Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
They say all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, the same must be said for evil things, and on the night between All Saints Day and All Souls Day, Thrash metal titans Slayer are set to deliver their Irish swan song at the 3 Arena. And what would a farewell party be like if you didn’t invite some mates along? Joining them tonight are their persevering peers and pals Obituary and Anthrax, new wave of American heavy metal luminaries Lamb of God, and several thousand abyss-seasoned metallers out to cure or create Halloween hangovers.
The respectably hefty attendance at the early 6:30 pm slot reserved for Floridian death metal pioneers Obituary is testament to their continued appreciation, at least among the old-school thrashers in the house, and proof that while tonight may be a celebration of Slayer’s career, they’re not the only draw for what is arguably the Irish metal event of the year. From the moment the chugging opening riff of instrumental ‘Redneck Stomp’ kicks in, right through to when the closing bar of title track ‘Slowly We Rot’ rings out, the crowd steadily builds and are seen dutifully banging their heads and soaking up the buzzing atmosphere. Obituary are on top form and show no sign of pressure playing the first set of this UK and European leg of Slayer’s farewell tour and the only complaint overheard was that their eight-song set was too short.
With a comparably curt 40 minute window in which to woo fans new and old, Anthrax step up after a quick backdrop and backline changeover. Opening with an instantly recognizable riff is a great way to start any set, but the New York thrashers catch a few off-guard when that riff is actually Pantera’s ‘Cowboys From Hell’. It leads nicely into ‘Caught in a Mosh’ from one of Anthrax’s most loved albums, Among The Living, released more than three decades ago. With such a short slot, it’s also somewhat surprising that they choose to include not one, but two covers during their seven-song setlist in the form of ‘Got the Time’ and ‘Antisocial’. Both go down well with the obvious fans in the crowd, and sit well beside the remaining original tracks, all plucked from the Eighties, bar ‘Evil Twin’ from the most recent album For All Kings. Sound-wise, things seem a little muddy from where we’re standing, with a lack of fidelity on the guitars, but that comes with the territory in a venue the size and shape of the 3 Arena. Joey Belladonna and Scott Ian interact with the crowd occasionally, to reference Thin Lizzy and to criticize audience members on the balcony for sitting – which ironically is strictly enforced by ushers. They wrap things up with ‘Indians’ and another tribute to the late Abbott brothers in the form of ‘Domination’.
A divisive choice for the penultimate band of the night, Lamb of God have their lovers and haters. Some attendees have suggested using the break between the two “Big Four of Thrash” bands as an opportunity to visit the bar or relieve themselves. Others have cited the new wave of American heavy metal hitters as one of the main draws for tonight’s event. I’m in the latter camp and really enjoy what Randy Blythe and co bring to the table. Thankfully, his minor assault in Dublin on his last visit did not discourage his return, and we hope his experience in the Irish capital this time around is a much better one. Like Anthrax before them, the overall sound seems a bit brick-walled, but the aggression of tracks like ‘Ruin’ and ‘Walk With Me in Hell’ early in the setlist quickly overshadows any qualms. This is where the crowd really begins to liven up and the energy builds to chaotic levels in the pit. The delivery is impeccable and the notable absence of founding drummer Chris Adler doesn’t detract from the performance. ‘512’ and ‘Engage the Fear Machine’ taken from their last full studio album (excluding a recent covers album) receive rousing reactions from the audience and as anticipated, the sing-along finale of Redneck has them chanting “This is a mother-fucking invitation” at the tops of their lungs. It’s hard to fault this band, and they’re long overdue another headline date in Dublin.
Of course, the moment everyone has been both anticipating and dreading is now imminent – the last ever performance in Ireland by one of the most legendary bands in the history of heavy metal. Formed by, and still featuring, Tom Araya and Kerry King in 1981, the four-piece which originally included Dave Lombardo and the late Jeff Hanneman has twelve studio albums to their name, won Grammy awards, sold millions of albums worldwide, and appeared to be unstoppable. But in 2016, after neck surgery required after years of fervent headbanging, Araya hinted that it was time to collect his pension, and in early 2018 the band announced this final world tour, scheduled to wrap in 2019, much to the dismay of their legions of fans.
As the 3 Arena is plunged into darkness for the last time tonight, the thin curtain hanging in front of the stage becomes a screen for a projection of crosses that slowly rotate and invert, followed by pentagrams and the infamous band logo replicated on t-shirts and battle-vests all around us. The excitement is palpable as the opening tracks echo their last album intro, with the instrumental ‘Delusions of Saviour’ and the title track ‘Repentless’. Flames forming inverted crosses burn brightly, illuminating the face of Christ as featured on the album artwork. All four members of the band appear healthy, happy and humbled by the crowd response to their return. Over the course of the next 90+ minutes, almost every album and era are touched upon, surely appeasing anyone who has ever listened to the band. Unsurprisingly, tracks from Reign in Blood, South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss are greeted with the loudest and most enthusiastic reactions from the crowd. Araya occasionally addresses the audience, mostly to give thanks and show humility for the turnout, and once to rant about the stupidity of people in modern society before introducing ‘Payback’ (is a bitch, motherfucker).
A surge towards the pit is triggered by the start of the four-track finale featuring ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Raining Blood’, ‘Chemical Warfare’ and ‘Angel of Death’ and the last ever Dublin Performance is thus vividly burned into the memories of all who were here to celebrate the occasion. As always, Jeff Hanneman is remembered and honored in the finale with their clever Heineken-inspired backdrop. All four members take time to throw picks and sticks to the fans, before leaving Araya last to depart the stage after an emotional response to the crowd’s chanting of “Slayer, Slayer, Slayer”. He leaves with the simple salutation “Godspeed” and a fist bump to the heart. Thank you, Slayer. If you ever change your mind…
The tour continues with these dates:
Nov 05: Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
Nov 07: Birmingham, BCA
Nov 09: Manchester, Arena
Nov 10: Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena
Nov 12: Glasgow, The Hydro SSE
Nov 14: Dortmund, Westfalenhalle
Nov 15: Zwolle, The Netherlands, IJsselhallen
Nov 17: Madrid, Palacio Vistalegre
Nov 18: Barcelona, Palau Sant Jordi
Nov 20: Milan, Mediolanum Forum
Nov 21: Zurich, Halle 622
Nov 23 – Vienna, Stadthalle
Nov 24: Freiburg, Germany, SICK-ARENA
Nov 26: Hamburg, Barclaycard Arena
Nov 27: Lodz, Atlas Arena
Nov 29: Munich, Olympiahalle
Nov 30: Erfurt, Germany, Messehalle
Dec 02 – Berlin, Mercedes-Benz Arena
Dec 03: Copenhagen, Royal Arena
Dec 05: Stockholm, Hovet
Dec 06: Oslo, Spektrum
Dec.08: Helsinki, Helsingin Jäähalli