Ever since Slayer’s “Final Exit” was announced earlier this year, those who had secured tickets to the tour had been counting down the days, weeks and months for their chance to (probably) say goodbye to one of heavy metal’s most iconic bands. The impact Slayer have had on the metal world cannot be overstated, and so it is only fitting that they were accompanied on this tour, as they have been on the US parts of the tour by an absolutely stacked line up.
Due to the nice security people of the SSE Arena Wembley running out of standing area wristbands (WTAF), death metal favourites Obituary (8) were already underway by the time Rock Sins got into the action and they were going down an absolute storm. It was hugely pleasing to see Wembley as full as it was for the openers, who responded by doing what they’ve done consistently for over twenty five years, which is unleash some fantastic riffs and an overall fantastic slice of American death metal. The title track from their debut Slowly We Rot went down an absolute storm, and Obituary may well have deservedly increased their fanbase considerably tonight – what a fantastic start to the show.
Anthrax were quite simply Anthrax (7.5). If you’ve enjoyed them in the past, then anyone falling into this camp is likely to have had a great forty five minutes with Mssrs Belladonna and co. If they’ve never been your cup of tea, this performance probably won’t have changed your mind. This reviewer falls into the former camp, so it was a set that was highly enjoyable for the most part, though the omission of Fight Em Til You Can’t from the setlist in favour of tracks from For All Kings was understandable but highly disappointing at the same time. That being said, tonight is a night for classic songs, and one cannot complain too much when the likes of Got The Time, Antisocial and Indians are being ripped through with such vigour and enjoyment by band and fans alike. Scott Ian brought a touch of class to proceedings as he often can, taking note that this was Anthrax’s fourth time playing Wembley, the previous occasions with Motorhead and Iron Maiden. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if they do so at least one more time before all is said and done.
A virtually full Wembley Arena was then utterly obliterated for the next fifty minutes by everyone’s favourite natives of Richmond “Motherf**kin'” Virginia, Lamb Of God (9). Opening with Omerta will have been enough to cause the longtime Lamb of God fans in attendance to spontaneously combust, and from there things never let up one iota.
Three years ago in this same venue, Lamb Of God thoroughly showed up another of thrash’s big four, putting on a performance that was simply SO good that Megadeth just didn’t have a chance in hell of following them. They didn’t quite hit those loftiest of heights tonight, but it was still one almighty performance with newer songs (an ear crushing 512) going down just as well as the classics like Walk With Me In Hell and Now You’ve Got Something To Die For. Blackened The Cursed Sun was even thrown in as a deeper cut for the hardcore LoG fans in attendance (of which there were many). A pulsating Laid To Rest and what was possibly the biggest circle pit of the night for Redneck until Angel Of Death kicked in some two hours later saw Lamb Of God depart in triumph. After two main support slots of such power and precision, what odds that Lamb Of God will headline Wembley Arena themselves one day?
How do you condense a lifetime of the heaviest, most acclaimed thrash metal into a ninety minute set? When you’re Slayer (9) you can do whatever the hell you want, but the setlist put together by the band for this occasion surely will have thrilled all but the pickiest of Slayer devotees. Opening with Repentless was an excellent choice given how highly their most recent album was regarded, and from there on in there was material from all era’s of Slayer to enjoy.
Never the most talkative of bands on stage at the best of times, frontman Tom Araya spoke even less than usual, fully immersing himself in the experience grinning like only Tom Araya can while Gary Holt and Kerry King shredded and headbanged either side of him like men half their age. To be able to pull out a run of songs like Disciple, Mandatory Suicide, Hate Worldwide and an absolutely thunderous War Ensemble at any point in their set is something most bands could only dream of, and this was all within the first half an hour! The likes of Jihad and Postmortem were also very welcome, while those around us went positively batshit for Black Magic as Paul Bostaph thundered away behind the drumkit.
As things drew closer to the conclusion, the A list Slayer hits continued to flow one after another. A positively evil sounding Seasons In The Abyss was promptly trumped a few minutes later by an even better Dead Skin Mask (although Tom didn’t do his usual intro to the song, which always adds a touch more menace to it and was missed) before Hell Awaits brought the main set to a close. Of course they then went and levelled the place even harder by opening the encore with South Of Heaven straight into Raining Blood. At this point there’s little that can be said other than to revel in the majesticness of one of the greatest metal bands of all time unleashing their most loved songs with the force of a nuclear bomb as circle pits formed all around us, frequently merging and splitting with the hammering of Kerry King and Gary Holt’s fretboards.
There was of course only one way it could end, with a triumphant rendition of Angel Of Death signalling the end of the last ever (we think) London show by one of the greatest bands ever to step foot on that stage. Tom Araya looked almost overcome by it all at the end, a mixture of appreciation, sadness and gratefulness which came across in his short, heartfelt goodbye to the majority still in the venue, saluting their heroes one more time. It was an amazing end to an amazing evening. They just don’t make them like Slayer anymore, and their importance to metal will be felt for years and decades to come. We were just some of the lucky few who got to see a band going out at the top of their powers.