I had come to terms with the idea of not being at last night’s show. Although it hurt that I wouldn’t be able to see Slayer one last time (this is their farewell tour), my bank account was extremely happy along with the side of me that is trying to take this adulting thing seriously. I scheduled a dentist appointment and figured I’d have a nice night in with some pizza, wine, and a date with my laundry room. I was okay with that. Not. When I got word I was going to the show I lost it. I was excited, sad, anxious. Getting through work yesterday was rough and getting through my dentist appointment (I told myself I couldn’t cancel that because… you know… adulting) was even more painful but the second I walked into The Armory everything made sense and I knew deep down that there was no way I was going to miss this show.
Kicking off the night was a band that, like the four to follow, really needs to introduction. Since the early 1980’s, Testament has been a staple in the trash metal scene. Singer Chuck Billy has a voice that most metalheads fronting bands can only dream of. It’s sinister and powerful but still has a sense of pure talent behind it. It’s more than just growling, screaming, and barking but it’s not. It’s quite amazing to see this band perform. I highly doubt seeing them back in the day was that much different than seeing them last night. They are still high energy and have an undeniable way of commanding the crowd with ease. Although people were still streaming into the obnoxiously early show (doors at 4PM, music promptly at 5), there was a huge crowd jamming along to Testament’s opening set. I knew from the way the pit broke within the first couple notes that last night was going to be a night to remember.
Following Testament was Behemoth- a highly anticipated act with many people in the sold out audience. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a huge fan of this Polish extreme metal band so, of course, I have nothing but amazing things to say about their short set but, beyond my bias, there’s no denying the power that this band has. A bit darker than the music of Testament and the music to come, Behemoth has a very gritty and blackened vibe to them. With Satanic imagery and corpsepaint (exactly what you think it is– makeup that makes them look like a corpse) wearing members, Behemoth was definitely the darkest band of the night but they also fit in perfectly to the intense line-up. Bringing their blacker than black metal sound and creepy stage presence, Behemoth’s set was intense, captivating, and just downright amazing.
It was truly impressive how smooth the transitions between bands were. It seemed like as soon as Behemoth left the stage and I got done in the bathroom, Anthrax was already taking their spots on the giant stage. Hailing from New York City, Anthrax is another band that truly needs no introduction. Metalhead or not, I’m sure you’ve heard their name and/or seen their logo before. They have been provided listeners with a very classic heavy metal sound since 1981 and have been doing so for eleven albums including their most recent album ‘For All Kings’ that came out in 2016. Although like the other openers, Anthrax had a short set, they definitely packed a punch and that punch was received like a badge of honor by the audience. I don’t think there was a single point during their set where the crowd was standing still. The intensity of the music translated too perfectly into the sweaty mess that the audience had become and although people were stumbling out of the pit with the battle wounds or carrying their fallen brethren (it was hot as hell in there and multiple people were passing out and being dragged to the security standing behind my friends and I), everyone had a smile on their face that stretched from ear to ear.
Lamb of God was up next and the band wasted no time jumping into a nine song set of brutality and pure energy. From the first note of “Omerta” and until the final note of “Redneck” was left hanging in the air, LOG’s set was a force to be reckoned with. Although the youngest band on the bill (they have only been around since the mid 90’s), they still seemed to get respect from the audience. That respect and their music says pretty much all you need to know about this Virginia based five piece. Although young and “new” compared to the rest of the line-up, they easily held their own and had the entire audience in the palm of their hands throughout their set. With a quick shout-out to local band Disembodied, LOG easily connected with their fans which seems to be what this group has become known for. Although giants in the scene, it’s clear that they have a very sacred connection with their fans and it was impossible to not get lost in that feeling.
Closing out the night and the reason for the hoards of black shirt wearing, beer drinking, long hair having people was the one and only Slayer. Since 1981, Slayer has been at the top of the trash metal scene. Even with controversy, member changes, member deaths, and a slew of other roadbumps, Slayer has never faltered and have continued to make music that stands out as original and unique while staying heaving and brutal. With twelve albums of material to choose for, it must have been next to impossible for this band to narrow down their setlist but the nearly twenty songs that they played all seemed to be the perfect choice for the rowdy crowd. Because of the quick thinking of my friend who heard a woman offering free VIP upgrades, we were able to watch the show from the balcony. Being able to see the crowd and show from up there truly changed everything about this show. Not only because I could actually see the four legendary members instead of just looking through people’s phones in front of me hoping to get a glimpse, I could also watch as the crowd pushed, shoved and circle-pitted their way through the set.
As I mentioned, last night was part of Slayer’s Farewell Tour. I would like to think that Slayer is not one of those bands that will have eight more farewell tours and, with the way their set felt last night, I don’t think they will be. Although the fire was elaborate and the backdrop seemed to be always changing, Slayer’s set was very understated. The members rarely addressed the crowd. You know what, other than a thank you, I don’t think they said a word to the crowd. This is typical Slayer and it was nice to see that, although this would potentially be my last time seeing these legends, they were still the Slayer that I had come to love. As the final note of “Angel of Death” rang through the giant hangar-like venue, the audience lingered waiting for an encore but, as the houselights came on, it became clear. There was no encore, there was not going to be another five songs. Slayer came in, did what Slayer has become known for, and left– the way that they always have. There’s something painfully poetic and tragic about that and something so beautiful that it easily breaks your heart.
If last night was my last time seeing Slayer, so be it. It was a wonderful night full of brutal music, amazing friends, and a feeling that just can’t be put into words.
Thank you Slayer. Thank you for everything.