An ode to Slayer

The mighty Slayer are currently touring for the last time. One last hurrah and trip around the globe. On that path; one last show in Canada.

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 metal-head first and foremost. Yes, I love my punk and hardcore too, but I was a metal-head 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. In multiple cities even. 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. Literally everywhere.

Slayer burn up Heavy Montreal
Slayer burn up Heavy Montreal

 

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. It still hasn’t fully sunk in and I imagine it won’t for quite some time yet. Maybe it never will.

The chanting began before Anthrax had even finished their set. 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. People pushed for position. Elbowing their way to find standing room that didn’t exist. Much the way it was the very first time I had seen them.

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.

In all, their were twenty songs played. And I yelled myself through nearly all of them. To be honest, I skipped out on a few of the newer tracks. My throat was wrecked before Slayer were halfway done. They played songs off of ten of their records – five from Seasons In The Abyss. They even played “Gemini” off of Undisputed Attitude – an album I love. Don’t get me started on that. I know my opinion isn’t a popular one.

From Haunting The Chapel and Hell Awaits through their discography to Repentless – they played selections from their entire history. It was fantastic. It was fast and heavy, raw and hard. As Slayer should be.

Their final song of the night and the last that will ever be played live on Canadian soil, was “Angel Of Death”. While the dirge of the amplifiers faded 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. On the two giant monitors sat at each side of the stage, was Araya’s face. He looked out at us in the same manor we were looking back at him. Hoping to create an everlasting memory of this moment. A frozen few seconds in time. Our lives.

Tom Araya of Slayer
Tom Araya of Slayer

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. I probably am. So many years have been spent on Slayer. So much energy. I imagine the loss of guitarist Jeff Hannaman took a real toll on the other members. I’m speculating here, of course.

Once Araya had finally left the stage, people too began to leave. Yet the “Slayer, Slayer” chants were only beginning. Throughout the walk to the festival’s exits, it continued. 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.

See also: Montreal Riot – An interview with Wattie Bucham of The Exploited

A man outside was yelling into a mailbox while his highly inebriated partner drunkenly showed off her Gary Holt autograph on her muddy arm. Her slurred words exclaimed that she planned to have it permanently tattooed the next day. I hope she washed the mud off first. With the days mail now petrified, we all hobbled onto the bus that would bring us home. Ears still rang and I swear I heard somebody in the distance yelling “Slayer”.

Bands of this stature, in this genre of music, are folk heroes. Truly. Anybody that has ever been a metal-head, 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 long-haired 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.

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. Hell, as early as the fourth grade, I knew about this band. Not their sound or their music; but the name and reputation.

You see, I was in an elementary school that sat beneath a high school, and we shared common spaces. One of those areas was the cafeteria. And one fateful day, the table my friends and I had selected to dine at, contained a discarded copy of Thrasher magazine. (That’s right, sheep, Thrasher is a magazine – not a clothing line.) Thrasher in the day, would cover music too. And in this issue – you guessed it, Slayer. There was a photograph of Jeff Hannaman, with these crazy long spikes, or nails I suppose, stuck into a leather wristband. Back then, we would have called that gnarly. Or rad maybe.

I had that issue for years. Years. Already folded in half by whomever had forgotten it all that time ago. I read it cover to cover, front to back. Then back to front. It was my introduction to skating – which only ever really led me to dislocated knee caps. And Slayer. Although, it wouldn’t be until the end of grade six that I actually heard the band. By that time, I was rocking out hard to AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. This is the time a friends older brother dubbed me that cassette tape I mentioned a while back.

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!

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