August 1, 2018 Slayer Hammers Jones Beach, NY 7-29-18 w/ Lamb of God, Anthrax, Testament, & Napalm Death
A blessed Metal Sunday, on July 29, 2018, the immortal masters of sadistic Thrash Metal, the one and only Slayer, bestowed a colossal final North American tour upon The Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York. Thrash royalty, who among The Big Four (Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica) is considered the best of the best according to Heavy Metal fanatics? Well, in a heartbeat, legions of rabid fans hail Slayer as the greatest, and, conceivably, the most influential Heavy Metal band of all-time. Therefore, for Slayer, these legends knew if they ever dared to call it a day, and embark on a farewell tour, just any old road trip would not suffice. As the most brutal, hellish, and dominating band to ever play Heavy Metal, Slayer must go out in an unforgettable blaze of glory.
That all in mind, on January 22, 2018, Slayer announced not only would they set out on one final run across America, but standing beside the band on the farewell tour would be a who’s who of Metal giants whom Slayer call family. Five support acts in total, the Metal militia on Slayer’s final run would consist of Big Four brothers, Anthrax; California Bay Area thrashers, Testament; champions of Modern Metal, Lamb of God; and, in the opening slots, Extreme Metal bands, Behemoth on the first leg of the tour, while the second leg is smothered by Napalm Death.
Prior to digging into the meat of the live performance, to appreciate the end of an era, we must go back over 35 years to the very beginning of Slayer’s storied tenure in Metal. So sit back, relax, expand your attention span more than a few minutes, and indulge in a brief recap of this storied Metal act.
In the beginning, 1981, Slayer was founded in Huntington Park, California by Vocalist/Bassist Tom Araya, Drummer Dave Lombardo, Guitarists Kerry King, and Jeff Hanneman. A force unknown to humanity, Slayer arrived carrying an immensely dark, assailing, and disturbing Thrash Metal sound buried in controversial lyrical content (murder, anti-religion, genocide) and graphic cover art. Slayer quickly carved a reputation for being a frightening force of nature through the ferocious back and forth guitar of King and Hanneman, the earthquake conjuring drums of Lombardo, grouped with the thunderous bass, and insane vocals by Araya. A few years into ripping through the club circuit, Slayer scored a record deal with the legendary Metal Blade Records and released the commanding debut album, 1983’s Show No Mercy. Progressing further into the darkness, Slayer released their second album, 1985’s Hell Awaits, a piece which received immense acclaim from the Metal community.
Going for it all, Slayer teamed up with top record Producer Rick Rubin for their third album, 1986’s Reign in Blood. The result, a sonically polished, rattling album packed with tracks of destructive Thrash/Speed Metal tendencies (“Raining Blood,” “Angel of Death”), it placed Slayer at the forefront of the 1980’s Metal movement. Virtually banned from radio, Slayer needed no support of the kind to establish themselves as one of the best and most popular Heavy Metal bands in the world. Going strong, Slayer released 1988’s South of Heaven, once again working with Rick Rubin, Slayer served up another catalyst for Metal supremacy reaching No. 57 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart.
As Slayer entered the 1990s, when all the Glam Metal bands fell to the Grunge movement, Slayer’s dominance thrived, keeping thirsty die-hard fans pleased with classic albums like 1990’s Seasons In The Abyss, and, showcasing the band’s power as a live act, 1991’s Live:Decade Of Aggression. Throughout the 90’s and into the new millennium, Slayer’s unrelenting drive, alongside more albums and tours, established Slayer as one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands in history. For Lombardo, the drummer had left Slayer in 1991, rejoined in 2001, but sadly parted with Slayer in February of 2013. Sadly, one of Metal’s darkest days, on May 2, 2013, Jeff Hanneman passed away from liver failure.
Though Slayer were hit hard by Hanneman’s death, the band carried on, hiring Exodus Guitarist Gary Holt, and, bringing back former Drummer Paul Bostaph, both men now permanent members of Slayer. In 2015, Slayer released their unprecedented twelfth studio album, Repentless, and headlined the 2015 Mayhem Festival sharing the stage with King Diamond. Reaching 2018, with two founding members left, as many bands do nowadays, Slayer has decided the time has come to take their final bow and are ready to go out with a bang. Now brushed up on important pieces of information, let us get into this epic evening music on Long Island that metalheads came far and wide to experience.
As droves of Heavy Metal’s most dedicated fans piled into Jones Beach Theater, England’s Napalm Death – Mark “Barney” Greenway (vocals), Shane Embury (bass), John Cooke (guitar), and Danny Herrera (drums) – kicked-off the show with a vengeance. Debuting on 1987’s Scum, Napalm Death are considered to be the forefathers of Grindcore Metal, gaining a strong following on the underground circuit mainly in the mid-1990s.
Taking the Jones Beach stage, Napalm Death quickly warmed-up the growing crowd beginning with “Multinational Corporations,” “Instinct of Survival,” and “Smash a Single Digit.” In raging speed, Napalm Death’s set was filled with defiant screams, cynical guitar, and monster rhythms from songs like “Suffer the Children,” “Breed to Breathe,” “Scum,” and, off their latest, 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat, “How the Years Condemn.” Closing the set in the only way possible, Napalm Death left the riled up crowd with the Dead Kennedys cover, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” A prime start to the day, Napalm Death make showing up early a must for fans attending Slayer’s final tour.
Preaching Metal’s gospel next, a veteran unit worthy of leading a second formation of The Big Four, Testament is the bludgeoning frontman Vocalist Chuck Billy, incomparable Guitarist Alex Skolnick, Guitarist Eric Peterson, Bassist Steve Di Giorgio, and Drummer Gene Hoglan. Record sales above 4 million across the globe, Testament found immediate success in mid-1980s Thrash Metal thanks to albums like 1987’s The Legacy, 1988’s The New Order, and 1989’s acclaimed Practice What You Preach.
One of the hardest working bands in Metal, Testament released their crushing eleventh studio album in 2016, Brotherhood of the Snake, and opened this days set via the title track “Brotherhood of the Snake.” Winning the crowd, Testament obliterated via “Rise Up,” “The New Order,” and “Stronghold.” Next, as “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” steamrolled over Jones Beach, the mosh inspiring “Into the Pit” saw lots of action before Testament ended via a stunning “Disciples of the Watch.” Proud to be part of Slayer’s final tour, Testament showed their gratitude to Jones Beach as the crowd returned the favor with an onslaught of cheers.
Hailing from the bustling streets of Queens, NY, hometown heroes, Anthrax arrived to scores of cheers from a wild crowd elated to see the classic lineup of Joey Belladonna (Vocals), Scott Ian (Guitar), Frank Bello (Bass), and Charlie Benante (Drums) take the stage alongside blistering Guitarist Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall). Following the serenade of Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” over the P.A., Anthrax gifted the crowd playing the opening to Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell,” perhaps as a tribute to late Drummer Vinnie Paul who sadly passed away on June 22, 2018. By far one of the most popular Heavy Metal acts of their generation, Anthrax is a world renowned band who has done it all while writing classic albums like 1985’s Spreading The Disease and 1987’s Among The Living.
Hitting the stage hard, Anthrax infected the evening beginning with “Caught in a Mosh,” followed by the sickly melodic “Time,” and trapped Long Island in the Anthrax “Madhouse.” Then, Anthrax continued a forcibly heavy set with “Be All, End All,” and, off the 2016 LP For All Kings, introduced the “Evil Twin.” As “Antisocial” let loose, Anthrax drove the crowd extra crazy, closing with the war dance of “Indians.” Producing the loudest ovation yet from a growing crowd, Anthrax showed Long Island they are Heavy Metal titans by performing a terminating set of classic Thrash Metal.
One of the most acclaimed acts in the genre, the ‘Pure American Metal’ of Richmond, Virginia’s own Lamb of God rose to the stage for fifty minutes of hypnotic energy and unforgiving Metal bliss. Originally known as Burn the Priest, Lamb of God is made up of passionate Vocalist Randy Blythe, maddening Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, and Bassist John Campbell. Unfortunately, due to what the band described as unforeseen circumstances, Drummer Chris Adler is unable to perform the remainder of the tour. Joining Lamb of God on percussion for the rest of the tour is Drummer Art Cruz (Prong, Winds of Plague).
Appearing on a full stage set, Lamb of God detonated into a jolting “Omerta,” followed by the slaughter of “Ruin.” The crowd completely engaged, from a smoke-filled stage, Lamb of God ordered Long Island to “Walk With Me In Hell” and dedicated “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” to the U.S. military. Growing heavier, as the sun began to set, the stage lights became more electrifying as Lamb of God continued to engross the crowd into their world of Metal by way of “512” and “Engage the Fear Machine.”
Gifting an unhinged encore, “Blacken the Cursed Sun” preceded a fiery “Laid to Rest.” As Blythe introduced the last number, the singer encouraged the crowd to really make this one count, as Lamb of God obliterated on “Redneck.” Following the climax, all the packed house could do was give a rousing ovation to one of the hardest-hitting bands in Metal today. A must see live, Lamb of God was imperative as direct support to the main event.
As nightfall came upon the Jones Beach Theater, the roadies set the stage for main attraction as fans prepared for things to come by having one last beer. Soon enough, the house lights blackened and the crowd roared, raising the devil horns and screaming for Slayer to take the stage. Surrounded by images of crosses and religious figures, Slayer took the stage and the curtain dropped exposing Araya, Holt, King, and Bostaph along with scorching open flames and graphic visuals right out of a Horror movie all soundtracked to the opening cut “Repentless.” Loud, fast, heavy, and utterly sinister, Slayer exploded right out of the bowels of hell, crushing all with “Blood Red,” “Disciple,” and a classic performance of the heinous “Mandatory Suicide.”
All about the music, the members of Slayer have never really been ones to talk to the crowd much during the set, though Araya did thank the fan base for coming out and wished all a good time. Spreading a little “Hate Worldwide,” Araya asked the crowd to shout “WAR!” to intro the next cut, and the unmatched corruption of “War Ensemble.” Unlike any other, Slayer stormed on, backed by tombstones and open flames burning into the night while Holt and King played out of their minds on guitar.
As if there was no tomorrow, Slayer sounded overwhelmingly powerful, simply pummeling Jones Beach with the likes of “Jihad” and “Postmortem,” spread wicked “Black Magic,” as well as preached the art of “Payback.” Mellowing things down a bit, if that is even possible, Slayer led a journey in “Seasons in the Abyss” and spoke to the spirits on “Dead Skin Mask” before the most raging portion of the set.
Boiling over, Slayer dug down deep into the catacombs for speed-riddled “Hell Awaits” and overwrought fans via “South of Heaven.” Immediately, Holt, Araya, and King surrounded the drum-set as Bostaph steadily pounded away in an extra long intro as the crowd awaited the unmistakable opening riff to “Raining Blood,” completely ripping apart the sky. Nearing the end, Slayer tore into “Chemical Warfare” and closed in true Slayer form via the ominous “Angel of Death.” As the show was through, the crowd graced Slayer a thankful ovation. Full of claps and devil horns, Long Island showed undying respect to Slayer, who over the years has given everything for Heavy Metal and the loyal fan base. As all four guys waved to the crowd, spending a few extra minutes on stage, Araya thanked the audience before the band walked off into the night.
As Slayer bids farewell, the band leaves behind an undeniable legacy thanks to an immense catalog of stately Thrash Metal that simply cannot be touched. Though Slayer may be leaving the stage for good, the memories of mammoth tours live on in the memories of fans who were there to witness it all go down. From the Clash of the Titans Tour in the early ’90s, to The Big Four shows and beyond, all the way to the band’s final round, Slayer’s tours have been the stuff of legends. That said, the package for Slayer’s final tour gives the band nothing less than the proper send off. For true Metal fans, Slayer’s final tour will take the band into late August. If you have never experienced Slayer live, this is your last chance, what are you waiting for?
Photo credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography