I caught Slayer on the Repentless North American Tour in October of last year alongside fellow thrash legends Anthrax and Death Angel. I remember the buzz I felt afterwards, the magnificent crowd, and the impressive show that all the bands put on that night. Fast forward to earlier this year, I was slightly disappointed to find out that the Summer Tour 2017 featuring Slayer, Lamb of God, and Behemoth would not be stopping in Atlanta. What do you do when one of your favorite bands of all time isn’t playing in your hometown? You drive to Nashville, Tennessee: the home of country music and heart of Dixie. I wouldn’t miss Slayer for the world, y’all!
I booked my Airbnb, filled up on gas, and hit the road on the day of the show and made the 250-mile (3:30 hours) drive from Atlanta to Nashville, thoroughly enjoying the scenic drive. Once there, I dropped my bags off, grabbed my camera, and headed to the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in the downtown district to be greeted by a long line of fans standing outside the venue a full two and a half hours before the show in true Slayer fan fashion. The venue was massive—think basketball arena meets indoor festival stage—with multiple entrances into the main hall and an arena-style seating in the stands.
At around 7PM, Polish blackened-death metal legends Behemoth stepped out in full stage attire complete with dramatic lighting and mic stands in the shape of sigils highlighting the visual component of the band’s live production. Frontman and guitarist Nergal engaged in fire ritual for a few moments and immediately climbed on the stage monitors and pumped his fist in the air to get the crowd in the mood for the opener Ora Pro Nubis Lucifer. Behemoth, who are worthy of headlining their own North American tour any day, also played Messe Noire, Alas, Lord Is Upon Me, and my personal favorite Ov Fire and the Void in a tight 30-minute opening slot. The band is missing Inferno on drums due to the birth of his second child. Not to worry though, his replacement, Jon Rice of Job For A Cowboy, played flawlessly and contributed to an excellent set all around. Behemoth should be back soon with the release of their next studio album sometime early next year.
Lamb of God, another headliner in its own right, came out blazing with Laid to Rest, Now You’ve Got Something To Die For, and 512. The band had their iconic “lamb of god” backdrop flanked by LED screens visually accompanying Randy Blythe’s vocals. The band were every bit as tight and hard-hitting as the last time I saw them in Dallas in 2012. The highlight of the set for me was both Descending and Walk With Me In Hell. Redneck capped off one of the most potent pair of supporting acts I have seen in ages. If not for Slayer, seeing these two bands alone would have made the drive totally worth it.
At 9:15PM, Slayer’s screen show depicting crosses and pentagrams began. With Delusions of Saviour playing in the background, the crowd cheered and roared as the crosses slowly turned upside down. The people behind me impatiently called on “SLAYEEERRRRRR!!!” to take the stage. Moments later, the curtain fell and the band went into Repentless, The Antichrist, and Disciple, wetting the crowd’s appetite for what was to come. Visually, the Repentless-themed backdrop kept changing colors and was highlighted at different angles from song to song, while the stage lighting and effects were phenomenal.
The absolute highlight of the stage show though was the pyrotechnics on display. The flame machines went off in sync with the syncopated and palm-muted sections in rhythm-heavy songs, creating a dramatic effect only possible on large festival-size stages. Sonically, the set had all the favorites including War Ensemble, Dead Skin Mask (with Tom Araya’s legendary introduction to the song “DEAD…SKIN…MAAAAAASKK!!!), Seasons In the Abyss, Hell Awaits, South of Heaven, Raining Blood, and Angel of Death. Kerry King and Gary Holt were spot-on all night, Tom Araya was the usual humble professional thanking the crowd for showing up on multiple occasions, and Paul Bostaph was a beast behind the kit.
Despite the tragic loss of Jeff Hanneman in 2013 and all the speculation about the band’s future, Slayer is, at least for the moment, at the top of their game and easily the most elite group in all of extreme metal. Given the dedication of their fan base, the kind of interest the band garners in cities with a vastly different musical demographic—Nashville is a small-to-mid-size city and overwhelmingly country- and pop-oriented—and the chemistry they have found with the excellent Gary Holt onboard, the band should have no problems moving forward as far into the future as they desire.
Overall: Totally Slaytanic!