Helicopters were circling overhead, police lights flashed, the red and blue beams bouncing back and forth, people shouted obscenities, a beer bottle flew past crashing to the ground. No this is not a description of the L.A. Riots, it is the description of the parking lot of the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood on November 14th 2014 as people pulled into to park for the Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus show. This was Slayer’s first performance at the famous venue that used to be home to the Los Angeles Lakers, surprising considering they consider Los Angeles their home town. It may seem a little strange to be attending a Slayer show so soon after founding member Jeff Hanneman’s death in May 2013. However, the band has actually been playing with Exodus guitarist Gary Holt taking Hanneman’s place since early 2011 when Hanneman contracted a rare infection after being bit by a spider.
Doors opened at what some would consider to be the ridiculously early hour of 6:30pm as many concerts are doing these days, at least in Los Angeles, presumably so the venue can get the fans in and out as fast as possible. Exodus went on promptly at 7:30pm as scheduled and played a short 30 minute set. The set was probably so short because Guitarist Gary Holy would be pulling double duty that night also playing with Slayer. Exodus recently reunited with vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza who was a member from 1986 to 1993, and again from 2002 to 2004. The band definitely had a palpable energy as they blasted through Black 13, Blood In Blood Out, Blacklist, Bonded by Blood, and The Toxic Waltz. Then Strike of the Beast for the encore.
Suicidal Tendencies went on a little after 8:00pm with an energetic version of You Can’t Bring Me Down. The band is now essentially Mike Muir and a group of newbies who joined the band in the past two years. Bassist Michael Morgan has only been in the band a few months as he is the replacement for bassist Tim Williams who passed away last August. It is actually really amazing the band is back out playing so quickly after such a big loss. Morgan did a very solid job, however, adding a level of funk to the mix reminiscent of Infectious Grooves. Mike Muir did not look old among his younger counterparts, keeping up a comparable level of energy as he ran around in front of the giant backdrop featuring the cover of the bands latest album 13. Other songs in the set included mainly old favorites such as Freedumb, War Inside My Head and I Saw Your Mommy. They also did an extended and especially excellent version of Subliminal with the audience chanting many times in unison “Fucking with me subliminally!” The rest of the set included Possessed to Skate, Cyco Vision, How Will I Laugh Tomorrow, and Pledge Your Allegiance.
After a brief pause for all the metalheads to pee, smoke and buy beer, the lights dimmed and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck began to play, but was interrupted about half way through by Slayer launching into a fast paced version of World Painted Blood, the title track from their most recent album released in 2009. They followed that up with most of the song Postmortem, a rather odd choice because they cut off the ending that usually transitions into Raining Blooding and instead played Hate Worldwide another track from World Painted Blood. Slayer seemed to not be too concerned about the continuity of the set list as Altar of Sacrifice and Jesus Saves were the only two songs they played that also followed each other in sequence on the studio album. Overall, they play an assortment of songs that eventually please even the angriest fans. Purists enjoyed a particularly heavy version of Chemical Warfare off of the three song EP Haunting the Chapel, one of Slayers first releases back in 1984. They did also eventually play Raining Blood. Paul Bostaph brought the heaviness with his thundering drums, as he has done for many years now with Slayer. With his presence in the band, Dave Lombardo and his contract issues are a distant memory.
Holt taking Hanneman’s place is another story however. He is a great guitarist and he is always on-point playing the songs, but he also has his own style and his own sound that just isn’t entirely the same. It makes Slayer a slightly different animal in both good and bad ways. It was particularly obvious in the song Dead Skin Mask. Holt has a more clean, crunchy sound akin to Kerry King’s sound, so the contrast with the more dirty sound of Hanneman was missing from the mix. The band didn’t deny the lack of Hanneman’s presence and did a tribute to him during Seasons in the Abyss by displaying his signature logo that reads “Hanneman” instead of Heineken on a Heineken beer label. Disciple was one song that really meshed with Holt’s sound and got heads banging and the mosh pit going with the crowd chanting “God hates us all!” The band played a particularly long set of over 20 song ending with an encore of the staples South of Heaven and Angel of Death.
The future of Slayer with Gary Holt is uncertain at the moment. They are slated to release an album in 2015 on Nuclear Blast records and the band has stated that Holt will be playing on the album, but not involved in the writing. Some songs were already written before Hanneman’s passing and Kerry King will be in charge of the rest. With all of the controversy surrounding the band and its lineup, that album could very well be their last release. Though it remains to be seen what the future holds, there is no denying the epicenes of seeing the legends that are Slayer, and to headbang in Hanneman’s memory.
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