Monday, 23 November 2015

Slayer - Plymouth Review

Seeing three of the Big 4 within the space of a little over a week was not something that I planned, but that is how it turned out. Megadeth's excellent show in London last weekend was a great display of melodic thrash, and this weekend it was the turn of the pure thrash mayhem of Slayer in my hometown of Plymouth. Joining Slayer on their European Repentless tour are fellow Big 4 members Anthrax, which promised to be a heavy evening. Unlike the last couple of shows I have been to where they felt more like co-headline affairs, this show was certainly Slayer's, with Anthrax acting as special guests. I would have thought that Anthrax deserved equal billing with Slayer, but obviously the promoters do not agree. Plymouth Pavilions is not exactly a hotbed of metal shows, and never has been. This is the third time I have been there in the space of a year however, so things may be slowly picking up. Historically, the sound there was always awful - especially for metal bands. It appears however that during the time I was living away from Plymouth at University that things have improved. Machine Head sounded good when I saw them there last December, and last month's Alice Cooper show sounded fine. I am glad things have improved at the Pavilions, as I always felt the notoriously poor sound would put bands coming down to Plymouth, especially as the Pavilions is really the only large concert venue west of Bristol.

Support came from Norwegian metel band Kvelertak who played for about 30 minutes and warmed up the gathering crowd. While the band were not my thing at all, they certainly had a unique sound and put on a good show for the relatively short time they were on stage. They seemed to mix psychedelic blues rock with extreme metal, and that combination worked better than it should. The guitars had a retro fuzz to them, rather than the usual razor-sharpness of metal, which worked well with frontman Erlend Hjelvik black metal-esque growls. Some of their songs were quite droning, without any real riffs which helped to increase that psychedelic feeling. Some songs though had real classic rock swagger, with riffs straight out of the 1970s. Kvelertak were not my thing at all really, but they went down well with the crowd and it is always good to see something new that is outside your comfort zone.

Anthrax were probably the band of the night for me, and they totally owned the stage for the hour or so that they were up there. With a good mix of classics and newer songs, the veteran thrashers really entertained the crowd, and you could tell that many were there as much for Anthrax as they were for Slayer. I saw the band supporting Motörhead in 2012, and ever since I have been wanting to see them again. Pit anthem Caught in a Mosh was the perfect opening number, and Scott Ian's (guitar/vocals) huge riff set the tone for the rest of the set. Frontman Joey Belladonna only seems to improve with age. His energy is relentless, and he constantly runs across the stage and never misses a beat. He hit some pretty impressive high notes throughout the performance too! Fight 'em 'til You Can't from the band's last album Worship Music went down a treat, and the brand new number Evil Twin from an album to be released next year also received a large reception. The set ended with two of the band's best known songs. Indians had plenty of chances for Ian and Jonathan Donais (guitar) to show off their skills with some excellent dual lead guitar work. I will be interested to see what Donais contributes to his first album with Anthrax when it is released next year, as he impressed me last night. The set ended with Among the Living with the big gang vocal chorus that had everyone singing along. The setlist was:

Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time [Joe Jackson cover]
Fight 'em 'til You Can't
Antisocial [Trust cover]
Evil Twin
Hymn 1
In the End
Indians
Among the Living

After a fairly short changeover, where I moved further back in an attempt to avoid the pits and get a better sound, Slayer hit the stage with a bang with the title track from their new album. Throughout their 90 minute set, the sound was pretty good, with a decent amount of clarity. Gary Holt (guitar) was a little buried in the mix however, but that might have just been where I was standing, as I was more or less in front of Kerry King (guitar). The band's set was career-spanning with quite a few classics, album tracks, and a few from the new album Repentless. Early highlights were the anthemic Disciple, which has a big shouty chorus, and the classic War Ensemble which is pure thrash. Paul Bostaph (drums) is an absolute machine, and he played his heart out all night without ever missing a beat. That was an exercise in endurance, and he passed with flying colours. Tom Araya's (vocals/bass guitar) voice has held up well over the years, and he could mostly be heard clearly above the wall of guitars and drums coming from around him. The band's new material fit seamlessly into the set, with When the Stillness Comes standing out the most with it's moody bassline and evil spoken word-type vocals. As the set went on, all the of the band's most classic songs were wheeled out, including Seasons in the Abyss and  Dead Skin Mask, both of which went down a storm with plenty of singing and movement. The band's two most famous songs finished the night off however, with the evil riff of Raining Blood bringing probably the biggest cheer of the evening, before Angel of Death brought a heavy evening of an anthemic and thrashy end. The setlist was:

Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
Disciple
God Send Death
War Ensemble
When the Stillness Comes
Vices
Madatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Die by the Sword
Black Magic
Seasons in the Abyss
Hell Awaits
Take Control
Dead Skin Mask
World Painted Blood
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Angel of Death

While Slayer will never be one of my favourite bands, I am glad that I finally got to see the legendary band in action live. They are definitely worth seeing, and any metal fan should try and see them at least once. Anthrax stole the show for me however, and I cannot wait until Bloodstock next year when I will be seeing them again!

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