Slayer returns to reign over Pittsburgh

Attention, all thrash metal fans: The Slayer juggernaut has hit the road to do a handful of US dates in honor of Jeff Hanneman’s untimely passing. If the onslaught hits your town it is your metal and civic duty to attend what may very well be the last Slayer tour on earth.

Humbly filling the enormous shoes vacated by guitar legend Jeff Hanneman is none other than Exodus axe master Gary Holt, who does an impeccable job of doing Hanneman’s legacy proud and giving it the respect it deserves. Sitting in again for the absent Dave Lombardo, is recurring Slayer regular, the incomparable Mr. Paul Bostaph.

Fans in the greater Pittsburgh area were fortunate enough to have the tour make a stop at the area’s premier concert venue- Stage AE. For the faithful that turned out, the show began long before anyone entered the venue, courtesy of a bike messenger riding a purple neon lit trike, blasting Slayer’s “Raining Blood” out of a boom box attached to the bike.

A show of this nature is surrounded by high expectations and the brutal job of kicking the evening’s festivities into high gear fell to Australia’s own 4Arm, who did an unbelievable job of working the crowd into a absolute frenzy for what the night had yet to unleash.

The band ripped full force into a blistering set of incredibly strong melodic heavy metal with titles like “While I Lie Awake,” “Raise A Fist” and “The Oppressed,” with paralleled enthusiasm, stopping only long enough to ask the crowd if they were having a good time and to say that they were as well.

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They had a few very dedicated moshers in a small, but intense pit all through their pummeling set. They took another brief pause to address the fans before closer “Spent and Bled,” to tell them they had one more left and it was a fast one, so they’d better get a little crazy with them one last time, which is exactly what the frenetic crowd did, moshing like it was their last day on the planet.

Remember that name- 4Arm. With a performance as powerful as the one they laid down and such a strong collection of killer melodic thrash songs, these Aussies are on the fast track to super stardom.

Up next, all the way from France were technical death metal masters Gojira, who delivered a blistering set of devastating melodic death metal, with lethal precision. From the opening notes of “Explosia,” the crowd went completely and utterly insane. Instantly, the crowd split and the mosh pits began, the size and intensity of which, was directly related to the pace and breakdowns of the music the band was doling out by the ton.

As the band played on through Gojira standards like “The Heaviest Matter in the Universe,” “Flying Whales” and the title track from their newest album, L’Enfant Sauvage, there was an endless wave of crowd surfers passing overhead. Those that weren’t moshing or surfing had their horns held high as all heads bounced in unison.

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They stopped only long enough to comment on their last trip through the area with Devin Townsend, to say it was good to be back, to thank the fans for the warm welcome and to ask the now-visceral crowd “Are you fully awake Pittsburgh?,” before tearing into closer “Vacuity,” which they dedicated to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Judging by the fan response and turnout, you would have thought as many came to see Gojira as Slayer, but make no mistake, no one steals Slayer’s thunder. No one!

As Gojira exited the stage, a staff member took to the mic with an announcement that nearly stopped hearts and enraged all those in attendance. He informed the crowd that during the last song of Gojira’s set, a drunken asshole had dumped their full beer over the balcony rail into the soundboard below, shorting it out. He went on to say that security would like a word with said person, if someone could kindly point them out, while engineers worked franticly to fix the problem.

At this point, it needs to be said that this kind of behavior is unacceptable in any public setting where people paid good money for a ticket to a show, only to have their evening ruined by the selfish actions of one ignorant individual. If you choose to conduct yourself in this fashion, please do the rest of those that came to have a good time and unwind a favor and keep your sorry ass at home, jerkoff.

All that being said, proper recognition must be given to the engineers, staff and crew of Slayer and Stage AE for saving the day by not only getting the soundboard back up and running, but doing it in such a timely manner that the band was able to take the stage at their scheduled time.

Finally, the lights dimmed and the intro music began. As the eerie demonic voices, squealing guitars and layers of feedback coarsed through the speakers, the curtain fell. Slayer had arrived and they had come to unleash hell on earth. It was time to let the end begin and to let the demon loose.

They hit the stage hard, fast and deadly, like a bullet from a gun and proceeded to pound out a barrage of non-stop Slayer classics such as “Hell Awaits,” “The Antichrist,” “Captor Of Sin” and “War Ensemble,” one song barreling into the next. They finally paused between “Alter Of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves,” for Tom Araya to address the super charged crowd, which he does by not saying a word. He just stood there smiling, which ended up driving the fans more berzerk than anything he could have said.

The carnage continued as they ripped through “Manditory Suicide,” “Post Mortem” and “At Dawn They Sleep,” before stopping again, this time for Araya to actually speak to the metal masses. “You guys sound ready, so lets continue the pounding.” He went on to add, “They say the pen is mightier than the sword. I say fuck the sword. You must Die By the Sword,” which triggered the song of the same name.

The audio assault was far from over as they raged on into “Seasons In The Abyss,” a killer cover of the Exodus classic “Strike Of The Beast” and rendition of “Dead Skin Mask,” which saw the crowd belting out the lyrics louder that Araya himself, all the while, the ever-growing pit swirling further and further out of control and now encompassing nearly the entire floor.

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The stage went black for a moment, and then was drenched in blood-red lighting, as the sounds of rain start to trickle out of the speakers. That’s right- it was time for what is undoubtedly Slayer’s biggest hit, “Raining Blood.”

Instantly the pit spiraled into madness, resembling something more akin to a riot than a concert.

The stage went black once again as the deafening chants, demanding their immediate return to the stage began. They returned in front of a massive banner that paid tribute to their brother and fallen comrade, Jeff Hanneman, for the encore of “South Of Heaven” and “Angel Of Death” and the now drenched in sweat crowd took full advantage of their last chance to mosh it up.

In the end, this was everything a Slayer show should be and then some. Slayer played a full hour and a half set, consisting of an astounding 20 songs.

It was quite clear from the smiles on the exiting fans faces that everyone had a great time, including the 10 year old attending his first Slayer show with his all to proud papa and the 67 year-old man who held his horns high all night and never once stopped bouncing his head and singing along as loud as he could, proving again that heavy metal is timeless and will never go away.

-Eric Hunker