing “Evil Twin” from 2016’s For All Kings — was brisk and ball’s out, quite literally, as beach balls bounced around at the front of the stage most of the way. Anthrax pretty much met with indifference the last time they played at The Lube, headlining the 2012 Mayhem Fest side stage. This time they went over like gangbusters.
Lamb of God had something of a home-field advantage over the others, playing about an hour from their hometown of “Richmond motherfucking Virginia,” as Blythe likes to say. But they delivered a barn-burner nevertheless, even if their self-described “pure American metal” still rubs some old-school thrash purists the wrong way. Whatever.
Showing some renewed vigor, thanks to the break they took following their last tour – also with Slayer, last summer – they stormed through their nine-song set with the commanding Blythe leading the charge, stalking the stage like an attack dog itching to pounce. The all-too-topical “Engage The Fear Machine” and “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” quaked with righteous anger, while the always stunning “Walk With Me In Hell” and the rambunctious “Redneck” brought the house down. If there’s any “modern” band capable of taking the torch from Slayer, it’s Lamb of God, as their intensity and tenacity is undeniable.
If Slayer were feeling a bit melancholy, they certainly didn’t show it in their performance, which was accompanied by a steady fusillade of fire. If anything, the band were looser, more limber and as unrestrained as I’d seen them in a while. And this actually made them more aggressive, recalling their first headline tour with Holt, not long after Hanneman’s death. Then, it was if they had something to prove, but tonight, from note one of the opener “Repentless,” it seemed more about saying “fuck it” and not leaving anything on the playing field, to borrow the old sports analogy.
It wasn’t perfect. Araya came in late with his vocals on several occasions – although his voice was as strong and authoritative as ever, and he was looking leaner and meaner than at any time probably since his neck surgery in 2010, shedding his Jerry Garcia-like visage and seeming more like the frontman of old – and the set list could have used a tweak or two.
The crunching grooves of “Blood Red” made a welcome reappearance, as did the furious “Dittohead,” but swapping the redundant “Payback” for, say, “Stain Of Mind” or “Bitter Peace” from Diabolus In Musica would have ensured all of Slayer’s albums were represented. And shedding the brood and blast of “When The Stillness Comes” in favor of, perhaps, the nastiness of “Necrophiliac” could have allowed Araya to dust off his infamous “maggots” intro one last time. Just sayin’.
But when the denouement came following “Dittohead,” it brought with it a half-dozen undeniable thrash metal classics, the likes of which will probably never be replicated by anyone: the horrific “Dead Skin Mask,” the incendiary “Hell Awaits,” the haunting, almost elegant “South Of Heaven” and then the roiling blitzkrieg of “Raining Blood,” “Chemical Warfare” and the inevitable closer “Angel Of Death,” which has come to embody both Slayer and the genre they championed for nearly 40 years. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
The Hanneman/Heinekin backdrop – flanked by flamethrowers – came down for the finale, paying a last salute to their fallen comrade who helped craft nearly all of the band’s signature songs. When it was over, Holt, Araya and King lingered at the front of the stage for a few moments, throwing guitar picks and soaking up the ovation, something they don’t typically do. But if this is really it, best to take something of a victory lap and enjoy it while they still can.
“Thank you for spending so much time with us,” Araya noted, before he ambled off. “We’re gonna miss you.”
Right back atchya.