With a society very much stuck in the epic nature of the now, tonight’s Slayer/Anthrax/Kvelertak show has been labelled as the metal event of the year by many. In a 2015 where we have already been blessed with a Slipknot/Korn tour, a Megadeth/Lamb Of God Tour and a host of gargantuan festivals, it seems that the memories of “epic” shows are being cast aside in the quest for the next big thing. That being said, Slayer and Anthrax on an indoor run of shows had this reviewer booking flights as the ink was drying on the posters.
As the queue snakes around from the venue, rumours of a giant Ark moving down Bristol Street in Birmingham seem pretty plausible as the last few days of November decide to spill their sorrow on the city. When we do get inside, Norway’s Kvelertak kick off proceedings a little earlier than was originally scheduled. Their maniacal mix of black/punk/thrash rock ‘n’ roll is a cracking starter for the evening’s metal feast. From the balcony, the core fans are visibly enthusiastic in pockets around the hall while many stand waiting for the main event. The band are fireballs of energy and frontman Erlend Hjelvik, is their sweaty ringleader. Kvelertak hit their stride on the final two songs ‘Bruane Brenn’ and ‘Kvelertak’ with the crowd finally warming to their very unique sound.
Next up are the “Big Four’s” Anthrax. Ripping into a ball busting ‘Caught In A Mosh’, it’s clear that they are here to set the bar very high for the headliners. Frankie Bello is a headbanging bastion of fury. He is all over the stage; from the drum riser to the front monitors, every single action is larger than life and his enthusiasm pulls the audience in. His intro to the distinctive ‘Got The Time’ picks the momentum up another notch. 10 years since Joey Belladonna rejoined his cohorts, he has lost none of the energy and vigour that gave his performances such life in the early days; actually, on tonight’s evidence, he is like a man possessed. On ‘Antisocial’ the audience gets their first real chance of a proper singalong and they do themselves proud. Goaded by Belladonna, their response is deafening.
Anthrax will release ‘For All Kings’ next year and Scott takes an opportunity to address the crowd, “Hey, do you guys like thrash metal? Coz this one is gonna make you shit your pants”. ‘Evil Twin’ follows and is warmly received. Jon Donais’ guitar work is on point throughout the night and he does not let his fellow bandmates’ metal histrionics overshadow his contribution. My highlight is the inclusion of ‘March Of The S.O.D’ before they finish up with their Dio tribute, ‘In The End’, ‘Indians’ and ‘Among The Living’. A special note has to be made of the massive circle pit during ‘Indians’ as Mr. Ian screams “Warrrrrrrdannnce”. Unforgettable.
Scott leaves us with these words, “Birmingham, It was our honour and privilege to play in the home of heavy metal” and Joey is the last to vacate the stage as he leads us in a chant of the immortal chorus from ‘Long Live Rock And Roll’. Anthrax’s set felt a little short, but they filled it with a solid selection of thrash anthems.
The stage has been obscured with a giant white tarpaulin as the crowd is now jammed into every crevice with expectant fervour as they await the arrival of the one and only Slayer. Inverted crosses and the Slayer pentagram are projected onto the giant canvas as the intro of ‘Delusions Of Saviour’ initiates the ritual. With an opening salvo of ‘Repentless‘, ‘Postmortem’ and ‘Hate Worldwide’, we are left in no doubt as to why Slayer are the headliners tonight. This is a pure unadulterated musical fusillade that blasts the ears of everyone right to the back of the venue. Kerry stage right, and Gary stage left trade licks, Paul pummels (notably on ‘Mandatory Suicide’ where his machine gun fills add a different slant) and Tom reigns supreme at the helm. Crowdsurfers abound, pits erupt and horns are held high. The feeling in the room is that of elation.
It’s great to see Gary Holt, completely settled into his role shredding about the stage, owning it and hoisting his axe by the tremlo arm at every opportunity. It is a nice understated tribute to see Jeff Hanneman’s “Still Reigning” logo on the body of his ESP guitar. Over the evening, Tom makes references to the crazy times we are living in and that even some of the older songs are still very relevant today. “Because, if you must live by the sword, you will die by the fuckin sword.” Where Belladonna’s allure is his in your face presence, Araya just stalks and smiles, and the crowd reciprocates his visual joy in spades. ‘Black Magic’ is one of the highlights of the show as the audience is treated to a broad selection from the back catalogue. The new songs like the already mentioned title track and the scalding ‘Take Control’ are fresh and full of menace.
There are fewer more distinctive personae than that of the onstage Kerry King; unrepentant, he screams the lyrics as he sends his riffs over the barriers. Tonight, Slayer are well into the run of shows and their sound is immense and tight. There are no gimmicks, there are no props, there are no roadies dressed as characters; there is only heavy metal and tonight in Birmingham, Slayer is the law. ‘Chemical Warfare’ and ‘Hell Awaits’ keep the Slayer diehards (is there any other type of Slayer fan?) happy, and ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ followed by ‘South Of Heaven’ give the show a euphoric high. As the crowd chant “Slayer, Slayer, Slayer,” Tom jokes that they need to stop as there is a curfew. The show closes with the inevitable ‘Angel Of Death’ and those on the balcony rise to their feet alongside the thousands at ground level to salute the four. As the audience pours from the O2 Academy they know they were at the metal event of the year.
In 2015, Slayer invented a new word, released a killer new album, and on tonight’s form they will always be repentless. A truly amazing night in Brum from one of the most important heavy metal bands in history.
Photos by Down The Barrel Photography[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157659490762333″ size=”z” count=”100″]