Slayer – Bank of New Pavilion – Gilford, NH – USA
Nearly four decades into their existence, Slayer are still playing to as many sold out crowds as they ever did back in the golden age of thrash and speed metal in the 1980’s. The heavy metal community worldwide should consider themselves lucky that classic thrash and speed metal bands such as Slayer are still touring, let alone taking into account that the band continues to perform at such a high level.
Thus it seems fitting that the Godfather’s of thrash metal would bring along long standing metal royalty including Napalm Death, Testament, Anthrax and Lamb of God for what they are saying will be their last trek around the globe.
The evening of metal mayhem in Gilford, New Hampshire began with an abbreviated but dynamic set by British metal stalwarts Napalm Death. Taking to the stage with little in terms of stage production values outside of an old school black and white banner baring the band’s name, Mark “Barney” Greenway and his mates immediately drew the northern New England metal crazies into their web of thrash metal madness.
Napalm Death – Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion – Gilford, NH – USA
The biggest takeaway from Napalm Death‘s time on stage had to be less about what songs they played or how long the band played for. Instead it was the sheer force that Napalm Death played with, as well as the instant connections they seamlessly made with the entirety of the Bank of New Hampshire’s audience, that left the most lasting of impressions.
Next up where San Francisco Bay area thrashers Testament. Much like Napalm Death, the band’s time on stage was brief but beyond intense. Testament always drives the metal engine hard throughout their live shows and their set up in Gilford, NH proved to be much of the same.
Testament – Bank of NH Pavilion – Gilford, NH – USA
What was probably most striking about the limited minute’s Testament played for was the fact that the band’s more recent material was as well received as the tracks that had originally put the band on the proverbial metal map in the early to mid-1980s.
This condition’s existence can probably be attributed to the fact that the level of musicianship that exists within Testament is beyond reproach. Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, bass player Steve Di Giorgio and legendary metal drummer Gene Hoglan are all well-regarded virtuosos in their musical disciplines.
Likewise, frontman Chuck Billy has long been considered one of the thrash metal genre’s premier showman and vocalists. The singer delivered crushing vocals while also delighting the New Hampshire audience with some of his trademark air guitar skills.
East Coast-based metal was represented quite well at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion with New York’s own Anthrax being the first west of the Mississippi based act to take to the stage. Much like Napalm Death and Testament before them, Scott Ian and Anthrax made the most of their somewhat abbreviated set time.
Anthrax – Bank of NH Pavilion – Gilford, NH – USA
Despite only playing eight songs Anthrax delivered a blistering whirlwind of thrash and speed that began with the band’s tribute to recently fallen Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul, via an opening salvo in the form of one of Pantera’s most revered hits, “Cowboys from Hell.”
The Bank of New Hampshire mosh pit was probably pushed to his highest level of insanity, to that point of the evening anyway, when Anthrax closed their condensed set with the one, two punch of old-school classics in the forms of “Anti Social” and “Indians.”
Next up was Richmond, Virginia metal heroes Lamb of God. From the opening chords of “Omerta” Randy Blythe and Lamb of God had the entirety of the headbanging audience wrapped around their metal fingers.
Lamb of God – Bank of NH Pavilion – Gilford, NH – USA
Lamb of God have never and likely will never be an outfit that relies on too many bells and whistles in terms of their live stage production. Beyond a gargantuan tapestry hung behind the band, Lamb of God let their music speak for itself.
The band’s set was fiery, captivating and soul-crushing while also offering up countless moments of metal intensity the Bank of New Hampshire crowd eagerly ate up throughout the duration of the band’s time on stage.
When Blythe turned to the audience signalling them to sing the lyric, “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For”, their ensuing reaction was nothing short of spine-tingling, as nearly every last soul in attendance regurgitated in unions those very same words back to frontman.
One of the elements that any metal fan has to admire about Lamb of God is there’s not a single act out that there today that even remotely sounds like them. They’re like this evil metal unicorn or devilish forest Leprechaun that has to been seen live and in the flesh on stage to be believed.
If forced to single out a few choice moments from Lamb of God’s time on stage in New Hampshire, classic tracks such as “Ruin” and more modern day favorites which included “Walk with Me in Hell” as well as set closer “Redneck” had to be considered the high points of the evening.
The final act of the evening, of course, were southern California speed and thrash founding fathers Slayer.
Slayer – Bank of NH Pavilion – Gilford, NH – USA
Yes, the music itself is still the glue and the burning ember that powers the Slayer machine. However, it’s worth noting Slayer has made strides in terms of their live show as it pertains to creating pace, building anticipation and even their stage production.
For decades Slayer would often hit the stage with nothing more than a curtain donning their name and without anything besides their instruments in terms of props. These days the thrash and speed metal kings are touring with somewhat of an elaborate light and laser visual production that also includes its fair share of blinding pyrotechnics.
Slayer has never needed and never will need anything beyond their music to bond with their metal brethren but it’s kind of cool to go to one of their concerts these days and be taken aback by their shows’ production values.
The band began their set in New Hampshire with only a gargantuan white curtain spanning from stage end to stage end as the Repentless track “Delusions of Saviour” built an organic dark swell of anticipation that slowly washed over the Gilford, NH crowd.
Not exactly U2’s Zoo TV tour set up by any means but sometimes the old ways are the best ways. The pale drapery slowly began to become awash in a sea of blood red with huge white crosses spinning aimlessly until coming to rest in their familiar upside position.
As the instrumental track made its way to a conclusion the cross imagery morphed into four pentagrams that would eventually come together to form Slayer’s iconic symbol. The band’s symbol quickly gave way to the four shadowy figures that comprise Slayer taking the stage before the curtain would fall and the band would launch into “Repentless.”
Again Slayer has evolved their live show in terms of set pacing over the years. They seemingly have taken into account that not only what they choose to play but when can have a profound effect on how an audience reacts to a show. Has Slayer actually become thoughtful or gasp, introspective? Oh, the horror!
The front end of Slayer’s set focused on balancing classics such as “Blood Red” and “Mandatory Suicide” with more recent material that included tracks like “Disciple” and “Hate Worldwide.”
It’s worth mentioning how much Slayer’s more recent material was embraced by the audience. It was next to impossible not to notice that many of those in attendance were singing the lyrics to the new material word for word. This not only a testament to the power of Slayer as a band, it also speaks to the fact that Slayer is still cranking out records that their core fanbase continues to connect with after all these years.
After the pitching and swaying between the new and the old, the metal engine that is Slayer really began to purr, as the band annihilated the audience with a crushing salvo of fan favorites which included “War Ensemble,” “Post Mortem,” “Dead Skin Mask” and “Seasons in the Abyss.”
It would almost be a crime not to highlight the camaraderie shared by many of Slayer’s fans throughout the evening. A shining example of this metal brotherhood would come during the performance of “Dead Skin Mask,” as something quite unexpected happened.
One wouldn’t think thrash and speed metal would present too many opportunities, if any, for crowd wide sing-a-longs but 80% or more of the crowd sang the lyrics, “Dance with the dead in my dreams. Listen to the hallowed screams. The dead have taken my soul. Temptation lost all control.” I’ve never seen so many metalheads at one time smiling, giving each other high fives and dancing with one another, than I did during this song’s performance. Who knows longer Slayer will continue to tour, or for that matter even record. Their current tour has been billed as the band’s swan song in terms of playing live but would anyone be surprised if after a brief hiatus Tom Araya and Kerry King got bored with retirement and chose to hit ye’ ole thrash metal road once again?
Regardless of how many days, weeks, months or years fans have left to enjoy Slayer on the lighted stage, I’m guessing this sentiment will always reign true, On and on, south of heaven! On and on, south of heaven! Long live Slayer! Long live metal!
All Writing & Photography: Robert Forte – Instagram: 40_Photography – Facebook: @4zerophotography