I went to go see Slayer, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Obituary live on Monday night in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. First off, let me just say what an excellent bill. Not only do you get Slayer on the final tour, but also the legendary Anthrax, the monstrous Lamb Of God before they take a long hiatus and as if that wasn’t enough, death metal veterans Obituary opening the bill. Its also only been two nights since I also caught Corrosion Of Conformity live in Cardiff. What a week for live music!
All weekend prior, I had been preparing myself for the gig by playing Live The Island Years, Killadephia and Decade Of Aggression over and over again to get in the mood.
Now; I’ve seen Slayer before, both with Dave Lombardo and with my drummer-crush Paul Bostaph. I’ve never seen them however with Exodus’ Gary Holt on guitar. I haven’t caught them since Jeff passed away basically. I saw them in Wolverhampton touring Christ Illusion (with the similarly excellent support card of Mastodon, Trivium and Amon Amarth – how good value for money is that!) and again back at the Irish Ozzfest circa God Hates Us All. As well as Slayer; I have also caught Obituary in my last year of living in Manchester with Prong and Exodus, before I became a fan, they converted me that night and I’ve bought a bunch of the albums since (that great Roadrunner years boxset). Lamb Of God I caught earlier in my time in Manchester, who cheered me right up after a shitty break up when they were touring Resolution.
I have however, never seen Anthrax. Anthrax have been one of my favourite bands for almost the whole time I’ve enjoyed music. I must have watched their Music Of Mass Destruction and Alive 2 DVDs over a hundred times each, and I can’t count on two hands the amount of times over the years they’ve been my number one favourite band. I almost got the chance to see them in Oxford, but they played the week I moved from there to Manchester and I couldn’t go. They were playing in Dublin when I was a teenager but unlike for Slipknot and Metallica, my friends didn’t all want to go and so did not band together to rent a coach for it like for those other bands. This was when I was still to young to drive and when public transport options weren’t as developed. They also played in Manchester on Valentines day around the time I got engaged and that was not an option either (If there is one thing in the world I do actually care about more than music, my excellent wife is it). Finally, finally I get to seem live now though. I’ve also been extra hyped up for them this year, more than usual due to reading both of Scott Ian’s books this summer (also, how is it that Funko have not made a Pop Vinyl toy of Scott Ian? – he has such an iconic image).
I had a very hectic and stressful day at work and I had to literally do a quick change out of my work clothes and into my street clothes in the carpark and pelt over to the arena. Luckily it was easy to find and I got there right on time, walking in just as Obituary started playing ‘Redneck Stomp’ which coincidentally is my favourite Obituary song.
The arena was pretty empty when I arrived and I got a decent spot about 30m from the stage. As Obituary wore on, more people moved to get beer, or found their friends and it was possible to get right up near the front by the end of their set without having to be rude and push anyone or get in anyone’s space. Considering the venue, their genre of music and their place on the bill, Obituary sounded very clear and good live. On their groovier tracks like the famous ‘I Don’t Care’ they came across really well and I’m sure they converted a lot of skeptics. The last time I saw them with Exodus, I didn’t know them and they certainly converted me as I said already. The lead guitar was fun. The show was minimalist, but they were the opener. Overall, I really liked them. I had already been converted, but they went up even further in my estimation tonight.
It was a great start to the evening. No long boring waits. No crush of people. Good view. I had initially assumed that since it was an arena I would just stay at the back and just listen to them like I did for Guns N Roses at Download, without seeing much… but hey, this was pretty much as good a view as I get at a normal concert.
Next up was the band I was most excited for, East Coast Thrash legends Anthrax. When they arrived my face lit up like a Christmas tree. I felt such a wave of excitement it was like being a teenager again. They had more of a stage show than Obituary, with massive banners and backdrops that had a sort of mixture of the For All Kings with Among The Living Artwork and a For All Kings themed drumkit. Their energy levels were really good for a band of their age. Scott ran around in circles in that way he does, the guitarists switched sides, they were good hosts and interacted with the crowd well.
They got a good sing along going for ‘Be All End All’ and filled their short set with 99% big hits. I felt skeptical of using up valuable time on covers, but to be fair, you just can’t mess with ‘Antisocial’ and ‘Got The Time’ and really in my mind they are just Anthrax songs by this point. Their own hits like ‘I Am The Law’ and ‘Caught In A Mosh’ absolutely blew me away live (I was afraid I would be snobby and want deep cuts and that I would have heard these songs too many times, but when its one of your favourite ever artists for the first time, nope, it is so nice to hear the hits!) and more than any band of the evening, I literally sang every lyric to every single song. Well, except one. I only knew the chorus of ‘Evil Twin’ which was the sole track from the new album. Its a decent album, but not as good as Worship Music or the ’80s albums.
Their choice of songs was clever. Obviously, in a perfect world I would like to have seen a longer set with bangers like ‘One Man Stands,’ ‘Lone Justice’ and ‘Medusa’ in there too, but being realistic about times and the wider public’s expectations, they chose a pretty perfect set. I liked when they stopped the show in ‘Indians’ after that great ‘Wardaaaaaance’ breakdown because people weren’t going off enough, and raised everyone’s energy levels and then dropped it again. I also like when they played bits of ‘Cowboys From Hell’ even if Charlie played the wrong drumbeat.
Joey, for all the complaints on the internet about his voice not holding up, sounded pretty great live. Even better than on the Big Four In Sofia DVD. It was also interesting to see Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall in the band. I quite like Shadows Fall but haven’t seen them live since about 2004 or so. I would have obviously preferred Dan Spitz or Rob Cagiano for nostalgia (it was so cool to see Rob in Volbeat this summer, which is what started off my love afair with that band) but if there’s someone else in Anthrax, it is good to see someone I already like also.
Maybe I’ve been waiting to see Anthrax for so long I’m not being objective anymore, but I was starry-eyed in love with this concert. If it had have ended there, it would have been enough for me.
Luckily though, it wasn’t over there. Lamb Of God were next, after much AC/DC over the PA. I’ve seen Lamb Of God before, touring an album I like more than their current new album, and playing a full set. Obviously I was going to like the previous concert better. That being said I still really enjoyed it. I mean they are energetic and powerful live, and they dropped all the big hits like ‘Ruin,’ ‘Redneck’ and ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For.’ How can anyone fuck with that? Randy is a monster live, as to be expected and the musicianship was tight, except for once I noticed a drumstick go missing in the middle of a beat and Willie messed up a guitar solo. On a personal non =-subjective level, I really wish they had played anything off my two favourite albums Wrath and Resolution, but that’s just personal preference and everyone around me seemed really into tracks like ‘Engage The Fear Machine’ and ‘512.’ Its also interesting that, like I always said they should, they have finally replaced the traditional but less-catchy closer ‘Black Label’ with the clear and obvious choice, ‘Redneck.’ Speaking of which, ‘Redneck’ was terrific fun tonight, I think that is the most moving and shouting I did all evening. What a tune. Undeniable grooves.
Their sound and stage show was a bit better again than Anthrax. There was a definite upward trend in proportion to billing.
When Lamb Of God had finished leveling the place with ‘Redneck,’ a big black curtain fell down to obscure the stage so you couldn’t see them getting the place ready for Slayer‘s show. I saw a team of staff getting instructed on how to deal with the curtain for when it finally dropped and there seemed to be very detailed instructions.
After the first track from their newest (and presumably final) album Repentless playing over the speakers, they dropped the curtain which had been having pentagrams projected onto it whilst a wall of fire blazed over the backline, and launched into the title track from the aforementioned Repentless album – someone in the crowd yelled that it was meant to be ‘Unrepentant’ clearly missing the portmanteau with ‘Relentless.’ The crowd around me went wild and sang every word (again I only knew the chorus).
Man, they had a good stage show Slayer put on. Pyro out the ying yang. Giant backdrops that glowed in the dark and changed a few times to highlight different eras, with a final one of which was in tribute to the late guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Visually; the show was intense, in the chorus of arguably my favourite Slayer song, ‘Disciple,’ for example, every time he shouted ‘God hates us all’ a fireball would shoot up. There were different widths and directions and speeds of flames as the evening went on. Sometimes they even crossed streams to form a sort of fiery cross. There was also big metalwork slayer eagle logos, with fire burning behind the Slayer shield logo inside them. It wasn’t Rammstein but it wasn’t Pearl Jam either if you know what I mean.
Sonically; they were the best sounding band of the night, with beautiful sounding toms and kicks, and very clear audible guitar solos. Like Anthrax they made a point of moving around the stage and if you couldn’t see Kerry one song, he’d be there the next. It was really cool for me to see Gary Holt too as I like Exodus even more than I like Slayer. Also; The first two times I saw Slayer, I had been nowhere near the front, but this was the full on experience I needed for the final time I’ll ever get to see them.
Set-list wise, it was pretty much perfection. I mean, 19 songs long, not too much of the slower creepeir side (No ‘Spill The Blood’ for example) and most of the biggest most popular tracks represented, with all the major tunes from their peak Reign In Blood through to Seasons In The Abyss run, augmented with obvious mandatory setlist choices from outside that bracket like ‘Chemical Warfare,’ ‘Hell Awaits’ and ‘Dittohead’ (My second favourite Slayer song). I think the most surprising two tracks were ‘When The Stillness Comes’ and ‘Black Magic’ (which they didn’t play the other times I saw them).
I also got a real groove on to ‘Jihad’ and wasn’t actually aware of how much I liked that song previously. Maybe there was too much hype and controversy around it at the time, but it never seemed as interesting as the likes of the blistering ‘Flesh Storm’ or ‘Catalyst,’ or even the groovy single ‘Eyes Of The Insane.’ Similarly, I sang every word to ‘Hate Worldwide’ and never really thought of that as being in the upper echelons of their cannon before, but hey, it was damn good live.
I think the highlight of the show for me though was a tie between ‘Post Mortem’ (3rd favourite Slayer song) and ‘Dead Skin Mask’ (which I always, upon hearing, get a flashback to when I was 12 and me and my friend Rooney went to a CD and Records fair in a local hotel and bought these terrible low quality Slayer bootlegs with florescent artwork, and loudly discussed the track listing to appear worldly to the salesman. I remember particularly going ‘Oh wow, Its got ‘Dead Skin Mask’ on it’ even though at the time I had only heard the song once on my brother’s copy of Decade Of Aggression and I didn’t know what I was talking about but just wanted to seem cool in that sad way all 12 year olds always do).
Speaking of 12 year olds, there was a really young kid in front of me the whole gig, but when Slayer came on and all the crowd surfing and shoving started going our way instead of just at the other side, his parents forced him to give up his front row spot for safety, and I got to seamlessly walk one step further, from three people back, to now only two people back, for about half of Slayer’s set. Not before he had caught a guitar pick from Lamb Of God though, now that is a good evening for a young kid! In my early gigs I was always miles away from the bands, and I never caught anything a band threw until I was about 28.
I really wanted to buy that tour t-shirt with all the four bands on it that I saw about on other fans, but when I went to the merch table they didn’t have it and the throng of people exiting made it difficult to find an alternative merch table, so I left empty handed…. but I had bought two C.O.C shirts on Saturday so I can live with it. Also, I’ll always have the memory: Close enough to Slayer that should I have tired hard enough I could probably have spit on Kerry’s large over-sized chains, and boy did I have a great time at my first ever Anthrax show. I really can’t wait to catch them on a headline tour some day.
But that’s it for gigs in 2018 unless something comes up. Next things I’ve got lined up are Architects and then Parkway Drive with Killswitch Engage in the new year, my second time for each of those bands. Until next time…