One of the highest profile metal tours of all time is currently underway and I got the pleasure to attend the Montreal date on May 30th. Below entails a rundown of each group’s performance and my overall experience at the show.
Slayer’s final farewell tour kicked off after a video announcement on the group’s Facebook page. While the news is certainly near and dear to every metal fan’s heart, at least the group is going out with a bang. This tour’s attendees not only get to see Slayer live which is a valued pilgrimage on its own, they also get the chance to see Lamb of God, another extremely popular group. While Anthrax, Behemoth, and Testament haven’t broken that mainstream barrier yet, the three groups are certainly very well known within metal circles. The pull factors for this tour are numerous, and every metalhead from your city should be attending your local date. Let’s go over the groups’ performances.
Testament was the first group to warm up the stage. Unfortunately, due to the high number of bands on the bill, the group had to start pretty early (5:00PM EST on my end) in order to accommodate room for the other bands. The stadium was only half full during their set which I found fairly disappointing for those still on the way to the show as Testament delivered a stellar performance.
During their 40 minute set they played about 7 songs from a wide variety of their albums. Fan favourites such as “Disciples of the Watch”, “The New Order”, and the obligatory moshing-song “Into the Pit” were played, and the group rightfully promoted their newest release Brotherhood of the Snake by including a couple of its tracks during the show.
I was thinking about how there isn’t that much of a career age difference between Testament and Slayer, yet there is a wide discrepancy in popularity between the two bands. Their music isn’t that different, and they both have a similar amount of releases and shows under their bullet belts. For those out of the loop, Slayer’s debut LP was released in 1983 while Testament (part of the second wave of thrash bands) released theirs in 1987. Groups like Metallica and Megadeth that started with Slayer have all achieved major fame over the span of their 35-year careers, while groups like Kreator and Sodom who started with Testament have failed to reach equal success, despite there being a mere 4-year difference between the two groups. I guess that career age difference must have been more prevalent during the hay-days of metal when the genre was expanding so quickly. Just a tangent; I digress…
Testament performed very well and had great audience interaction. Frontman Chuck Billy was lively as ever and encouraged moshpit brutality throughout the show. Make sure to catch them live if you get the chance.
I would like to speak on behalf of everyone at the show when I say that I had little knowledge of this group prior to the show and, for obvious reasons, they ended up blowing me away. Poland’s Behemoth is the only non-American group on the bill and they play a mix of death and black metal. Right off the bat, their stage props foreshadowed their outstanding output even prior to them playing a note. Their three microphone stands were decorated to look like worship altars which included metal snakes protruding from the sides. They also had two pentagram decorations on both sides of the stage. Finally, the band members presented themselves only to reveal that they were wearing corpse paint (a white/black face paint aesthetic common in black metal acts) and were dressed accordingly.
Their music is very hard-hitting but accented with strange and eerie guitar melodies while the group’s vocal deliveries are very harsh and screechy to the likes of other popular black metal bands like Darkthrone and Immortal. The culmination of the stage decorations, musical style, and dress code really made the audience feel like they were part of a satanic ritual, and not in a gimmicky way. The group really went all out and I think that it really payed off for them.
The best part of their set was at the end when they gave off the impression that their final song was over and the lights subsequently went dark for a few minutes. I knew that they weren’t done because the house lights hadn’t come on yet, but I definitely wasn’t expecting what came next. Red stage lights came back on to reveal the band members standing in formation; two in front of the aforementioned pentagrams and the drummer and vocalist presenting themselves in the center. The band members changed into long black robs and were wearing goat-like devil horns atop their heads. The minimal light present made each musician look a mere black silhouette which made their newly-adapted horns more prevalent. They proceeded to play an eerie and atmospheric melodic tune which culminated their set. It was probably one of the best single concert moments I have ever had because the whole thing was executed so well.
I have already had the pleasure of seeing Anthrax live a few months ago on their tour with Killswitch Engage. I was extremely excited to see this band in particular because they are so lively and I feel like their music translates really well in concert. I find that a lot of their riffs can be decent on studio recordings but when played live end up being absolutely crushing.
My favourite part of their style is their fun atmosphere. You can tell that the band members are having a blast by their varied stage antics, especially from frontman Joey Belladonna’s energetic attitude. The group played mostly hits and songs off of their well-known 1987 album Among the Living. I won’t talk about them much because I have already covered them in another article, but they were amazing as usual!
Lamb of God
By this time, the crowd was well awake and lively. Lamb of God enticed the most consistent crowd reaction I have ever seen which is most likely due to the fast but groovy nature of their music. People were jumping around and banging their heads all around me. To be honest, Lamb of God isn’t really my style of music but I have nothing bad to say about their performance. All band members were extremely active on stage and the audience clearly reacted positively to that. The lead singer really gave it his all, headbanging and screaming to the top of his lungs whenever he could.
While I could see the main moshpit circling in front of the stage, a secondary one opened up near me for a while during their set. The audience was clearly either very down with Lamb of God’s performance or extremely excited for Slayer to come on next; probably a bit of both.
This was my first (and only) time seeing Slayer live, which I am very grateful for because I only really got into metal music a couple of years ago. With that being said, it truly is a great time for the genre. I have been attending concerts for just under a year now and I have already seen three of the Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax) live; these groups all originate from the early ‘80s so it truly is a special thing that they all still play live dates and release new music. However, all good things must come to an end, and that is why we all came to the show that night.
Slayer’s portion of the concert had a very high production value and their performance certainly topped all of the big names that preceded them that night. They had a massive cloth banner behind the stage that changed about four times throughout the show, with some renditions including glow-in-the-dark paint which looked great when all of the house lights were off. The stage was also fitted with pyro additions that shot flames during the show (two cannons shot in the shape of an upside down cross on each side of the stage and another set fired in the form of a pentagram in the center). I have never seen pyro being shot in specific directions to form shapes like that but I really appreciated their inclusion in the set.
The musicians themselves performed very well, albeit age often showed through their outer shells. The current Slayer lineup serves as a legendary thrash pioneer list, as original band members Tom Araya and Kerry King founded the band over 35 years ago and Gary Holt is an ex-Exodus member, which is another highly recognized metal band from the 1980s. It was really great getting the opportunity to see all of them on stage playing together.
The group’s setlist was extremely varied and included a very good general-overview of songs from their lengthy career. They played for about an hour-and-a-half and ended their set with famous tunes “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”. The group payed an homage to late guitarist Jeff Hanneman by lifting a custom cloth banner in his name towards the end of their set.
The most redeemable factor of the set was vocalist Tom Araya’s humble attitude toward fans. Unlike other metal artists who flaunt their serious and sharp attitude, Tom lets his humble side show during his moments of discussion with the audience. He kept thanking all of the attendees for coming to the show and dedicating so much time to Slayer. After “Angel of Death” was played, Tom’s farewell simply consisted of another praise of thanks and an “I’ll miss you” directed towards the crowd. I totally didn’t shed a tear; that’s not metal.
Don’t miss this legendary tour full of big-name acts. While the price is a little steep, concert-goers get to see over 4 hours of live music played by some of the best in the genre. When the North American tour completes, Slayer will begin the European portion whereby Testament and Behemoth will be replaced by Obituary, another phenomenal old-school group.
We’ll miss you too, Tom.