With a new drummer, how does the new album stack up?
The world is certainly quite a different place than it was in 1988, but one thing is the same. Slayer remain the most intense, infectious, and irresistible thrashers of all-time. In fact, as evidenced by last night’s “Old School” set, their sheer power has only increased with time as if those years fortified the group’s razor sharp riffs and surgically precise solos into an immortal metallic beast. “Immortality” might as well have been on everyone’s mind. It hasn’t even been a year since Jeff Hanneman‘s passing, but his spirit hang heavy throughout every single movement of the band’s orchestra of viciousness. Once the backdrop with his name dropped, it made for a catharsis of the highest order.
Of course Hanneman’s influence will never diminish, but Kerry King laid down the gauntlet even harder for his fallen comrade. From the moment the white curtain dropped to reveal the group on a downright cinematic “Hell Awaits”, King ripped the strings of his B.C. Rich as if his very life depended on it. Locking in with returning drummer Paul Bostaph, guitarist Gary Holt, and Araya, their unholy fusion yielded flawless results for the entire night.
“The Antichrist” roared on the screeching lead, while “Necrophiliac” ruptured the earth with its light speed steam rolling double bass. South of Heaven classic “Mandatory Suicide” volleyed from a succinct squealing guitar into a melodically devilish descent as “Captor of Sin” melted psyches with brute force and brilliant delivery. “War Ensemble” stood out while the pit circled into tribal organized chaos. King’s virtuousity shined through slipping from the divinely deadly six-string assault into more mind-numbing lead work, while Araya ran through the lyrics without losing breath or bombast. The same could be said for the death march stomp of “Postmortem” as well as “Altar of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves”.
Slayer always excelled at honing darkness into groove, and those elements converged into a perfect storm during “Seasons in the Abyss” while “Raining Blood” brought down its own kind of precipitation on the drought-ed Hollywood.
At one point, Araya smiled, “You guys look like you’re having a good time after all these years”.
That’s the point at the end of the day. “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death” let out the kind of release music fans only dream of. Time only morphed Slayer into a stronger monster, and they delivered one of the best shows of their career—25 years in the making.
Also at the top of their game, Gojira evinced why they’re 21st century heavy metals saviors. Coming out to the ominous swell of “Oroborus”, the French foursome immediately transfixed. Vocalist and guitarist and Joseph Duplantier tapped on the low strings, igniting a hypnotic and heavy haze drapping over the audience. His brother drummer Mario pounded out each rhythm perfectly as Jean-Michel Labadie bolted down brutal bass lines and Christian Andreu offered the ultimate guitar foil. “The Axe” swung soulfully as Joseph screamed the soaring refrain in tandem with the swell of drums and bass.
The frontman asked, “Are you guys fully awake?”
The seesawing brutality of “Backbone” woke up the entire city. It’s incredible to see a band as seamless as Gojira. The quartet never faltered throughout the entire set as they covered The Way of All Flesh, From Mars to Sirius, and L’ Enfant Sauvage.
They dedicated “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” to Jeff, and no doubt he would’ve been proud. “Love” treaded trippy territory, illuminating why these boys could very well be the modern generation’s successor to Tool as far as cerebral metal goes. “L’Enfant Sauvage” ended the evening on a tight and tough note, cascading into one last destructive gasp of brilliance.
Opening up the show, Australia’s 4ARM ushered a new era of thrash themselves. The Melbourne outfit fused untouchable musicianship to unwavering intensity, making for a vibrantly visceral attack. Songs like “Submission for Liberty” certainly nodded to the eighties golden age, but main man Danny Tomb harnessed his own punishing panache. Watch out for these guys…
This is the premier metal tour going right now. Don’t miss it or you will regret it…”
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