Thursday, December 4, 2003 @ 12:33 AM
Slayer Live at the Austin Musi
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REVIEW BY: D.S.S.
Slayer rolls through town on the tail end of an old fashion Texas barn busting tour, playing four nights in four cities -- Houston, Grand Prairie, San Antonio, and Austin -- with opening acts Hatebreed, Arch Enemy, and Skinlab in tow. Unfortunately, I’m a bit late to the show and end up missing all three opening bands. While milling around the bar, catching up with old friends and new, the house PA plays an appeasing mix of songs by White Zombie, Iron Maiden, Pantera, and several other bands. At the back of the venue, walls of speakers stacked on each side of the stage give indication this is going to be a very brutal show, but the overall vibe of the crowd is positive, with everyone buzzing about tonight’s encore, Reign in Blood performed in its entirety. The lights go down, and the PA begins to unleash the foreboding sounds of "Darkness of Christ," raising the anticipation level to fever pitch. After all the friendly smiles, cheerful pleasantries, and overall good vibe of the crowd, it doesn’t hit me until this moment: Slayer is in the house.
"Darkness of Christ” continues on for a few minutes as smoke begins to flood the stage. After a brief silence in darkness, the venue suddenly explodes as the opening chords of "Disciple" begin to plow into the anxiously awaiting crowd, while ominous green and red lights begin to wash away the smoke onstage. One has to think this song was composed with the intention to hear thousands of voices chant in unison, "God hates us all!" night after night. The band sounds tight immediately, with both guitars precise and sharp, bass and drums thunderously clear, and vocals acute and discernable. When the song finishes, Tom Araya genuinely greets the crowd and thanks everyone for coming out. He then mentions something about the national anthem or state of the union before launching into, of course, "War Ensemble." As they blast through this piece, flashing strobe lights lash out towards the crowd simulating a state of emergency.
Next up is “At Dawn They Sleep,” and the stage now engulfed in a sea of warm red light, resembles some sort of bizarre theater of the macabre, which goes along well considering the song’s subject matter. Few bands can break down songs better than Slayer, as evidenced by this song’s halftime feel, further validated by the crowd dutifully chanting, “Kill, Kill, Kill!” over and over. During the brief drum roll at the end of this song, Dave Lombardo pounds his set authoritatively, letting everyone know he is, indeed, back in Slayer, at least for the time being. “Bloodline” is next, continuing with the nocturnal creature theme, as the red aura continues emanating from the stage. Two more songs from the last album, GHUA, follow: “God Send Death” and “Payback,” assure that the newer material is not overlooked on this tour. Although fairly recent, each song does have an “old school thrash” feel to it that fits concisely within the parameters of a “classic” Slayer set.
Slowing things down a bit, Slayer pulls out one of their ballads, “Dead Skin Mask,” which receives an enormous response. While Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King trade the intro riff back and forth, Lombardo plays along a smart double bass line. The song ends in a wall of feedback, which serves purpose to introduce the next crowd favorite – “Hell Awaits.” All four musicians continue in their lock step precision during this song, as Araya belts out declarations of war on varying religious matters, flanked on each side by Hanneman and King patrolling the stage. The next song, “Mandatory Suicide,” has Araya crying out the plight of gunned down soldiers in armed combat, which hits close to home with the recent attacks on US soldiers stationed in Iraq. The music matches the lyrical intensity, as the strobe lights again create another state of emergency among the crowd. From here, Slayer goes way back into the vault, and delivers an amazing rendition of “Fight ’til Death,” with King providing more muscle to the intro by palm muting chords behind Hanneman’s picking. I heard they were doing this song on tour, but was still in awe upon seeing it live. Next, the hauntingly familiar riff of “South of Heaven” begins to saturate the room, as green, red, and purple hues swarm the stage. The band proceeds to charge through the popular anthem, as the crowd roars zealously along with the chorus, before giving way to more feedback, bracing for the ensuing chaos.
Now, the moment everyone is waiting for is upon us. This part of the show is a bit blurry, as I find my way, albeit unintentionally, closer to the stage in the middle of the pit for the duration of the encore. Slayer fervidly hammers through “Angel of Death,” and then leaves the stage for a few minutes, before returning to perform the rest of Reign in Blood. The focus and tightness in which they shred through “Piece by Piece” and “Necrophobic” leaves me wondering why these songs were ever removed from their set list. “Altar of Sacrifice” provides the crowd two good Slayer moments, and both receive enthusiastic response. Moving right along, the band slams through “Jesus Saves” at break neck speed, while “Criminally Insane,” delivered with a savage ferocity, follows. Next come “Reborn” and “Epidemic,” which are carried out with an unrelenting heaviness that must be heard live to be fully appreciated. Finally, the majestically caustic duo of “Post Mortem” and “Raining Blood,” in all their ubiquitous glory, close out the night, amid a torrent of exhausted, screaming fans, with everyone wide eyed and fully aware of the magnitude of the event that has come to pass. God may hate us all, but I guess he took the night off, tonight!!
Darkness of Christ
At Dawn They Sleep
God Send Death
Dead Skin Mask
Fight ‘til Death
South of Heaven
Angel of Death
Piece by Piece
Altar of Sacrifice