Sunday night was a big date for metal here in town: Thrash metal pioneers Slayer stopped by for a set as part of their “the End of Days” tour, their supposed final run of shows. Serving as support, the band also had Lamb of God, Anthrax (one of the “big four” alongside Slayer), Behemoth and Testament on the road with them. This much metal needs to happen in a very particular place, otherwise it might be too much metal for one place. In this case, the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land was that metal mecca. The venue holds, like, a lot of people; this tour sold out very, very quickly.
Everything started at 5 p.m. sharp when California’s Testament took the stage. Also a thrash metal band, they never quite found as much success in their music endeavors as their “big four” counterparts. Their 8-song setlist was a pretty even mix between new and old, though I personally feel as if more people wish it was heavier with the latter. One interesting thing about this set was the mic stand that frontman Chuck Billy used; a hand-held pole that is about one-third the size of a normal, standing one. He also uses this to play air guitar.
Next on was acclaimed black metal group Behemoth. They’ve been putting out records for quite some time now, however it is fair to argue that 2014’s the Satanist is their magnum opus. Behemoth is fronted by “Nergal,” who for this set stood behind a crucifix-like mic stand in corpse paint and a sleeveless hoodie. They were easily the “heaviest” band of the night, but I think that should have been obvious.
Anthrax was up next. This was, to me, the best of the opening acts. The energy alone by frontman Joey Belladonna outshined the others, even Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe. They started it off with “Caught in a Mosh” off of 1986’s Among the Living. Something so metal came shortly after this, their cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time,” which, according to Setlist.fm, has been covered more times by them than Jackson himself. “Indians” was their final song of their set and everything would soon be done, at least until Lamb of God went on.
Yes, then Lamb of God went on. They were the last band to play until the band that everyone holds so near and dear to their hearts would begin. To be completely transparent, LoG is the band on the bill that I know the least about. I know that they are from the same city as Gwar (Richmond, VA) and that the frontman is (Dr. I think?) Randy Blythe. It was a good metal set, it did what it was supposed to do: be heavy, fast, and loud. A lot of people were wearing their LoG shirts. Oh yeah, merch. There were multiple merch booths set up around the venue (Slayer had a couple). Until the later opening bands began, the lines for these were massive. After all, it was their last chance to buy Slayer tour merch… for now, at least. I mean, they’re gonna do some reunion tours later on, right? They almost have to.
It was now 9:19 p.m. and the lights went dark. The band’s iconic logo was being projected on the screen as it swayed from stage right to stage left. Each member took to the stage and was ready to kick right in. The first track? “Repentless.” One thing that is pretty appealing about the band is their musicianship. Thirty plus years later they are still very solid sounding. However, on top of that, the band genuinely looks like they still enjoy the lifestyle, the songs, and each other. Frontman and bassist Tom Araya can be screaming as loud as he possibly can and before you know it he sports his notorious, incredibly warm smile.
The band’s interaction with the crowd really started to pick up when they started the song “War Ensemble.” Araya had everyone yell the opening “War!” while guitarists Gary Holt, Kerry King and drummer Paul Bostaph looked on and waited for the que to rip through it. Bostaph must have it a bit rough on this tour; for the last tour many fans were really hoping that the band would reconnect with longtime drummer Dave Lombardo (now behind the kit with Dead Cross) for one last hoorah. As for Holt, he’s been the replacement ever since Jeff Hanneman’s untimely death in 2013.
They honored the late guitarist by playing in front of a banner that said “Still Reigning” in his iconic Heineken-inspired logo. Their set fell just under 20 songs, but for the most part, they stuck to their fan favorites. Like I said before, I am not sure if they will ever play again together (I assume they will at some point), but this tour was the perfect send-off. They got to bring their friends and families on the road to these sold-out venues all across the country to their die-hard fans. Much like Hanneman, Slayer is still Reigning.