The end is nigh. We go back­stage at SLAYERRRR!’s fi­nal Lon­don show.

Soon, Slayer will be no more. As we pre­pare to bid farewell to a le­gend, we went be­hind the scenes and front row for their fire-fu­elled fi­nal Lon­don show...

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: DOM LAW­SON • PIC­TURES: MICK HUT­SON & MARIE KORNER

The dic­tionary de­fines it as “some­one who kills a per­son or an­i­mal in a vi­o­lent way”. For the army of met­al­heads snaking their way around the net­work of foot­paths that con­nects Wem­b­ley Park Tube sta­tion with the leg­endary Wem­b­ley Arena, it’s ev­i­dently a six-let­ter word that en­cap­su­lates what metal is all about. One word. Two syl­la­bles. Sweary pre­fix op­tional. Fuckin’ Slayer.

There it is, as re­as­sur­ing and in­evitable as the ris­ing of the sun: a cry goes up, echo­ing into the frosty evening air, fol­lowed by an im­me­di­ate, much louder re­sponse from a hun­dred dis­parate but joy­ful voices… that word again. No other words re­quired. It’s fuckin’ SLAAAAAAAYYYEEEERRRR. And tonight, they are bid­ding farewell to Lon­don.

The news broke in Jan­uary. Slayer were to em­bark on one fi­nal world tour, be­fore hang­ing up their evil boots for good. Although no of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion has been given for ex­actly why the band have de­cided to call it a day, the com­bi­na­tion of the loss of Jeff Han­ne­man in 2013 and front­man Tom Araya’s well-pub­li­cised back prob­lems would seem de­cent enough rea­sons to at least bring ex­ten­sive tour­ing to an end. But this was still a shock­ing an­nounce­ment: Slayer have al­ways seemed in­vin­ci­ble, one of a rare breed of bands that tran­scend the mu­sic it­self and be­come em­blem­atic of some­thing big­ger, deeper and im­per­vi­ous to the pas­sage of time. In Jan­uary, Slayer’s state­ment was typ­i­cally abrupt – ‘The End Is Near’ – leav­ing a global army of fans to brace them­selves for the un­ex­pected but sure-to-be ex­plo­sive cli­max to one of metal’s most sem­i­nal sagas.

As 2018 un­furled, it be­came clear that Slayer were not piss­ing about when it came to say­ing good­bye. The first US leg of a world tour that looks to con­tinue long into 2019 boasted a stel­lar line-up: Lamb Of God, An­thrax, Be­he­moth and Tes­ta­ment, with bonus Na­palm Death thrown in on cer­tain dates. It’s al­most as if Slayer are both cel­e­brat­ing their legacy and pass­ing the torch to those who still ad­here to the same fear­less mu­si­cal ethos. In the UK, the bill feels de­signed as a sim­i­lar show of strength from metal’s most vi­tal vet­er­ans: Lamb Of God and An­thrax are on board again, with Florid­ian death metal leg­ends Obit­u­ary open­ing the show. As the black-clad hordes be­gin to pour into the venue, we chat with Obit­u­ary drum­mer Don­ald Tardy back­stage. As he pre­pares to make his Wem­b­ley Arena de­but, he ea­gerly ac­knowl­edges the huge in­flu­ence that Slayer had on his band and the en­tire ex­treme metal scene.

“Slayer are in our DNA”, he states mat­ter-of-factly. “They changed ev­ery­thing for me as a drum­mer. If you didn’t draw power from what they were do­ing, there was some­thing wrong with you! I re­mem­ber I was in my bed­room at my mom’s house, lis­ten­ing to [Slayer’s 1983 de­but] Show No Mercy on vinyl. Trevor [Peres, Obit­u­ary gui­tarist] had a copy and I couldn’t be­lieve it. It changed ev­ery­thing for me. I grew up with South­ern rock, with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, you know? But I got into metal and Slayer changed it all.

I tripped im­me­di­ately. It was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know you could do it that way. Slayer were a guid­ing light for us.”

Re­ceiv­ing the of­fer to tour with Slayer for the first time must have blown your mind, then…

“Oh man, I went back to that same age, back to be­ing a 14-year-old kid in his bed­room with a broom in his hand, just go­ing for it!” Don­ald grins. “We knew we should be part of this and we couldn’t be more ex­cited and proud and just amazed to be here.

It’s fuckin’ Slayer, man.”

The Obit­u­ary drum­mer is cor­rect. Like Sab­bath, Priest, Maiden and Metal­lica be­fore them, Slayer are not just ac­knowl­edged for the great­ness of their mu­sic and the ex­tent of their in­flu­ence; they’re fuck­ing Slayer and they rep­re­sent some­thing that goes be­yond songs, gigs and good times.

They rep­re­sent metal. They rep­re­sent us.

All of which makes this con­clud­ing trun­dle around the world feel

“SLAYER CHANGED EV­ERY­THING FOR ME” DON­ALD TARDY, OBIT­U­ARY

less like the end of some­thing than a sim­ple re­minder that this mu­sic ain’t go­ing any­where. When Obit­u­ary hit the stage at what would nor­mally be a pro­hib­i­tive 6:20pm, this cav­ernous venue is at least half full. By the time An­thrax come on, the arena is fuck­ing heav­ing and it truly feels like a party, al­beit a deeply rowdy and drunken one that unites to scream along with the ev­er­green An­tiso­cial.

Afan since he first heard Show No Mercy and a friend of the band for more than three decades, An­thrax gui­tarist Scott Ian has spent a lot of time on the road with his fel­low Big 4 com­rades, par­tic­u­larly in re­cent times. Back­stage at Wem­b­ley be­fore his band’s set, he posits his the­ory as to why tonight’s head­lin­ers have be­come such an iconic force.

“I hon­estly think a lot of it has to do with Reign In Blood”, Scott notes. “With that record, they cre­ated some­thing that left such an in­deli­ble mark on ev­ery­body that heard it. They cre­ated a piece of art that is un­de­ni­able in its power and its strength. That’s not to take away from the rest of their cat­a­logue and ev­ery­thing they’ve done, but with the big­gest bands, there’s usu­ally one record, one spe­cific time and place, and that’s the big one for Slayer. But the Slayer thing, what­ever that is, is even big­ger than who they are as a band or what they’ve ac­com­plished com­mer­cially. Ev­ery­body knows Slayer.”

In one sense, Scott is right. But one huge part of the band’s en­dur­ing ap­peal has been their stoic re­fusal to stop be­ing, erm, Slayer. A con­sis­tent vi­sion in pen­ta­grams, spikes and fire, they have al­ways looked – Tom Araya’s ir­re­sistible broad grin aside – like they might stab you up for look­ing at them funny. That edgi­ness has served them well over the course of 35 years, but Scott Ian mis­chie­vously confirms that – whis­per it – Slayer can be cud­dly, too.

“They’re re­tir­ing now so I can let the se­cret out… Slayer laugh!” he chuck­les. “Any­one that doesn’t ac­tu­ally know them, they’ll have an im­age of them be­ing a cer­tain way be­cause they’re fuck­ing Slayer and they don’t smile in pho­tos. There’s an im­age to up­hold when you’re in that band and I get that. But re­ally they’re just great dudes. They smile a lot, they laugh a lot. They re­ally like funny things! Kerry’s an an­i­mal lover. Tom dotes on his grand­child. They’re reg­u­lar dudes!”

Hav­ing ful­filled both the first US leg and this Euro­pean leg of Slayer’s fi­nal world tour, An­thrax look a safe bet to be out on the road with their friends for quite a while yet. As the two bands have ef­fec­tively grown up to­gether, it must be strange for Scott to con­tem­plate his long-time con­tem­po­raries’ de­ci­sion to quit.

Has it made him think about the end of An­thrax at any point?

“No, it hasn’t,” he states firmly. “We’ll be work­ing on a record next year and our 40th birth­day is 2021 and I see no prob­lem mak­ing that! If we can all be up there do­ing it, we will. I saw the Stones not that long ago and Jag­ger was still fuck­ing amaz­ing, so why not?”

In fact, Scott isn’t yet 100% con­vinced that Slayer are soon to be gone for­ever.

“I know that there will even­tu­ally be a ‘last show’,” he says. “But maybe they’ll play a show here and there, you know? Stop tour­ing? I un­der­stand that. But get to­gether and play a show once in a while? Or if Metal­lica call and a Big 4 op­por­tu­nity came along again, why wouldn’t you do that?” Scott was quickly proven right: Slayer have since an­nounced what will be an un­miss­able fi­nal UK show at Down­load this sum­mer. Ex­pect it to be emo­tional.

It’s not hard to see what keeps mu­si­cians like Scott Ian on the road, ei­ther. As An­thrax con­clude their set with an ex­u­ber­ant In­di­ans, it briefly looks as if the en­tire stand­ing sec­tion of the crowd is di­rectly in­volved in a cir­cle pit. At one point, there is Amon Amarth-style row­ing break­ing out on the floor. The may­hem con­tin­ues through­out Lamb Of God’s set, with a top-form Randy Blythe salut­ing Slayer’s supremacy be­fore a feral ver­sion of Red­neck prompts a mass out­break of crowd­surf­ing and yet more wild cir­cle-pit­ting.

By the time Slayer hit the stage, we should all be ex­hausted. But these are metal gods, and re­sis­tance is fu­tile. From the open­ing erup­tion of Re­pent­less on­wards, this feels more like a re­assert­ing of au­thor­ity than a fond farewell. Kerry King and Gary Holt are a fe­ro­cious, head­bang­ing, solo-spit­ting tag team, drum­mer Paul Bostaph is an oc­topoid, steam-spray­ing blur and Tom Araya strides the stage, vis­i­bly de­lighted but still ooz­ing charisma and men­ace.

There are vast walls of fire burst­ing from the stage, tow­er­ing back­drops re­splen­dent with Slayer’s most iconic art­work and im­agery and, most im­por­tantly, four diehard mu­si­cians at the top of their game. The setlist is an out­right feast, with songs from nearly ev­ery Slayer al­bum and the band’s most cher­ished clas­sics, all de­liv­ered with the kind of ven­omous in­ten­sity that you re­ally wouldn’t ex­pect from a band edg­ing to­wards re­tire­ment. But this is Slayer, af­ter all, so it’s time for one last bold vis­ual trib­ute to Jeff Han­ne­man and a fi­nal, four-song ex­plo­sion from the depths of Hell: South Of Heaven, Rain­ing Blood, Chem­i­cal War­fare, An­gel Of fuck­ing Death. Songs that de­fined an era and that con­tinue to in­spire and ex­hil­a­rate, per­formed by one of the great­est metal bands ever to do it.

Not so much “good­bye” as “fol­low that, fuck­ers!” Tonight wasn’t just a gig. It was a fuckin’ Slayer gig.

What a way to go.

“Slayer have an im­age to up­hold, but they laugh, too!”

SCOTT IAN, AN­THRAX

Nearly four decades in, we can prob­a­bly al­low tom araya some down­time Scott Ian play­ing some red-hot ta­ble Soc­cerBall

Fun note: this was ac­tu­ally taken at a michael Bublé show (it wasn’t)

Pfft, poser. Prob­a­bly got all those patches from h&m

It’s not good­bye, just… ac­tu­ally, no, it is good­bye

You just don’t get this shit at Dis­ney on Ice. er, we hope…

Slayer play their fi­nal UK Show at down­load in jUne.Obit­u­ary iS oUt now via re­lapSe. an­thrax’S FOrall Kings iS oUt now via nU­clear BlaSt

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