Venue: Santander Arena (Reading, PA)
Opener: Lamb Of God, Anthrax, Behemoth, Testament
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
As you’re probably fully already aware, the legendary Thrash Metal band Slayer is putting their career to bed and is going out in style with a “Final Tour” that finds the bands Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament coming along for the run. If you’ve somehow missed any of our “Upcoming Tours” notices about their last go-round please click HERE to know the full scoop so we can continue along together with as much of the same information as possible. The tour seemed to be skipping the NYC region entirely and instead would set down at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ but with a my scheduling being locked in with the annual Book Expo and The Book Con along with the Five Points Festival, I had to pass on these shows and instead brave a new adventure by heading to Reading, PA for the show that was taking place at the Santander Arena. It would be my very first time heading to this arena and it was something like 125 miles away from my home base. The advance weather report was bleak, but the day turned out nice for a lengthy drive and with good company and a couple of stops for eats along the way my media companion and I arrived at the arena shortly before the doors had opened. With the show starting early there were scores of fans lined up waiting to get inside. This is always a sight that I like to see when I go to multiple band bills like this one. Testament would be starting off this leg of the tour and they are always a solid experience. Let’s review.
Testament: I always love a Testament show because they are just one of the tightest Metal bands on the planet today. For the final Slayer run they would be continuing their “Brotherhood Of The Snake” tour but the early start time meant a very abbreviated set list from the Thrashers. The band hit the ground running with their first number and guitarist Skolnick was shredding like a madman while singer Billy screamed and rallied the fans that were already inside the arena. Sadly it wasn’t packed just yet, but it was a weekday, and this was a super early set time which I can appreciate being a difficult thing to be on point for. The set was a strong one and featured some of the bands classic tunes which I still consider favorites. Hopefully Testament will be doing some co-headlining runs in the months post this touring cycle because I’d love to be able to enjoy a longer set from them. Behemoth was up next.
Behemoth: What is there that is left to say about Poland’s Behemoth? Thanks to their most recent Metal Blade Records release “The Satanist”, they seem to have cemented themselves into the worlds Metal psyche as one of the most intense and powerful bands. Finding them on the Slayer tour can only do good things for their album sales and eventual headlining gigs. The hit the stage like a hurricane but I must admit it was also very, very dark in terms of visibility. There is a tremendous sense of drama in their delivery and when your bassist Orion is more than six feet tall, there is an imposing vibe as well. Fronted by the great Nergal, he curated their brief blasphemous mass for the crowd who were eating up every second of their set. I was happy to find a lot of the crowd in place because in the NJ region show that a lot of my friends went to, learned that many of their number decided to stay in the parking lot drinking beers until Slayer was close to hitting the stage. Way to support the future of Metal when they go away. Nergal keeps the banter brief which is good but as I said drama is laden from beginning to end in their set. Behemoth covered a bit of ground with their set that featured some old stuff and some new and a few costume and mask changes which is not something you often see in an early opener. When Behemoth maps out a set list, its always going to deliver the goods and to miss them is something that makes me wonder if you want the Metal genre to grow and proliferate. Now it was time to get caught in a mosh with Anthrax.
Behemoth Setlist: Ov Fire and the Void, Demigod, Ora Proo Nobis Lucifer, Wolves ov Siberia, Chant for Eschaton, O Father O Satan O Sun!
Anthrax: 2018 finds the guys in Anthrax as energetic as ever and bringing the good word of Metal to the masses. Historically speaking I’ve managed to catch Anthrax a lot over the most recent years and have to admit that they remain one of the most exciting bands on the stage. The group is still made up of most of its most honored lineup (Belladonna, Benante, Bello and Ian) and they appear to approach each gig like its meeting a new world of friends again and again. By now there was a better audience in the arena so that was nice to see and honestly you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Metalhead if you’re missing the Anthrax set since it hits you right in the gut. Having seen them as much as I have I can say that there weren’t a lot of surprises in the set and with their continually being one of the earlier acts the band seems to be keeping the setlist loaded with the songs that the audience wants to hear the most. I think that I would drop “I Am The Law” at this point though since I don’t know too many fans talking about the Judge Dredd comic book these days which is a shame since I still love the characters in the famous British series. Maybe they can bring back “Medusa” or add “Among The Living”. Now as the band delivered on all counts the circle pit was going and the bodies were slowly beginning to come over the barrier between stage and the audience. Luckily the security was catching them all and sending them on their way. An exhilarating set that left me slightly out of breath and I must add a couple of additional points about how I felt for this set tonight. First up I was glad that Charlie was back behind the drums because apparently he had fell ill on a show or two that preceded this gig and had Gene Hoglan filling in. Now there is probably not a more precision drummer on the tour, but I think after travelling over 100 miles that I would have hated not seeing Charlie up there. Second point, I don’t think there is anyone in the arena more excited about an Anthrax appearance than their own bassist Frank Bello. To say that he is stoked about every single second of the performance would be an understatement. Watching him get excited about the band’s songs can’t help but make you excited as well. Soon, Lamb Of God will be on the board and crushing the skulls.
Anthrax Setlist: Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time, Madhouse, I Am the Law, Evil Twin, Antisocial, Indians – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll @Tape
Lamb of God: I feel as if LOG has been the direct support act for Slayer for as long as I can remember over what feels like the past almost decade of their shows and hey, if it works it works. The band is no longer a new “voice” for the Metal Legions and now is an established powerhouse that sells out headlining tours of its own. Truth be told the band has been very active over the last few years and seems to take no real breaks at all outside of brief hiatuses. Fronted by Randy Blythe, they feel like a hurricane when they play and much like Anthrax’s set would offer up a broad taste of their greatest works. Some new stuff and some more tunes cited as classics. Their stage setup might set off some wires in your eyes since it’s a lot of strobes and pulsing lights so maybe keep your sunglasses with you or just get down near the pit and rage without worry. As a former drummer I sometimes get mentally lost in the skills of Chris Adler since his playing discipline is not really a conventional one to my ear, but I love how it works for the kind of Metal that they do, and the twin guitar attack of Willie and Rob are ever impressive. I still find my favorites from their set being “Walk With Me In Hell” and “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For”. Now bear in mind that Blythe cusses a lot and calls everyone in the audience mother**kers and I bring this up since a few friends who were newer to the bands live presence felt put off by it. While I can see where they are coming from, this is a Heavy Metal show and those kinds of reservations need to be left at the door. Soon, Slayer will dominate and yes, decimate this place. So exciting.
LOG Setlist: Omerta, Ruin, Walk With Me in Hell, Now You’ve Got Something to Die For, 512, Engage the Fear Machine, Blacken the Cursed Sun, Laid to Rest, Redneck
Slayer: It has been a couple of years since I have been able to catch Slayer in concert and while I surely agree that the band is more than deserving of some rest and relaxation, I have to say that I will miss the overall “experience” that this kind of show becomes for the conventional Heavy Metal fan. It is without question that there is nothing quite like a Slayer live concert because it brings out all of the diehards and yeah even a whole bunch of the wild ones come out as well but hey that is to be expected when a Heavy Metal band of legend such as this one comes a calling. Knowing full well the kind of experience I would get was the reason I was willing to go more than 100 miles to see them in another state at a venue I had never entered before and I was probably not alone in this. Before the band comes out, a giant curtain is draped across the stage and visuals of crosses and the bands name can be observed before its taken down and the band is there in all their glory. In 2019, Slayer remains as Araya and King from the original lineup with no longer new to the team members of Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph.
They would open with “Repentless” from their latest album of the same name which comes care of Nuclear Blast Records and I’ve got to be honest, I am happy that they have found a home on this label since it remains one of my very favorites in terms of the overall output. For me, the set was a pretty sound one and featured most of the songs that I wanted to hear from assorted albums. I was NOT a fan of the band when I first heard them since Thrash Metal took some doing for me at the onset. You might be shaking your head at this, but I didn’t even like Metallica at first either. Anthrax I did enjoy and maybe it was based on Charlie’s drumming – but I digress, this is the Slayer portion of the narrative. Photographing the band is a blast but you need to be quick on your feet based on the overall number of fans coming over the barrier and into the waiting arms of security. One that side of the business is done I found a “safe” space off to the side and just rocked out with the rest of the fans around me. Tom Araya sounded great tonight and while he often rallied the crowd in responses to his commands, he didn’t get into too much chitter chatter and let the music do the talking. He doesn’t really wander around the stage too much and that is instead left to guitarists King and Holt.
As expected the most response came when the bands classics were played such as “War Ensemble”, “Mandatory Suicide” and pretty much the bands final eight songs in the set since there isn’t a dud in there anywhere. “Season In The Abyss” is always a killer one for me but I still find that songs like “Raining Blood” and “Chemical Warfare” make me want to join the pit myself and that is something I would never consider without the influence coming at me from these tunes. There were some thanks to the assembled masses of course and when it all came down to it, the final song would be “Angel Of Death”, a number that might as well be considered the Slayer signature tune based on just how popular it was. Could I possibly be witnessing this song in concert for the final time? Jeeze, I guess I is at that. What a distressing notion but this is a farewell tour and they’ve visited my neck of the woods so oh well. As I walked out the chants of Slayer were rampant as were the rallying shouts of “F—king Slayer”. We did pass a lot of people who found themselves ejected for whatever reason and as I glanced at the floor in the General Admission area there were caps, shirts and shoes in every direction. I am fairly certain that some mobile devices and car keys were in there as well and I hope those items get back to their owners quickly. A good time for sure but a long and exhausting day since we wanted to and did support all five performing acts. I was glad that was the case.
So there you have it, another Slayer tour in the books for me as a creative and I would imagine that this is my last time ever seeing them which is a shame. That is unless they decide to add a third and fourth leg to the “Final Tour” as some bands do and give the Big “Metal” Apple one more go-round in the circle pit. I know that I’d love to see this happening as much as every other Metal head in the city so let’s cross our fingers but I’d suggest that you get out and see them when they are in the region you are in just in case they aren’t coming back through. If you missed this blockbuster touring package you will be kicking yourself for quite a while. Closing up I am happy to report that the long ride home was incident free and after refueling myself with a bad of Famous Amos cookies and a Nestle’s Quik drink I had the energy to get back to my Media HQ from the city where I was dropped off. I’d get a little after 3:30AM but for Metal we must rally and be at the ready. I’ll sleep another day…..
I’m adding this visual in based on my assumption that it’s likely going to be the very last Slayer ticket that I find in my possession. I’d be sad about this for sure but as I’m not involved in the tour routing or the arenas that they didn’t manage to visit during these Farewell Shows, we can only hope for some changes. Do you readers keep your tickets?
Slayer Set List:
1. Delusions of Saviour @Tape
3. Blood Red
5. Mandatory Suicide
6. Hate Worldwide
7. War Ensemble
9. When the Stillness Comes
11. Black Magic
13. Seasons in the Abyss
15. Dead Skin Mask
16. Hell Awaits
17. South of Heaven
18. Raining Blood
19. Chemical Warfare
20. Angel of Death
Official Website: http://www.slayer.net
Official Website: http://www.lamb-of-god.com
Official Website: http://www.anthrax.com
Official Website: http://www.behemoth.pl
Official Website: http://www.testamentlegions.com