I've been a fan of Slayer for just about as long as I've been listening to heavy metal. As such, I have a long and storied history with this band that began with hearing Real Audio files of their music and subsequent purchases from Columbia House with my parents' money. I read every bit of information about Slayer I could find from both online and print sources, and listened to their albums over and over again either on my Discman at school or on my boom box at home. My obsession with the band eventually culminated in a PowerPoint presentation for my ninth grade computer class, where I spent a good fifteen minutes or so extolling the virtues of Slayer to my disinterested classmates. This act of youthful enthusiasm led to a period of time where people at my school thought it was really funny to tell me that Slayer were terrible, but I pressed on without a care and still listen to their music intently to this day. Slayer's show was at the CEPSUM on the Université de Montréal campus, which, for all of you out-of-towners who are experiencing the Montreal scene vicariously through blogs, is a hockey rink with bleachers on only the one broad side of the space. The sound was a big blob of mud viewed through an opaque lens, and there were openers.
4ARM is a god-awful band that does not deserve editorial space, and I seriously wonder what management or booking agency executive they have compromising photos of to have been invited to the tour. Gojira, on the other hand, were great. They played their at-times poly-rhythmic brand of groove metal with gusto, and they were an entertaining bunch of gentlemen on the stage. They moved around and threw their guitars around a lot, and they were pleased as punch to finally be able to speak French to a crowd nearing the and of their long North American tour. I was awfully stoked to hear them play "Toxic Garbage Island", which is a favourite of mine. It was good stuff all around.
After some set-up time, the familiar recorded backwards chant of "su nioj" played along with projected Slayer logos moving around on the stage curtain, and the band launched into "Hell Awaits" as the curtain unfurled. Here, the audience was greeted with a projection of a demon skull wearing a logo-emblazoned helmet behind four gigantic, inverted white crosses, as well as the band members on the stage. It was then that the venue's terrible sound came to life; the drums and guitars were super muddy. Moreover, from where I was sitting, Kerry King's guitar was super loud while I had to strain my ears in order to hear whatever the hell Gary Holt was playing whenever it was his time to solo. Aside from that, though, their set was great. Tom Araya sounded like Tom Araya, and It was a set of old school Slayer: they did not play anything newer than Seasons in the Abyss. The crowd loved it, and there were many gigantic mosh pits formed throughout the set. There was even a spontaneous wall-of-death for the beginning of "Raining Blood". There was also a nice tribute to fallen guitarist Jeff Hanneman in the encore, as the Heineken parody logo became the projected backdrop as they ripped through "Angel of Death".
However, while it did please me greatly to hear great old songs like "Necrophiliac" or "Captor of Sin" (I was not expecting that one), I could not help but make an observation regarding the show's set list for the tour. First, while Kerry King has stated that the decision to only play old tunes was natural, I think there was a more ulterior motive. Namely, with the death of Jeff Hanneman and bad press initiated by drummer Dave Lombardo's rather unfair dismissal from the group, I think that they felt a need to generate some better press through a more classic set. In other words, they decided to play it safe for this tour while everyone gets used to the idea of Slayer only having two original members left in the band. It makes one wonder how much confidence they actually have in any of their newer material. I could be wrong, though.
--Sean Z. hosts the Sublime State of Doom, every Monday at 8 PM.