Slayer Final World Tour

Fifteen thousand metal-heads, ninety degrees of Georgia heat, five thrash bands, and one dixie storm was the formula for the Atlanta stop of Slayer’s current tour on Friday, August 10. Luckily the rain ceased before the beginning of the show, but an early afternoon downpour made sure Cellairis Amphitheater at Lakewood was a steamy cauldron of blood, sweat, beer, and metal for what could be Slayer fans’ last chance to see the band live. Slayer has announced they will be retiring following the conclusion on this tour.

No one would expect to Slayer to end their career quietly and they certainly lived up to expectations enlisting Lamb of God, Anthrax, Testament, and Napalm Death as opening acts to give the thrash kings a proper send off. All the bands date back to the early eighties and the origins of thrash with the exception of Lamb of God, who formed in the mid nineties.

British extreme metal band Napalm Death opened the show working the early crowd into a frenzy while still in the hottest part a Georgia August day. Bay Area thrashers Testament followed. Like most of the bands, they concentrated on fan favorites including “Over the Wall” and “Practice What You Preach,” but also worked some newer tracks into the set. Guitarist Alex Skolnick upheld his reputation as one the premiere guitar players in metal.

Somewhat surprisingly Anthrax was next on the bill. Certainly Lamb of God has been one of the most popular metal bands of the new millennium and many credit them with ushering in a new era of thrash, but as one of the original Big Four (the Big Four of thrash include the original four thrash bands: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax) many assumed Anthrax would play directly before Slayer. Some fans voiced their opinions that this was disrespectful to Anthrax, but it didn’t dampen their enthusiasm once they took the stage. With original singer Joey Belladonna back in the lineup, they ran down a list of greatest hits from that era including “Caught in the Mosh,” “ Madhouse,” “Antisocial,” “Indians,” and of course the Joe Jackson cover of “Got the Time.” It’s easy to forget that most of the musicians playing Friday are well into their fifties, but Anthrax still performs with the energy they did thirty years ago and Scott Ian is one of metal’s most iconic musicians and personalities. Anthrax has always seemed to be a band that could balance the seriousness and darkness of the music while remembering that ultimately it’s supposed to be fun. It’s good to see that hasn’t changed.

I admittedly have never followed Lamb of God closely but was told to reserve judgment until seeing them live. That was good advice. The band sounded great, but vocalist Randy Blythe commanded the stage with an intensity that could rival any. Pacing back and forth across the front of the stage like a caged lion, Blythe had the pit-faithful in full mosh mode. The front seven rows of seats were removed to make room for a general admission pit directly in front of the stage and the fans put this space to use during Lamb of God’s set.

My indifference to Lamb of God probably stems from an attitude that thrash was not just a style but an era and therefore not seeing any room for something new in genre. I may have to give their music a closer listen to see if I still feel the same way. I would recommend seeing them live and will definitely make an effort to see them perform again.

After four hours of music, the fans were primed for Slayer. They opened with “Repentless” off their most recent album. During the set, flames shot across the stage forming the shapes of pentagrams and inverted crosses. The heat could be felt from at least a hundred out from the stage. They played songs from their entire thirty-eight year career, but the latter half of their set concentrated more on the classics such “Chemical Warfare,” Seasons in the Abyss,” and “South of Heaven,” and the stadium erupted when the opening riff of  “Raining Blood” began. Slayer also paid tribute to founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away in 2013.  A curtain was dropped with the words “Hanneman Angel of Death Still Reigning” written in the design of a Heineken logo, similar to the limited edition beer logo Heineken printed after his death. Knowing the set was coming to a close, Lakewood burst into a deafening roar when “Angel of Death” began. It’s a rare thing to see a band knowing it may be the last time and this was apparent to the fans as few left before the end of the show. It was clear they wanted all the Slayer they could get and Slayer gave them exactly what they wanted.

The tour continues through the end of the year. There are some European festival dates booked for 2019 and rumors of possible Big Four shows in the future, after which Slayer states they will retire. It’s difficult to imagine a metal world without Slayer. Even in my forties it seems like they’ve always been one of the defining bands in metal. Whether this will be the first on many “final” tours or the actual final tour we’ll have to wait and see. I suspect (and hope) that Slayer will continue showing professional dignity and end their career when it’s time without dragging the end out for several years. Either way, a final chance to see them live could be slipping away!

Lamb of God Photo Gallery

Naplam Death Photo Gallery

Testament Photo Gallery

Anthrax Photo Gallery

Slayer Photo Gallery

CD Review: “Busted, Broke & American” by M.O.D.

Method of Destruction unleash a nail bomb of hardcore rage on Busted, Broke & American. “The Final Declaration” is two minutes of vitriolic American bravado over pulverizing drums and thrashing guitars. Frontman Billy Milano has not slowed down a bit, possessing the same energy he displayed in 1985 on Stormtroopers of Death’s classic record Speak English Or Die. The obnoxious “You’re a F*cking D*ick” is a blend of punk riffs and bluesy guitar leads. It is vintage thrashcore with a modern twist. “Fight” is a frenetic number that stops and starts before settling in to a grooving midsection. The following track “Hooligan” is a blasting piece of hardcore with chorus shouts and Milano hoarsely calling out anyone brave (or foolish) enough to fight him. The short breakdown allows the listener to catch their breath before things speed up again. Of course, the album is not complete without an homage to Milano himself. “Billy Be Damned” is the little brother to “Milano Mosh.” It lacks the relentless brutality of the former, but at 53 Billy is still that angry, offensive unpredictable pitbull the metal community loves, or loves to hate. We are treated to a short instrumental with “All Out of Bubblegum” which has a fairly decent shredding guitar lead. However, things get confrontational on “Go Go Revolution” which has a nice contrast with its catchy chorus and barrage of rapid riffs. It is one of the best tracks on the record and hopefully the guys will play it live.

Busted, Broke & American is hardcore metal done right. The grizzled veterans seamlessly meld punk, thrash and traditional metal with no problems. It is no frills metal that gets the job done and moves on to the next track. However, M.O.D are not going through the motions. There is a youthful exuberance to this album and it is obvious the band had fun in the studio. The album has a political overtone as it opens with a speech by President Eisenhower and concludes with a speech by President Kennedy. People familiar with Milano’s previous work knows his political beliefs. He does not hold back and will certainly offend some people. However, provocation is certainly what metal is all about.

The band’s first album in ten years is worth the wait. M.O.D still play offensive crossover thrash like no other with ten mosh inducing tracks on here. Folks offended by Milano’s right-wing politics should probably avoid this album. However, fans and those not easily offended should enjoy it. The insults are a bit forced at times, but that does not lessen the album as a whole. Busted, Broke & American is the hardcore record to play this Independence Day week.

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The Killthrax Tour: The Fillmore

“Are you shooting the Killthrax show on April 3rd?  You really should,” encouraged a fellow photographer at a show a few months back.  And boy, am I glad I did!  With a line-up of The Devil Wears Prada opening for a co-headlining tour of Killswitch Engage and Anthrax, I knew this concert at The Fillmore Silver Spring, MD would be one I’d regret missing.  And so, with my fingers crossed, I contacted the publicity representatives for both headliners in hopes of ensuring a slot in the photo pit.  Triumphant, I stand before you with the shots and experiences you see below.  If you don’t care to read further, just know this: see this show!

The Devil Wears Prada: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | iTunes

A stuttering emission of lights rained down upon the backs of the band members in sync with the blasts of the bass drum, while TDWP raged on stage.  Unfortunately for me, and my fellow photographers, all those lights silhouetted these fine fellows from Dayton, Ohio, resulting with fewer shots for you fine folks, but a great experience for those in attendance.  Throughout the performance there was an ominous air that gave way to sheer brutality as the band flowed in and out of songs.  Often, looking up, I couldn’t even see the eyes of vocalist Mike Hranica, aiding that eerie nature of the performance.  But a raucous applause at the final chord of their set made it apparent how well received this band had been.

: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | iTunes

Admittedly, one of the main reasons I wanted to make this show was to witness the greatness of one of the Big 4 Of Thrash, the New York-based band, Anthrax.  And they did not disappoint!  Loading up a riser in order to set the drums at yet an even higher altitude, the group transformed the stage into a battleground of thrash metal.  The core of the setlist came from the band’s seminal 1987 album, Among The Living, opening with that same one-two punch of its title track and “Caught In A Mosh,” diverging into the well-known “Madhouse” from Spreading The Disease, with a fair helping of their newest album, For All Kings, thrown in.

Throughout the concert, bassist Frank Bello ran, jumped, and rampaged across the stage like a loosed animal; guitarists Scott Ian and Jonathan Donais riffed and ripped; and drummer Charlie Benante – quite at home behind the kit – chewed bubblegum and slammed the skins with a combination of savagery and zen.  Vocalist Joey Belladonna incited the audience with his immense enthusiasm.  He threw guitar picks into the audience on countless occasions, making me worry that the guitarists might eventually be in need of one and find their supply sorely depleted.  During “Madhouse” he even commandeered one of the photo pit cameras and began his own aspiring concert photography career.  As the band left the stage, it felt like the whole night must be over, because it seemed impossible that another act could follow as the cheers of “Anthrax!” echoed on and on.

Killswitch Engage
: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | iTunes

Despite how dearly the audience relished Anthrax, tonight’s headliner had yet to perform.  Killswitch Engage’s stage setup, by comparison to the former’s, was quite minimalistic: four black backers with KSE logos, a few spinning lights, and the band.  But don’t think for a moment that this proved to be a deficiency for these fine fellows from Massachusetts.  Captivating the audience from their first song, “Alone I Stand,” the opening track from their latest album, Incarnate, they pulled out hit after hit that kept the crowd chanting the lyrics.  The circle pits went on for so long, that as the show stretched towards its conclusion I could plainly see the energy dripping off the participants and getting lost in a puddle of sweat on the floor.  One of the most memorable moments for me was the group’s well-known cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” which exuded power into the concert-goers.  And a KSE show wouldn’t be complete without outlandish comments from resident comedian, guitarist Adam D., sporting a sweatband with “TRASH” written across it in black sharpie.  “This next song is not about assholes!” he screamed before launching into “Rose Of Sharyn,” and later joked about having to end the show so they’d all have time for some much needed masturbation.  “The tour can’t go on without it!”

If you have a chance to see any of these bands live, whether on this tour or a future one, you’d be wise to do so.  Each pulls out all the stops to the delight of those in attendance.

Live Review: Anthrax at Atlanta’s Tabernacle Jan. 19

Scott Ian of Anthrax

Considered one of the “Big Four” classic thrash metal bands (along with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth), Anthrax has gone through their share of line-up, recording label and stylistic changes during their 30-plus year career. With that much experience under their belt, it’s no surprise that Anthrax knows how to throw a party. The band appeared to be enjoying every minute of their time on Tabernacle Atlanta’s stage during their opening slot on the current Lamb of God Spring tour, which arrived in Atlanta Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Anthrax, live at The Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA, 2016There’s no denying that this band has personality, and it shows in their performance. Head-banging bassist Frank Bello gets the “Metal Thrashing Mad” award for being the most gregarious of the crew, smiling and bouncing around the stage, only briefly stopping to add background vocals. The “new guy,” ex-Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais, blends in well with the band, providing a quick-fingered counterpoint to Scott Ian’s aggressive rhythm playing. Underrated drummer Charlie Benate lays down the pummeling beat with ease as classic-era singer Joey Belladonna (back with the band since 2010), takes center stage as the ringleader, smiling, throwing guitar picks and constantly interacting with the crowd.

The band’s setlist concentrated mainly on their classic Belladonna-era material, and unfortunately only included one new song, “Evil Twin” from the soon-to-be-released album For All Kings. I was really hoping to hear some more of their new material, but only one song is understandable considering their abbreviated opening time slot.

“Fight’Em ’Til You Can’t” from their 2011 release Worship Music started the set, before the band settled into that familiar, bouncing thrash groove of their classic anthem “Caught In A Mosh.”  It was at the beginning of that song that I leaned over to the security guard in the photo pit and said: “This is when the bodies start flying.” And fly they did. “Got The Time,” “Antisocial,” and the fabulous “In The End” filled out the middle section, before the band once again went back to their critically acclaimed 1987 masterpiece Among The Living for the big ending: a double shot of “Indians” and “Among The Living.”

Anthrax, live at The Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA, 2016

As far as metal concerts go, this is how it should be done. A great venue, tasteful and colorful lighting, and a classic metal band performing at the top of their game.


Full gallery of Anthrax


Full Gallery of Lamb of God