37 years. Think about that for a moment. 37 years. For most people, by 37 years they’ve grown up, graduated high school, maybe graduated college, had their first alcoholic drink, and maybe voted in an election. For some, they may have even gotten married and had kids. For others, they have gotten married and divorced. No matter the life you may have led, by 37 years time, you’ve had a lot of life experiences. And that’s what Slayer has gone through over their nearly 37 years being together as a band. Life experiences from getting their big break, playing on the biggest stages, losing a member of their founding family, and now saying goodbye to their fans on their final world tour.
On June 15th, Slayer’s tour stop was at the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando, FL. DreadMusicReview was fortunate enough to be given access to cover the show. When I arrived it was already a packed house for a sold-out show. Fans were primarily decked out in Slayer merchandise and others wearing their favorite metal bands shirts. And as expected it was a hot, sweltering day at the outdoor venue. There was a chance of rain that day, but so far it was holding off. The media photographers gathered together in one of the buildings on site waiting to be escorted over for the opening band. All of us were excited for the show. Five tremendous metal bands were going to blow the minds of this Orlando crowd. And before we knew, we were being walked over for the opener: Testament!
Testament originally started under the name of Legacy in 1983 in Berkley, California. By 1985 the band released a four-song demo. After a few line-up changes, the band changed their name to Testament due to another band owning Legacy. In 1987 they released their first album ‘The Legacy’ through Megaforce Records. They gained attention quick going on tours with Anthrax, Overkill, and Megadeth. When they released their second album, ‘The New Order’, in 1988 the sales managed to push it into the Billboard 200. The band continued to have success throughout the years with the last studio album released in 1999. Then in 2001, vocalist Chuck Billy was diagnosed with germ cell seminoma and by 2003 made a full recovery. Though it wouldn’t be until 2008 when the band released their next studio album ‘The Formation of Damnation’. Two more studio albums were released with the most recent titled ‘The Brotherhood of the Snake’. Testament consists of Chuck Billy (vocals), Eric Peterson (guitar), Alex Skolnick (lead guitar), Steve DiGiorgio (bass), and Gene Hoglan (drums) took the stage to kick off the show.
The band opened with one of my favorite songs, “Brotherhood of the Snake” the title track from their latest album. The opening guitar riffs are so recognizable when they played the first few chords the crowd roared. The last time I covered Testament was back in November 2016 when they were on tour for the album. They sounded amazing then and they sounded just as amazing now. Chuck was belting out the lyrics on his microphone on a monopod and when he wasn’t singing, he was pretending it was a guitar. Eric and Alex were ripping through the notes with Eric headbanging away. Steve stood far left plucking away looking cool with his sunglasses on. He even gave me a pose and smile when I got some photos of him. And Gene was banging away behind his tremendous drum set. I was loving it and the fans were as well. They followed up with “Rise Up” from ‘Dark Roots of the Earth’ and then with “The Pale King” also from ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’. One of the best parts photographers love about Testament are not only are they so active on stage, but their songs are so long, it gives us a lot of time to appreciate their awesome thrash metal. The rest of their set included “The Preacher”, “Into The Pit”, “The New Order”, and “Disciples of the Watch”.
Next up was Behemoth, the metal band from Gdansk, Poland who formed back in 1991. The band originally started off as a trio and released two demos before they started getting attention with their third demo album ‘From The Pagan Vastlands’ in 1993. It caught the attention of Pagan Records who signed them so the band could release their first studio album ‘Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic)’ in 1995. The band released 3 additional albums over the next few years, though the band switched record labels and had some lineup changes, they were gaining solid recognition in Poland and across Europe. The release of their sixth studio album ‘Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond)’ was released in 2002 and the next year the band made their first U.S. tour. They released three additional studio albums and continued to tour worldwide until August 2010 when Nergal (vocals) was diagnosed with leukemia. His case was so severe the band canceled the remainder of their tours while he underwent treatment. Fortunately, Nergal made a full recovery by 2012 and the band was preparing to release their tenth album and another tour. On February 3, 2014, Behemoth released ‘The Satanist’, which is still their most current album to date. The album was praised highly by reviewers and fans and their have performed multiple tours worldwide supporting the album. The band was invited to join Slayer on their final world tour since they had just successfully toured with Slayer back in 2017. Adam “Nergal” Darski (vocals, guitar), Zbigniew “Inferno” Prominski (drums – rejoining the band on tour after missing the North America 2017 tour to be with his newborn child), Tomasz “Orion” Wroblewski (bass), and Patryk “Seth” Sztyber (guitars) took the stage to a tremendous roar.
They opened up with “Ov Fire and the Void” from their 2009 album ‘Evangelion’. The band’s death metal sound with heavy riffs, thunderous drums, and Nergal’s powerful vocals resonated across the outdoor venue and started to get the crowd moshing and crowd surfing. Behemoth with their snake microphone stands, gorgeous backdrop, and headbanging had the photographers loving it too. They followed with “Demigod”, which was the title track from the band’s seventh studio album. Nergal became more engaged with the crowd stepping out onto the speakers in front of the stage, playing his guitar and gesturing. He also engaged the photographers directly providing us some serious close-up shots. But, when they got to “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifier” from ‘The Satanist’ the crowd went crazy. The one thing that disappointed me is each time I’ve seen them perform this song, Nergal usually brings out a thurible to spread incense over the crowd. But, he didn’t have it this time. The song and performance made up for it as Seth was whipping his hair around, Orion was headbanging, and Inferno laying down heavy drum work behind his huge drum set. Behemoth had the crowd wrapped around their finger as they continued their set with “Wolves ov Siberia”, “Chant for Eschanton 2000”, and “O Father O Satan O Sun”. Right after we were done one of the photographers posted on Facebook “I am not quite sure what I just witnessed.” My reply, “You witnessed the awesomeness of BEHEMOTH!!!’
Next was the thrash metal band Anthrax. The band was formed in 1981 out of Queens, NY with the name taken after the biological disease. The band went through a number of lineup changes over the next two years before being signed to Megaforce Records in 1983. Anthrax released their debut studio album ‘Fistful of Metal’ in 1984. Seven additional studio albums and many tours followed over the years, along with multiple line up changes again including vocalists. In 2001 when the U.S. was undergoing a series of anthrax attacks, the band jokingly posted they were going to change their name but confirmed later in the year they would not. In 2009 Anthrax was part of The Big Four concerts that included Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica. The band released two additional studio albums with the most recent being ‘For All Kings’ in 2016. The band has since been on multiple tours including two with Killswitch Engage titled The Killthrax Tour. Scott Ian (rhythm guitar), Joey Belladonna (vocals), Frank Bello (bass), Jonathan Donais (lead guitar), and Charlie Benante (drums) walked out on stage to a frenzy of screams and applause.
They opened up with “Caught In A Mosh” from the 1987 album ‘Among the Living’. The crowd was moshing and moving with the band providing the same. Joey, also using a microphone on a monopod, was having his vocals cutting in and out during the song. The crowd was trying to get his attention that they couldn’t hear him. When they performed “Got the Time” (a cover of Joe Jackson’s song) from the 1990 album ‘Persistence of Time’, the vocals were in full swing and Joey sounded great. Anthrax is always so much fun to photograph for their activity on stage. Scott is so intense when he plays. Jonathan loves to swing his head and long hair around. But, Frank is absolutely insane on stage, singing along with Joey with such fierceness. Charlie does amazing work behind the drum yet always seems so calm compared to the rest of the band. Overall, Anthrax had this crowd rocking hard. And when they got into “Madhouse” from the 1995 album ‘Spreading the Disease’ the moshing and crowd surfing was even harder than with Behemoth. The photographers were constantly moving around security who were trying to get crowd surfers safely out of the pit. Anthrax as usually gave the crowd a stellar performance and finished their set with “I Am the Law”, “Evil Twin”, “Antisocial”, and “Indians”.
If these three bands weren’t enough to appease the crowd, next to the stage was the heavy metal band Lamb of God. The band from Richmond, Virginia formed in 1994 when Mark Morton (guitar), John Campbell (bass), and Chris Adler (drums) were attending Virginia Commonwealth University. Randy Blythe (vocalist) later joined the band. They released their debut album titled ‘Burn the Priest’ in 1997. Right after, Willie Adler (guitar), Chris’ younger brother, joined the band as a second guitarist. Before their next album, the band changed their name to Lamb of God. They released two more albums until ‘Ashes of the Wake’ released in 2004. The album was an instant success hitting #27 on the Billboard 200. The following album ‘Sacrament’ released in 2006 debuted at #8 on the Billboard selling even better than ‘Ashes of the Wake’. The band continued to make music releasing their last studio album ‘VII: Sturm and Drang’ in 2015. They also released an EP titled ‘The Duke’ in 2016. On May 18, 2018, the band decided to do a cover album titled ‘Legion: XX’ under name of Burn the Priest.
Right before they hit the stage, the rain came down hard, and not a single fan moved from their spot. When the rain stopped, a rainbow appeared over the stage and almost on cue, Lamb of God hit the stage. They opened with “Omerta” from ‘Ashes of the Wake’. The heavy guitar and bass riffs blasted out through the speakers and Randy’s guttural vocals incited the fans into moving faster and harder than before. After the song Randy addressed the crowd to show his appreciation for the fans coming out. They followed up with “Walk With Me In Hell” from the 2006 album ‘Sacrament’. Mark and Willie played with such intensity on stage while Randy started stalking the stage and hit one of his infamous stage jumps. And then performed another one from the drum riser. The crowd was loving it. They followed up with “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” also from ‘Ashes of the Wake’. The energy in the venue was electric. Lamb of God was loving it and Randy’s smile and he couldn’t stop saying how much he appreciated the fans. The band closed out their set with “512”, “Engage the Fear Machine”, “Blacken the Cursed Sun”, “Laid to Rest”, and fan favorite “Redneck”.
Finally, as the sun set, the crowd waited with anticipation for the headliners, Slayer. The band from Huntington Park, CA formed in 1981 with Kerry King, Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, and Dave Lombardo. While opening for the band Bitch at the Woodstock Club, Brian Slagel, founder of Metal Blade Records, offered a contract to the band. In 1983 Slayer released it’s debut album ‘Show No Mercy’. The album sold well and received good reviews, which led them to release a second album. But, it was their third album, ‘Reign in Blood’ that released in 1986 that landed the band on the Billboard 200 at #94 in its first week of release. The following two albums ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ both debuted higher on the Billboard 200 at #57 and #44 respectively. In 1992 Dave Lombardo left the band and was replaced by Paul Bostaph. Through the following years, Paul left Slayer to be replaced by Dave Lombardo. The band continued to release more albums that charted higher and higher in succession. In 2006 the band released ‘Christ Illusion’ that debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200, the highest debut in their career. In 2010 Slayer participated in The Big Four concerts with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Metallica. In 2011 Jeff had to drop out of the band due to necrotizing fasciitis. Gary Holt from Exodus stepped in for Jeff. In February 2013, Dave Lombardo was fired from the band. Paul Bostaph returned to play drums once again. In May 2013, Jeff Hannemann passed away due to liver failure. The band decided to continue making music with Gary Holt as a permanent replacement. On September 11, 2015 Slayer released their twelfth, and now last, studio album ‘Repentless’. The band toured for over two years on the album. Sadly, on January 22, 2018 announced their farewell tour. And now Tom Araya (vocals, bass), Kerry King (guitar), Gary Holt (guitar), and Paul Bostaph (drums) would be saying farewell to the Orlando crowd one final time.
The stage was lit up with two fiery Slayer signs and a fire track all by the drum set. The band walked on stage to a frenzy of screams and cheers. The band opened up with “Repentless” the title track from their 2015 album. They played hard and heavy and Tom’s voice was perfection. After seeing Slayer twice, Tom looked truly happy during this outing. They followed with “Blood Red” from the 1990 album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. Gary was all over the stage furiously playing. Kerry stood in his normal spot on the left of the stage (if you’re facing the audience) playing the heavy metal of Slayer we all know and love. His face showed intensity and passion. Paul, unfortunately, was so far back we couldn’t see him, but we could certainly hear the emotion in his drum playing. “Disciple” from the 2001 album “God Hates Us All”. The fans were enraptured getting to see the Slayer perform one final time. The rest of their set included “Mandatory Suicide”, “Hate Worldwide”, “War Ensemble”, “Jihad”, “When Stillness Comes”, “Postmortem”, “Black Magic”, “Payback”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, “Dittohead”, “Dead Skin Mask””Hell Awaits”, “South of Heaven”, “Raining Blood”, “Chemical Warfare”, and for their final song, “Angel of Death” from the 1986 album ‘Reign in Blood’. No encore. Just 19 songs of pure Slayer metal.
It was a magical and sad day on June 15th. The opportunity to see these five incredible bands come together was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But, the reason why they were together was extremely sad. I was glad to have witnessed it. Thank you Slayer for 37 amazing years of music, tours, interviews, and for bringing metal fans together to see you one last time. You will be truly missed.