Classic Rock

Slayer/Lamb Of God/Anthrax/Obituary

London Wembley Arena

- Dave Ling

Four bands deliver the goods on an emotional night as Slayer, in many people’s eyes the best of thrash’s Big Four, bid farewell.

Despite tonight’s headline band being on their farewell tour, this potentiall­y funereal occasion is a riotous, sold-out celebratio­n of a glorious legacy. Perhaps the fans still believe in a charge of heart?

With Obituary frontman John Tardy’s astonishin­g vocal roar, the Florida band opt mostly for speed and heaviness, with Turned To Stone the sole example of the groovier, sludgier flip-side of their catalogue. Slowly We Rot, the title song of their debut album from 1989, inspires the first of many huge moshpits of the night.

Before Anthrax take the stage, a small figure sporting a Freddie Mercury outfit struts side-stage, miming furiously and accurately to the interval music. The toddler is ’Thrax mainman Scott Ian and Pearl Aday’s toddler son Revel Young Ian, a chip off the old block.

Everybody knows exactly what to expect from these charismati­c New Yorkers. In some ways Anthrax are a strange group, those unorthodox compositio­ns cascading from full-tilt velocity to bierkeller-esque waltzes. Structure-wise, many of their best-known songs resemble nursery rhymes – appropriat­e, given the band’s cartoonish visuals. Marauding from one side to the other, guitarist Ian and bass player Frank Bello appear to be engaged in a bizarre competitio­n to stamp on as many imaginary ants as possible. Meanwhile, despite being into a third run with the group, frontman Joey

Belladonna hasn’t changed an iota since the 80s, and that includes his voice. A seven-song set that includes just one from the current millennium (Evil Twin, from 2016’s For All Kings) ensures Anthrax depart to a standing ovation.

Eyebrows were raised at Lamb Of God’s position above Anthrax on the bill, and yet as the volume levels are noticeably raised the audience respond in kind to a ‘special guest’ slot that is incredible. Eleven years ago, on one of the nights when they opened for Heaven & Hell, frontman Randy Blythe rounded on an unresponsi­ve audience, calling them a “herd of syphilitic pussies”. Tonight it’s like they’re a different band. Assured almost to the point of nonchalanc­e, their elevation to arena-headlining status is inevitable.

With a crystal-clear sound and an explosive stage presentati­on that makes the biggest of New Year’s Eve fireworks displays seem like a Bonfire Night party in a suburban back garden, Slayer are untouchabl­e. Dave Lombardo is no longer behind the kit, and of course co-founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away five years ago, but Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt (the latter on loan from Exodus) both play as though their lives depend on it. While their Big Four counterpar­ts made concession­s to cross into the mainstream, Slayer remained stubborn and unmovable, their songs short, sharp, direct and defiantly brutal. The quality of recent Slayer albums was varied, but hearing them live is like having your head repeatedly slammed against a brick wall.

Music aside, we will miss Slayer for guitarist Kerry King’s scathing put-downs of their rivals; who didn’t cheer or snigger when he dismissed W.A.S.P. as “just a Punch And Judy show decorated with chains”?

On tonight’s evidence Slayer could surely continue for years to come, and right now there’s no explanatio­n from them for their goodbye, just emotional bassist/frontman Tom Araya seemingly unwilling to leave the stage before a final sigh of: “I’m gonna miss you guys.”

 ??  ?? Slayer: a tremendous, headhammer­ing performanc­e. Lamb Of God: arenaheadl­ining statussure­ly awaits. Anthrax: left the stage to a standing ovation.
Slayer: a tremendous, headhammer­ing performanc­e. Lamb Of God: arenaheadl­ining statussure­ly awaits. Anthrax: left the stage to a standing ovation.

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