Slayer made their second stop, and their last ever Southern California appearance at FivePoint Amphitheatre on May 11th. Slayer is the first of the “big four” of thrash metal to declare their exit from recording and touring. At the conclusion of this tour, the equipment will be packed away and an exclamation point will be placed at the end of the 37 year life span of the group. This last appearance is appropriately encompassed in a rare, dreary day in May in California. Fitting the tour’s stature of the baseball equivalent of a walk-off homer, they brought along some heavy hitters to load the bases.
Festivities are kicked off at 5:00 p.m. with Testament. The quintet formed in the bay area some 35 years ago, plays under a partly sunny sky at this rather early set time. Testament rips through a 30 minute set to warm up the unseasonably cool and breezy afternoon. Chuck Billy (vocals), Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson (lead and rhythm guitar, respectively), Gene Hoglan (drums) and Steve Di Giorgio (bass) turn out one thumping number after another. The faithful early arrivals near the front of the stage diligently pump their fists and chant “WAR!” to Billy’s “RISE UP!” in the second number.
Next at bat is the Polish outfit Behemoth. The quartet takes the stage amidst a shroud of manufactured fog and under an increasingly cloudy sky. The facial makeup, theatrical costuming and elaborate dark themed props mesh perfectly with the changing weather conditions. Known by their stage names, Behemoth is fronted by a hooded Nergal (vocals, guitar) who roams the stage and plays the part of the dark ringmaster. Orion (bass, vocals) plays along by snarling at the crowd as he thumps out the deep and dark bass lines. Seth (lead guitar) draws a sharp contrast between the dark clothes and white facial makeup to his long sandy blonde hair. When he is not flipping his mane during a blistering solo, it is blowing in the breeze, creating wispy hair creatures. Inferno (drums) is tucked behind the drum kit and a bit difficult to see for those not in an elevated location in the crowd. But his presence is very evident from the pounding he gives his drums.
As dusk settles over the amphitheater, the now near capacity crowd welcomes the arrival of “big four” band, Anthrax. The quintet originally from New York, deliver a roughly 40 minute set of their brand of straight forward, fast metal. Joey Belladonna (vocals), creeps around the stage and plays with the audience. Scott Ian (guitar) and Frank Bello (bass) traverse the stage, with Bello inciting the crowd with fist pumping and Ian raucously leaping about. All this without any lapses in the music. Jonathan Donais (lead guitar), not as active as his ax slinging band mates handles solos with seeming ease. Charlie Benante (drums) keeps the beat, if you can call it that. It’s really more of a rapid fire whipping and drives the high-speed onslaught.
Darkness descends on FivePoint. Coinciding with the arrival of Lamb of God, a heavy drizzle blows in from the back of the stage. Fronted by Randy Blythe (vocals), who crosses the stage repeatedly and pumps the crowd up. He pauses briefly on a riser at center stage to yell out a few lines, then he’s back on the move. John Campbell (bass) and Willie Adler (guitar), man the left side of the stage. High on a riser behind the rest is Chris Adler (drums). At the right of the stage is Mark Morton (guitar). LoG burns through their set being doused by a relentless rain which tries to quell their fire. As it turns out, the only thing that could slow them down is when Blythe stops the band mid song. He asks the crowd to make room for medics to get and attend to an audience member who has a medical issue. Blythe asks the crowd to “take care of each other.” After about a ten minute interruption, the medics have done their job and the band resumes and completes their set.
The rain which subsided after Lamb of God’s set, returns as the stage darkens and the flames illuminate the Slayer logos at the back of the stage. The lights come up and Slayer begins their 90 minute onslaught. Repentless, the first song and title track of their latest album, is a triple time assault. Tom Araya (vocals, bass), now sans the full beard he had sported as of late, tears through the lyrics. Kerry King and Gary Holt provide the twin guitar attack. King virtually accosts his guitar throughout the set. Playing with such a fervor and voracity that one would be best advised to not get in his way for fear that he may turn that energy on you. Holt, from the other side of the stage approaches things a bit differently, playing with a controlled confidence. The differences become a meshing of one sound that could turn the quarter-mile in about 4 seconds. Behind all of this, no doubt getting soaked is Paul Bostaph (drums). Since the rain comes from the back, he gets water-cooled throughout the set and keeps the pace of the band in a furious manner.
Araya commented on the meteorological conditions stating, “Sorry about the weather, I tried to talk to God about it earlier, but he doesn’t listen to me.” As sorry as he may have been, the weather didn’t seem to bother too many folks in attendance. The metal heads that packed the FivePoint Amphitheatre were on their feet throughout the entire set. Getting soaked right along with their presumed musical heroes, they braved the elements and fist pumped and threw horns for a solid 90 minutes. Knowing this was their last opportunity, most stuck with it to the bottom of the ninth. No rain delay here, the mass wanted to see Slayer cross home plate one last time.
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CLICK HERE to view more pics of Anthrax.
CLICK HERE to view more pics of Behemoth.
CLICK HERE to view more pics of Testament.