Bloody and partially dismembered, the ragged corpse claws a desperate path. A single purpose drives its frenzied form: Escape. It must escape.
Demon-winged horrors descend like tortured hail, plucking victims from atop the blood soaked earth. Raining down like sulfur and brimstone. Bodies are strewn for as far as the eye can see. The damned wail before the onslaught of a grisly harvest.
At the center of it all? Hell’s house band. Four grizzled old horsemen articulating the soundtrack of the damned. Love? Love is a fairy tale we sing to ourselves in a futile attempt to avoid night terrors. None shall be spared. There is no forgiveness here. Our hypocrisy and hate are the spoils of a war between a God who hates us all and the instruments of torture he deigned to bestow upon his thuggish lackeys.
This is the Slayer-verse.
And Hell awaits.
. . .
A week before the show, Paul Bostaph of Slayer answers the phone. I find myself vaguely disappointed at the sound of his voice. There is no modulated chorus of weeping souls. No grating growls of attending devils in the background. He sounds like someone who might take your order at Papa Johns. I mention my silly expectations:
Bostaph: I only growl when I’m asleep. — laughs
AltDaily: So you’ve been in and out of the band over the years. You’re not a founding member, but you basically have as much time in as the original drummer, Dave Lombardo?
I joined the band in late.. 1992. Recorded my first record with them in ’94. Left the band in 2001. And now I’ve been back for about four years.
It occurs to me.. If I think about it, that I first heard Slayer in the late 80s. And listened on and off through the 90’s — that for a large chunk of that time you were the drummer I was hearing on those albums. You’re in your early 50s now. Can you talk a bit about what’s changed in the time you’ve been with Slayer?
Well.. There’s the obvious things. The band has had some lineup changes. And of course one of the members unfortunately passed away. In terms of things that have changed beyond the obvious..? You know.. When you’re younger you tend to be.. Different. We’re older and wiser and I think.. Better musicians. When you’re younger you play things differently, but when you’re older you have a different perspective. You recognize the nuances.
I would imagine that there’s not really a ton of drummers that can play this music. What do you do, at this age, to take care of yourself in order to make sure that you’re able to maintain the level you’re playing at and continue with the kind of demanding set list that a Slayer show brings to the table?
You have to take care of yourself, cardiovascular-wise. That’s one of the most important things you can do. If you don’t.. For instance.. When I’m home I hike or bike ride. I used to run all the time and play sports — I don’t do that anymore, in order to take care of my joints. The older you get the more you pound yourself. You know? The more that your body tells you that you’ve got to stop doing that.
But if your cardio is no good? You’re gonna end up sucking wind.
When I was younger, I used to go drinking with the band after the show. I’d wake up with a phenomenal hangover. When you’re young, you can play through it. But now.. It kind of goes into that older and wiser category. When I was younger, I didn’t totally destroy myself, but there were times where I went too far. And now I don’t do that. Every now and then we’ll go out and have a drink. But it’s much fewer these days.
Talk to me about the new album. Is there something different that you’re trying to accomplish that’s different with this release?
Not really. We weren’t trying to do anything different than what we do. We lost one of our brothers.. And as a result Kerry King had to pick up the ball with songwriting. But essentially all we were trying to do is release a Slayer album. The major significance with this record is that some people wrote us off. But I think we came back strong.
If there’s any particular statement here, it’s that, “Hey. We’re still here.”
. . .
The mangled corpse continues to drag itself inch by bloody inch towards some perceived fantasy of safety. Freedom is a feverish thought in the remains of its mind. The stench of death permeates rocky soil as his tattered fingers grasp for purchase along the wretched terrain. Freedom. Keep moving. Never give up. Never give in.
Just as you, gentle reader, possibly hope that the forlorn hero of this tale might find a path to peace amidst the surrounding carnage? A shrieking harpy straight from the burning pits of hell takes note of his efforts.
Our battered revenant howls with fear as he is torn from the ground — carried aloft on a flight of deviltry. Writhing and terrified. Defeated.
Utterly without hope.
. . .
Death Angel & Anthrax
Death Angel opened the show. This is a band with an odd bit of history. An early example of thrash, they flirted with success for a few years before a nasty bus accident sidelined their dream and led to a breakup. They essentially puttered around the scene for a decade before reforming at a charity event. I was never overtly familiar with their work, and the brief research I put in prior to this night left little to be desired.
Imagine my surprise when they blew the roof off. Honestly, these guys are so good they might have joined the ranks of Metal’s upper echelons. I thoroughly enjoyed this set, and recommend you acquaint yourself with their newest record.
Anthrax followed, providing their usual level of virtuosity. I spent some time talking about their sound with a review back in January — they’ve lost nothing since then. Scotty Ian and crew never fail to bring the noise.
After they departed the stage, a white tarp went up to prepare for the arrival of the main event.
. . .
“Playing this shit is all that keeps me alive
I’ll be beating this guitar ’til the day I die”
— Repentless. Slayer.
As a live show, Slayer has lost none of its power. This is surprising to some degree, given that founding member and cornerstone of the group’s sound, Jeff Hanneman, preceded the rest of his compatriots into the void a mere three years ago. On the other hand, maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock that this band still.. You know.. Slays.
Kerry King shows a firm hand at the songwriting helm, and while Hanneman’s presence is sorely missed – King obviously knows what he’s doing, has been doing it for three decades plus, and intends to keep on keeping on. Gary Holt, of Exodus, had been filling in for Hanneman throughout his decline, and as such is a familiar face at these shows. And this is Bostaph’s second tour of duty with the band, replacing founding drummer Dave Lombardo. The result? While much has changed, this is a familiar lineup to stalwart fans.
Tom Araya rules the mic, clutching his bass as though it were a weapon of mass destruction. The advancing years weighs heavily on his frame. It’s difficult to ignore how old our boys look, now. Yet, interestingly enough to my eye? Age works in Slayer’s favor. Rather than making these guys appear out of touch or hanging on past their prime? Their maturity consigns a heightened sense of doom to their workings. In an age of the Walking Dead or White Walkers? Slayer’s decay fits right in. A certain pallor lends itself to the band’s visuals, as you become aware that each opportunity you take to experience the raw power of their sound might be your last.
This is a group walking a tightrope. There are stakes here. And that makes this show and this band — matter.
. . .
As he’s carried away to an eternity of pain, our mournful hero lolls his head in the direction of the battlefield’s raging dirge. Resigned, he decides to spend these last fateful seconds heeding the frightful thunder from four brave souls who are just as vulnerable as he is to the ravages of time.
With a snarl of recognition, he lifts his battered appendage one last time. Forms the Devil’s Salute from his shattered fingers. Draws a final breath with his last ounce of will. And howls.