Back in the early 1980’s metal was evolving.
Hardcore punk and the new wave of British heavy metal had co-mingled and given birth to a faster, angrier and darker beast, a new genre called ‘Thrash’. Along with bands like Metallica, Testament, Anthrax and Death Angel, Slayer pushed the genre to new extremes and, in so-doing, carved their notorious name into school books and park benches around the world.
But tonight is sadly one of the last times Australia will get to experience one of the worlds most legendary of bands in the flesh as Slayer are in the midst of their final world tour, having announced last year that they were calling it a day.
Opening the show are Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth whose own career and rise in the metal ranks has been something to behold. Despite being on really early due to the venues curfew there are still a number of fans lining the barricade to see them.
They Kick off their set with Wolves Ov Siberia from their latest offering I Loved You At Your Darkest and they are extremely powerful in the open-air setting of the Riverstage. Songs like Bartzabel and Lucifer echo over the hill and make the band sound heavier and more brutal than ever while Nergal stalks the stage with a fearless determination in his eyes, commanding his congregation to join him in celebration of the sensory onslaught.
Behemoth deserve to be up there on the big stages, they have paid their dues and perfected their craft to the point that it seems like all the years of hard work are finally starting to pay off for Nergal and his crew.
‘Brisbane...we will return, stay strong, hail Satan’ Nergal wails as their set comes to a close.
I have no doubt in my mind that he is right and next time it will be Behemoth with the top billing.
As the opening of Pantera's Cowboys from Hell blasts over the sound system New York thrash legends Anthrax rip into a couple of bars of the classic before going straight into Caught in a Mosh, which causes bodies to be flung around the pit in a sweaty chaotic blur.
Anthrax shows are all about crowd participation, favourites such as Got the Time, I Am the Law and Antisocial are dead set classics and hearing a couple of thousand people all singing along together having a kick arse time is what it’s all about.
It’s right when the band play Be All, End All when the circle pit really opens up and goes bananas and the band sure as hell use that as fuel to keep pushing the set forward with a burst of extra energy and bounce.
‘Do you fucking love thrash metal’ screams guitarist Scott Ian before going into Evil Twin from their latest album For All Kings which gets a great response.
Despite the majority of their set being old school tracks no one is complaining, Anthrax more than did their job at warming up the Riverstage and everyone agrees they need to return sooner than later to do it all over again.
A mysterious black curtain covers the entire front of stage with the iconic Slayer logo being projected onto it.
Once it is dropped revealing the band they blast off their set with Repentless and
Slayer pulverize your senses like a kick in the face with flames blasting from the back of the amphitheater and the echoes of their signature sound violently shaking the walls.
Following it up with Blood Red, Disciple, Mandatory Suicide and my personal favourite Hate Worldwide, the band haven’t even hit the half way mark and the entire audience is in the palm of their hand and loving every second.
Frontman Tom Araya sounds incredible, his distinct growl is as effective and intimidating as it was 30 years ago while legendary guitarist Kerry King has everyone throwing up their horns at every solo he shreds.
There also seems to be an eerie feeling of magic in the air tonight, during the iconic song Raining Blood, the sky opens up and drenches everyone with rain as if the bands thunderous tones commanded it, leaving everyone slack jawed and looking at each other in disbelief.
Even though it has been about 6 years since guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away there is still a sense of him throughout the evening with Gary Holt doing an epic job standing in for him.
The band also pay a touching tribute to him by displaying a giant banner in remembrance during Angel of Death which resulted in an eruption of cheers of respect.
The other special thing about the gig is how many families have shown up displaying several generations of fandom.
Despite the aggression of the pit I looked over at one point to see a young father holding his son on his shoulders as they moshed together on the hill, a priceless moment for them that money can’t buy.
After the set comes to an end and the house lights are turned on Araya can be seen slowly pacing his time at the front of the stage seemingly taking in the moment and absorbing the love and respect from his adoring fans, the look on his face is something I will never forget as he seemed genuinely moved by it.
‘Thank you very much, I’m gonna miss you guys’ he says before waving goodbye and walking off into the darkness side of stage. (I’m not crying you are)
This tour will go down as one of the greatest and memorable farewells in music history and it’s evident that it’s not being taken lightly by the band themselves or the fans.
How lucky we are to say we were there to be a part of it, thank you Slayer....for everything.