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

Slayer’s Summer Tour drenches Baltimore

Drenching wet, save for my camera, I stood dripping under the canopy of the Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore.  Umbrella or not, blocks of walking through the streets overflowing with water had left me and my fellow concert-goers far from dry.  Our victory: standing in the presence of one another, and soon, of some stellar musicians under the safety of the awning overhead.  Tonight would be one of metal, for we were about to embark upon a journey led by Behemoth, Lamb Of God, and Slayer.

 

Behemoth: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

I had heard great things regarding The Satanist, the newest album from Polish metal band, Behemoth, and thus was excited to experience them trial by fire.  Though I dabbled in a few songs prior to the show, I was largely approaching their music with virgin ears.  Not only did I not burst into flames, but I was stunned by the sheer power exuded by these blood-coated individuals on stage.  Nergal, the frontman of the group, roared out lyrics and waved an incense burner to properly acclimate the crowd, while low-ender, Orion, and lead guitarist, Seth, gave off devilish smiles and riffed out one dissonant chord after the next.  Drummer, Jon Rice, filling in for regular percussionist, Inferno, pounded out one song after another, and I certainly had no complaints.

 

Lamb Of God: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

The Richmond, VA-based groove metalers, Lamb Of God, are the one act who played on July 28 which I probably knew best, especially considering I had reviewed their last full-length release, VII: Sturm und Drang.  However, despite my love of their music, I had yet to see them in concert.  I was not disappointed!  Drawing most of their material from Sacrament, followed by the aforementioned album, the quintet launched through ten of their most recognized songs, even teasing a few seconds of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.”  Throughout, vocalist Randy Blythe hurled himself through the air, belting out his signature guttural tones, while the Adler brothers, along with Mark Morton and John Campbell, created a sonic wall of destruction.  They closed their 50 minute set out with the rhythmically infectious “Redneck,” and it was clear that the crowd would have loved an hour more.

 

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

As part of thrash metal’s Big Four, alongside Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax, Slayer helped pioneer American thrash metal in the early 1980s.  When I tried to induct myself into the leagues of Slayer fans years ago (when I first became a fan of Metallica and Megadeth), I didn’t see the appeal.  However, with time my tastes has fluctuated, and upon listening to albums like Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits, and Reign In Blood recently, I’ve found that immersing myself in their music is greatly welcomed.  And they were ever bit as intense as I imagined, ripping through an hour and a half of music at breakneck speeds, with guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt alternating through blistering solos.  Towards the end, someone attempted to yell at frontman and bassist, Tom Araya, between songs.  Tom, unable to hear what the fan was saying, began moving his lips silently in reply.  I couldn’t see the fan from my vantage point, but it seems someone thought a middle-finger was in order, which saw Araya smiling with the release of a few birds of his own.  Next thing you know, the entire audience was waving middle-fingers in the air.

As a metal fan, I greatly enjoyed this show, and I would have been sorely disappointed had I missed it.  While I was still far from dry by the time the last song rolled around, it was time well-spent, and you’d do well not to deprive yourself of the experience.

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

 

Interview: Jeff Waters of Annihilator (2/3)

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Hello again, friends and fans!  Today we continue a journey which we embarked upon last week.  Jeff Waters returns to give you further insight into the process for creating Annihilator’s new album, Suicide Society, as well as giving you his thoughts on the new Slayer and Iron Maiden albums (with a little look to the future for Judas Priest).  We discuss cookie monster vocals, as well as touch on the new(er) metal scene with artists like Trivium, Children Of Bodom, and Lamb Of God.  We round out our 20-plus min. segment by talking about the advent of digital recording and the pros and cons of being able to create songs while being thousands of miles apart.

If you haven’t done so already, check out a review of Annihilator’s new album, Suicide Society, by a fellow contributor.  The album is available now, so what are you waiting for?  Pick it up!

For more on Annihilator, visit:
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Buy Suicide Society from: iTunes | Amazon
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CD Review: ‘VII: Sturm Und Drang’ by Lamb Of God

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For another perspective on this album, check out David Feltman’s review.
 

I remember when my friend introduced me to Lamb Of God. He was blasting their newest album at that time, Sacrament, and I was enveloped by a combination of thrash metal and groove, which took turns assaulting me from the left and the right. Now, despite what I’ve read from some others out there, I feel that the band has, despite refining their sound, always stayed the course with their music. From 2000’s New American Gospel to the just released VII: Sturm Und Drang, the band’s seventh studio album, it has been one whirlwind of groove-filled riffs, double bass, and vocals dug from the pit of some demonic diaphragm. While some fans sit and complain of bands who never evolve and others rant over the minutest deviation from the norm, I’ll be over here enjoying this new Lamb Of God release.

I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t mention the most obvious thing about this album, which is that it rides in on the back of the band’s struggle with the loss of vocalist Randy Blythe to a Czech prison for 5 weeks and the trial that accompanied it in relation to a 2010 concert in which a fan was tragically injured and later died. Blythe was eventually acquitted, but his experiences have shaped this release. At the very least, he has spoken to the fact that the tracks “Still Echoes” and “512” were written during his time in jail, and the album’s title, German for “Storm And Stress,” seems apt given all that has occurred.

We hit the ground running from the moment the pin drops on the opening track. In fact, it feels like we’ve been dropped in the middle of a chase that was in progress before we arrived. “A thousand years of failure…” Blythe erupts amidst the commotion, making me feel reassured in my assessment. This sense of urgency continues with the following tune “Erase This,” as well as on tracks such as “Footprints” and “Anthropoid,” which steamroll over the listener with indomitable force. The twin guitar attack of Willie Adler and Mark Morton do well in pairing crushing riffs with soaring melodies, and I certainly can find no fault in the combined rhythm abilities of bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler. Of course, a point of contention has already been found in tracks such as “Embers” and “Overlord,” both of which feature clean singing. However, other peoples’ complaints don’t find a home in me the same way. While others view the melodic vocals of Deftones’ Chino Moreno on the former to be out of place, I find the combination of Moreno’s clean voice with Blythe’s raspy growl to complement each other and propels the song higher. Meanwhile, Randy’s solemn singing on the blues-laden latter highlights the intensity of the track’s climactic end.

Whatever small turns might have been taken along the way, Lamb Of God has continued paving their career with a release that brings with it an aura of grandeur. This release is forceful, whether in sound or subject matter. One need only look to the album closer, “Torches,” which brings to my mind images of the start of the Arab Spring in all its self-immolating glory, to sense the passion that was coursing through Blythe as he was writing. If anyone felt that the group was losing their touch after the last few albums, Sturm Und Drang is sure to offer second thoughts. For myself, it has transformed various rooms of my house into one-man mosh pits. Thank you, Lamb Of God; my wife is not amused.

 
For more on Lamb Of God, visit:
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Buy Sturm Und Drang at: iTunes | Amazon | From The Band
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CD Review: ‘VII: Strum Und Drang’ by Lamb of God

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Lamb of God couldn’t have come up with a more apt title for its seventh album. Lead singer Randy Blythe’s incarceration following the death of a fan in Czechoslovakia (as detailed in the noteworthy documentary “As the Palace Burns”) and the extended hiatus that followed caused dark clouds to surround the band. Fans speculated whether Lamb of God had reached the end. Luckily, the band has resurrected. But while a murder wrap and inner turmoil have all the makings of metal legend, or at least the back drop for a solid album, the band’s new release sadly follows the same steady trend toward mediocrity as its previous two LPs.

“Strum Und Drang” has the shiny veneer of overproduction. All of the rough edges of the band’s defining southern metal have been carefully ironed out. One would think that time in a Czech prison would have inspired some fear and anger, maybe a little angst, but the songs found here are disappointingly tame. The album is brimming with mechanical blast beats and cookie-cutter riffs. Experiments with clean vocals on tracks like “Overlord” and “Torches” are cringe-worthy and reminiscent of the cheesy soullessness of bands like Staind. There are glimmers of the band that once was on tracks like “Engage the Fear Machine” and “Delusion Pandemic,” but it isn’t enough to salvage the album. “Strum Und Drang” brings all of the band’s worst qualities to the forefront and even guest appearances by Chino Moreno and Greg Puciato are squandered by poor employment.

Something has soured in the Lamb of God makeup. The band feels hell bent on moving away from the sound that built its fan base and toward radio-friendly banality. Maybe with a little luck and prayer the band will still manage to right itself. But considering Blythe’s recent comments about no longer wishing to scream and wanting to take a break from the band, it looks like the end times are upon us.