Slayer are going out with a bang.
The thrash metal icons are embarking on their final tour – accompanied by an all-star line-up of some of the finest thrash and death acts on the scene.
Wednesday’s five-hour metalfest at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre was not for the faint of heart. Openers Cannibal Corpse, Amon Amarth, and Lamb of God played metal so heavy they made Metallica sound like Katy Perry – and Slayer somehow managed to top them all, closing the night with an aggressive set that traversed their nearly four decade career.
By the time Cannibal Corpse took the stage just before 6 PM, a vicious-looking mosh pit was already in full force.
The Florida death metal foursome’s 27-minute set was characterized by lead singer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher’s tortured vocal gymnastics, erratic tempos, and punishing guitar riffs played so fast it was nearly impossible to hear any individual notes.
Add in some whiplash-inducing headbanging, and the mere act of playing the show seemed to be a feat of heroic endurance on the part of the band.
“Try to keep up with me,” Corpsegrinder growled. “You will fail miserably.”
Transforming the stage into the mast of a marauding ship, Swedish melodic death metallers Amon Amarth played a selection of songs to do battle by.
“We’re here to have a Viking party with you guys,” announced lead singer Johan Hegg, introducing “Crack the Sky,” a thunderous single from their latest album Berserker.
Songs like “The Pursuit of Vikings” and “First Kill” were brutal and grandiose in equal measure, with pummeling drums and thunderous bass laying the groundwork for soaring guitars and Hegg’s medieval growls.
They dedicated to Norse drinking song “Raise Your Horns” to “the almighty Slayer” before finishing with the epic “Raven’s Flight” and snarling war-cry “Guardians of Asgard.”
Next up was an absolutely wicked set by Virginia thrash crew Lamb of God.
Beginning with snarling Ashes of the Wake track “Omerta,” the groove metal standard-bearers played a solid selection of demonic anthems, building up to the closing trio of “Blacken the Cursed Sun,” “Laid to Rest,” and crowd favourite “Redneck,” which turned the pit into a swirling whirlpool of moshing bodies.
The set was marked by jackhammer drums, tormented lyrics, and deliciously dark riffage. Traversing the stage in leaps and bounds, vocalist Randy Blythe performed with a wild energy that matched the intensity of his yowling vocals.
“We came here to do one thing and one thing only – completely f*ck this place up,” he declared, launching into brutal Sacrament single “Walk With Me in Hell.”
Introducing “512” (the stage drenched with red-hot stage lights to match the song’s bloodstained chorus), Blythe took a moment to salute the fans who came out to the show when they “could have been doing something lame, like watching TV.”
“Instead, you’re here with us helping keep this type of music alive.”
The night’s headliners delivered an absolute monster of a set.
Accompanied by macabre imagery, violently flashing lights, swirling smoke, and tons of pyro, Slayer played twenty or so songs at breakneck pace (with singer Tom Araya doing double-duty on bass guitar while blurting out the motormouthed lyrics).
The band got down to business early on, kicking off with recent single “Repentless” and burning through “Evil Has No Boundaries,” “World Painted Blood,” “Postmortem,” amd “Hate Worldwide.”
There was no chit-chat until just before hard-edged Seasons in the Abyss opener “War Ensemble,” when Araya paused to demand, quite ironically, “Are you ready for some family fun?”
Follow-up “Gemini” began as a gloomy dirge before letting loose into an aggressive thrashfest that segued into the vicious and nihilistic “Disciple,” which in turn led into the glorious opening riff of “Mandatory Suicide.”
“Chemical Warfare” also showcased some wicked shredding by founding guitarist Kerry King, as did the lightning-fast and multilayered “Temptation.”
“Born of Fire” (played, appropriately, in front of literal walls of flame) was followed by a hypnotically brutal block of some of the band’s doomiest tunes – “Seasons of the Abyss,” “Hell Awaits,” and “South of Heaven” – capped off by Slayer’s signature song “Raining Blood.”
It was incredible.
There was a moment (after the three-song encore of “Black Magic,” “Dead Skin Mask,” and “Angel of Death”) when it didn’t seem that the night would end. After the houselights came on and the roadies started loading up, Araya hung around for a solid several minutes just watching the crowd ovate, before walking up to the mic and saying quietly, “We’ll miss you guys.”
It was a heartfelt moment to close a show that aimed for aggression over affection.
Their Ottawa gig was a bracing reminder of why Slayer remain the undisputed titans of thrash – cementing the band’s legendary status while making one wonder why they would ever retire at all.
Long may they reign (in blood).
Line-up: Cannibal Corpse / Amon Amarth / Lamb of God / Slayer
Venue: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa
Date: Wednesday, May 22/2019