Speed metal veterans Slayer inspire rabid devotion. The band’s 1994 album Divine Intervention, for example, featured an image of a fan carving the band’s logo into his arms with a scalpel. Now, that’s dedication. The band’s fans are so devoted that they showed up en masse last night to the Agora Theatre even though the group hasn’t issued a studio album in six years. The band’s deafening 100-minute set wasn’t a letdown, either, as the group stayed true to its speed metal sound and played with an intense fierceness that’s still virtually unrivaled in the hard rock world.
The band made a grand entrance. Shortly before arriving on stage, the group had its logo illuminated behind a giant translucent white sheet that covered the entire theater stage. Once the scrim dropped, it revealed a giant skeleton head with a helmet. Huge upside down crossed were suspended from the ceiling. The band quickly launched into “World Painted Blood,” the title track from its 2009 album. Five blistering songs into the set, singer-bassist Tom Araya addressed the audience, politely thanking fans for attending the shows and introducing the next song, “War Ensemble” with a wail. “Mandatory Suicide” started with a moody, slower intro before building in intensity. Guitarist Kerry King soloed under a single white spotlight during “At Dawn They Sleep,” a song that began dramatically with yellowish lights that mimicked the morning sun. Other highlights included “Seasons in the Abyss,” “Raining Blood” and, of course, “South of Heaven,” the band’s signature tune. It still stands as one of the most distinctive thrash metal tunes of all time as its intricate guitar riff distinguishes it from the rest of the band’s catalog. The group closed the set with “Angel of Death,” a song it delivered as a tribute to late guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away last year. Fittingly, the band unveiled a giant banner in his honor.
Exodus started the show off with a vigorous 30-minute set. Even though the band’s bushy haired singer looked like a giant hobbit, the band delivered an aggressive set that featured tracks such as “Toxic Waltz” and “Strike of the Beast.” A punk band turned metal, Suicidal Tendencies played between Exodus and Slayer. The band played with plenty of energy but the anti-establishment sentiments in songs such as “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and “War Inside My Head” got lost in the mix as the band resorted to too much posturing.