Slayer in UK a Fans Review

KroBar on Oxford Road has been invaded. Opposite Manchester Academy, Finley Quaye plays on the bar’s sound system while dozens of bearded, shaven headed, leather-clad Slayer fans wave money clenched in their tattooed fists as they try to catch a bartender’s attention.

On my way to meet my friends at this unlikely venue for a rendezvous of heavy metal’s meatiest heads, I got talking to a tramp. He was sat next to a cash machine and asked me if I was going to see Slayer. It turned out that this tramp was a thrasher – dropping names like Venom, he soon warned me, with a distant glare in his eyes much like that of a Vietnam vet, that Slayer would deafen me for the next three days.

Swedish support band The Haunted got an excellent reaction from a very much up-for-it audience. That’s not to say that the night’s audience would cheer for anything– The Haunted, and in particular vocalist Peter Dolving, have more intensity and stage presence than any support band has any right to. When looking out to the crowd, they weren’t blankly staring into the darkness caused by stage lighting, but were connecting with fans one by one simply through eye contact.

As soon as The Haunted’s roadies were clearing the stage there were increasingly more Slayer chants.

The first thing you noticed about the stage was the lighting rig.

Unsurprisingly, most of the lights were red. This was a Slayer concert after all.

When the Californian thrash legends took to the stage the crowd went wild. Having postponed the gig twice due to bassist and vocalist Tom Araya’s recent back surgery, most members of the audience had ordered their tickets nearly a year ago. To say they were up for it would be like saying a holiday to the surface of the sun was ‘probably shorts weather’.

The front half of Slayer’s set consisted mainly of their newer material. Having been somewhat consistent with their material over their near 30-year careers (especially compared to other bands who’ve been going as long), the crowd were red hot for it.

Having had his back surgery, Araya has since been banned from head-banging in the way to which he’s become accustomed. Just as a heavy riff is about to kick in, he instinctively leans back, and as the beat strikes for the thrash to commence you see him hesitate and stand there and play. Instead of head-banging though, Araya looks deep into the crowd. Throughout some songs I’m convinced he’s staring straight at me. Directly into my eyes and through to my soul. Maybe his recent health problems have given him a new string to his bow. ‘Intense’ doesn’t even come close.

At around the midway point the band plays the title track to their 1990 album Seasons in the Abyss. Truly a highlight of the evening.

The second half of the show was vintage Slayer. Only playing songs from before 1991, they played with the passion and enthusiasm that they had when they wrote them.

Slayer played vigorously, tightly and endlessly. Araya spoke to the crowd on only two or three occasions to thank them for coming and to introduce the next song. There were no duds in the set. The long wait for this gig was definitely worth it.

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