The night of 11th of June will remain marked in my memory for as long as I will live. It was the night when my all time favorite band Slayer played for the last time in Budapest, as part of their farewell world tour, simply called The Final Tour.
What Slayer meant, means and will mean for me is not something to be discussed in this article, but having the chance to see them live one last time before calling it quits was an occasion I could not miss.
From all the Slayer shows I have seen over the years, this one was absolutely the best, even if it was not with the original line up. Times have changed, Slayer went through some changes as well but they managed to pull it through with one of the best drummers in thrash metal, Paul Bostaph, and Gary Holt, a charismatic guitar player who, even if he had to fill such big shoes, was able to do a very good job both on the record as well as live. That being said, nowadays Slayer seems more powerful, fast and precise than the one I saw last time, as part of their 2012 Summer European Tour, when Dave Lombardo was still part of the band.
The evening at Papp Laszlo Arena was opened by a relatively new band from New York, which has only released 12 albums in its 38 years of activity. Joke aside, I am of course talking about Anthrax here, a band which not long ago shared the bill with Slayer on the Big Four of Thrash metal tour.
Last time I saw them was when they opened for Iron Maiden during the anniversary Maiden England tour in 2013 (wow, 6 years have passed already since then) but their set, even if energetic, was very short.
Since Anthrax played a huge part in my youth, as their music shaped me into the die hard metal head I am today, I was really excited to see them again. Their actual line up is amazing, with 4 of the original members and a relatively new guitar player, Jon Donais, who really shreds it as if he has been part of the band for ages.
The show began with Iron Maiden‘s “The Number of the Beast” exploding through the speakers, preparing the audience for what was about to happen: one hour of thrash metal and classic songs which really made me relive my youth. Joey Belladonna is still an amazing frontman, with the same charisma and powerful voice which made him famous, Charlie Benante kicks the drums as if he’s in his 20’s, while Scott Ian and Frankie Bello are the same Duracell rabbits, jumping and running all over the stage while helping Joey out with their backing vocals.
The hits chained one after the other, from Caught in a Mosh to Indians, from Got the Time to Madhouse or I am the Law. Of course no Anthrax show is complete without Trust‘s Anti Social, which they played together with a semi dormant crowd (most likely most of the audience was waiting for Slayer), but that did not bother the 5 musicians to give their best and have fun on stage. It is such a pleasure to see music played for the kicks, in full honesty by some non pretentious guys who have been around for such a long time and shaped thrash music in various ways. Super cool performance, thank you guys!
After the 5 New Yorkers ended their show, the stage was assaulted by the Slayer crew who prepared every detail for the show that was about to happen. The break lasted for almost 20 minutes and at around 21.30 the first chords of Delusions of Saviour were heard behind a huge drape that hid the stage from the public’s view.
Some cool motifs were projected on the black drape, from inverted crosses to various Slayer logos, until the ferocious Repentless started and the cloth fell to the ground. What happened in the next 1h30 minutes was pure hell and a total lesson of thrash metal, taught by the masters themselves.
With Tom Araya in his best shape ever – his voice sounded better and solid than in the past (he even replicated with almost perfect accuracy the famous shriek on Angel of Death) – and Paul Bostaph doing incredible feats behind his drum kit, Slayer was propelled forward into the thrash metal night, delighting the audience with every song they played.
While Kerry‘s solos and riffs sounded as close to the album as possible, Gary Holt proved (one last time) why he was a very good choice when they asked him to stand in for the iconic Jeff. Even though he is not as “misanthropic” as the fallen guitarist who created a dark image for himself while playing on stage, Gary is still able to play the songs (and solos) like he has been in the band for ages (even if sometimes I fell like he’s abusing the guitar hero card too much, but hey, that’s only me).
I have to admit that the choice of songs for this tour was the best I could have ever imagined, with a good selection of classics (Postmortem, War Ensemble, Mandatory Suicide, Reign in Blood, Angel of Death etc), some rarely or less played tracks (Evil Has No Boundaries, Payback, the frightening slow track Gemini or Temptation) and an interesting focus on the Seasons in the Abyss album (half of the album was played during the 20 song set). Of course there will be people complaining that they skipped other classics as well, but when you have such an impressive back catalogue under your belt, it is impossible to please everybody. And after all Slayer is Slayer and I am pretty sure they don’t give a fuck about what we moan under our chins when it comes to the set lists.
During the show Araya‘s interaction with the public was kept to a minimum,(there were only 3 short instances when Tom addressed the public during the show) so the focus was on the music and not on the confessions made by the 4 musicians. The way of presenting their good byes to the audience was the fierce set list and the aggression which came from their instruments. To make the whole picture more complete, Slayer used and abused an amazing pyrotechnic show, with flames, arrows of fire and explosions which were so hot I could feel their sting on my skin.
At some point during the songs I imagined a hole opening up in the middle of the stage, engulfing the musicians and the whole set up in a hungry vortex of flames and smoke, dragging them straight to hell where they belong. But of course none of that happened, instead the hell was brought on stage and in the audience, where people created frenzied moshpits and banged their heads against the metal railings.
The show ended with the already classic Angel of Death, but this time they did not use the Jeff Hanneman remembrance banner behind Paul‘s drum kit and I think this was a wise choice. The mourning period had to end at some point and there was no more need to use that banner. Jeff will remain in Slayer’s history forever, every fan will remember him and honor his legacy, but now, it was time to let it go. For ever and for good.
After the show ended, Tom Araya remained on the stage for about 15 minutes and stood there, watching the audience and feeding himself with the screams and the ovations. That was one of the most touching moments of a splendid night, a moment when the musician stripped himself off of his Slayer “armor” and absorbed all the gratitude and the happiness of those who came to see the band.
Watching him saying his silent goodbye to a world he’s been part of for almost 40 years made me indeed realize that from now on Slayer will be no more and that brought tears to my eyes. Those were tears of sadness, as on one hand I realized that I lost such an important band which truly inspired me and was with me in spirit through all these years, from my youth to my adulthood. But on the other hand those were also tears of joy, as I am so grateful for having had the chance to see Slayer live in various places, to feed with the music and lyrics and to absorb the essence of Slayer into my body.
Thank you TOM, JEFF, KERRY, DAVE, PAUL, GARY and SLAYER for such an amazing musical journey. I will always remember it, for as long as I live:
“So take your shot, bottom’s up, this is no lie
I’ll be beating this guitar ’til the day I die”
ANTHRAX set list:
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
I Am the Law
Now It’s Dark
Hymn 1/In the End
SLAYER Set list:
Intro: Delusions of Saviour
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death