Aging is funny business. Watching the idles of childhood drift away. Some expire and others retire, but a select few hit you hard. Like a punt to the groin. I grew up a metalhead first and foremost. Yes, I love my punk and hardcore too, but I was a metalhead first and will be for my remaining days.
I was the young kid in the older crowd and therefore always exposed to music and artists that pre-dated me. But then there was Slayer. One of the first bands I really got into. “Seasons In The Abyss” would come out a few short months after my introduction to the band, but by then I was already hooked on a badly dubbed cassette tape a friend had made me. “Reign In Blood” on the A side and “South Of Heaven” on the B. I virtually wore that tape out in my yellow Sony walkman, on bumpy rides on an orange school bus. Slayer was the soundtrack to my youth. Although there were a great many other bands too, this one was special.
Over the years, I have had the good fortune to see them live countless times. Back when my body permitted it, I would engage in some of the most vicious mosh pits imaginable in front of the band, and wear my bruises proudly in the days to come. Slayer were always the band to which most others would be marked against. Their influence is everywhere.
Tonight, at Heavy Montreal, Slayer played their final Canadian show. Time is running thin for one of the most influential groups the metal world has and will ever know. Yes, retirement beckons. Never did I think I would see the day where Slayer, the mighty Slayer, would disband.
The chanting began before Anthrax had even finished their set. At least ten full minutes before. As great as Anthrax are, this was Slayer’s night and the massive crowd that was already forming ahead of the dormant stage was rapidly growing. Anticipation filled the air as the “Slayer! Slayer!” chant grew. We were edging closer and closer to seeing them for the final time.
Behind me, an exited youth told anybody that would listen how he had flown in from France for the show. He had seen the band in several countries and would probably see them again before they vanish for good. Flags of various nations suggested others had come to Montreal for the same reasons. This was to be one hell of a party. Once Anthrax had finished their set, or slightly before, a surge of bodies made a mad dash towards the adjoining stage. I’d like to think Anthrax themselves ran through the backstage to witness what was to come next. It was all about to happen. The beginning of the end of an era. One last Canadian gig. The air was magnetic with a charging energy. Ready to explode.
Like roaring thunder, Slayer began a twenty song set that would have blown the roof off the place had it been inside. Instead, we woke the snobby neighborhood of Saint Lambert jointly. (For those not in the know; Saint Lambert residents hate art. And music. And every year, make noise complaints about the evenko festivals. They went as far as to create a court case over noise. Fuck Saint Lambert.) “Repentless” began the show, followed by an old classic in “Evil Has No Boundaries” – which was great, an indication that the set list would most probably including tracks from the groups entire discography. “World Painted Blood” returned to more modern albums, before “Postmortem” dragged us back to the days of “Reign In Blood”. Fantastic. There would be three tracks from that album, and two more from “South Of Heaven” (a healthy chunk of that worn out cassette tape I alluded to) and a further five from their pivotal “Seasons In The Abyss” record.
In all, they would play tracks off of ten different albums, including “Gemini” off of their ill-received “Undisputed Attitude” record. To this day, I still defend that cover album, and always will. Metal bands covering punk and hardcore songs would probably be better received today, which is yet another indication that Slayer were always avant garde.
Their final song of the night and the last that will ever be played live on Canadian soil, was Angel Of Death. With the dirge of the amplifiers fading out, above the hum, stood Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph. Most saluted the crowd and left, but Araya stood motionless. Solemn. Quietly soaking in the massive audience that shouted his band name back at him.
It was genuine. Real emotion. Araya was soaking everything in but had a look about him that said “am I doing the right thing?”. I got the feeling the decision to end wasn’t so much a choice. Perhaps something deeper is bringing the band to a halt. I hope I am wrong.
Postmortem and the long ride home
At the metro station, fans continued to chant. As the train pulled up, a roar of cheers that subsided into “Slayer! Slayer” broke out. The ride too was a chorus of Slayer chants. At each station, people departed the train and where still yelling “Slayer! Slayer!”. As far as Charlevoix metro, where I got off, the chants continued. Okay that one was me.
A man outside was yelling into a mailbox while his highly inebriated partner drunkenly showed off her Gary Holt autograph on her muddy arm. Holt had been signing autographs in the ESP guitar tent, and had ran out of post cards to hand out. She told me she might have it tattooed, as her partner again yelled “Slayer” at the now terrified letters in the mail box.
Bands of this stature, in this genre of music, are folk heroes. Truly. Anybody that has ever been a metalhead, or experimented with it in college or whatever, knows the name Slayer. When I was in high school in the mid 90s, the jocks would taunt the longhaired few by yelling “Slayer” at us. Tits. If they knew how much it made us laugh, they probably wouldn’t have done that. Point being; everybody and his dog has heard of this band.
Hell, the following weekend, it is said that a fan climbed on stage during the Osheaga festival, which is a pop festival held on the same site and stages as Heavy Montreal and ’77 Fest, and yelled “Slayer” into a microphone. Evil has no boundaries.
It feels strange to know that I will never again see a Slayer concert. They were around before I became a music nut, basically the moment I hit puberty, and I never imagined a day where they and I wouldn’t co-exist.
Tom Araya emotionally told us that he would miss us. It was hart felt and honest. I, one of many, will miss him and Slayer too. I’ll still have the albums, of course, but I shall seriously miss standing in a crowd staring up at the band like I have done so many, many times.
Slayer is dead. Slayer lives!
Written and photography by Kieron Yates.
The final Canadian setlist
02. Evil Has No Boundaries
03. World Painted Blood
05. Hate Worldwide
06. War Ensemble
09. Mandatory Suicide
10. Chemical Warfare
13. Born Of Fire
14. Seasons In The Abyss
15. Hell Awaits
16. South Of Heaven
17. Raining Blood
18. Black Magic
19. Dead Skin Mask
20. Angel Of Death