The foundations of Place Bell in Laval were soundly tested when the Slayer Final Tour rolled in on May 30th 2018, with Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb of God in tow. History will tell us if this is really the final tour, as rock bands seem wholly ignorant of the definition of the word « final » (I’m looking at you, Eagles, KISS and Scorpions). But Slayer has built its career on being true to themselves, unwavering for the most part in the winds of musical changes, so I’d bet they’ll stick to it. Those who made the trip to the northernmost end of the subway network (bands weren’t fooled by the new locale, still referring to us as Montreal) witnessed an incredible evening of metal from start to finish.
Thrash legends Testament kicked off the evening, an ungrateful task considering that the 17 :00 start time meant many people were still trying to get to the arena. Despite that, the veterans offered their usual tight set, mixing classics like « Practice a What You Preach » and « Disciples of the Watch » with new gems like « Rise Up ». Singer Chuck Billy’s imposing stage presence was backed by the skillful shredding of guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, setting the tone for the evening.
Following them were Behemoth, a black metal band from Poland. The corpse paint adorned musicians set a dark mood on stage, and offered a career spanning set with a slight emphasis on their concept album « The Satanist ». Guitarist/vocalist Nergal is clearly the focal point of the band, and while I’m no fan of this genre of metal, I have to say they’re growing on me every time I hear them. An excellent set from them, and as the lower profile of all five bands, they held their own against the seasoned veterans they shared the stage with.
Next up was Anthrax, who with Slayer are one half of the Big Four of thrash metal. Testament’s Gene Hoglan was an unannounced replacement for a Charlie Benante behind the drums, and he was more than up to the task. The band played a safe set of their concert staples. I’ll keep saying it : no matter how good they are, why do they have to play 2 covers (« Got the Time » and « Antisocial ») in a 7 song set?
Classics like « Caught in a Mosh », « I Am the Law » and « Madhouse » were joined by « Evil Twin » from their latest record « For All Kings », and just like Testament, their newer material stands proudly toe to toe with the old stuff I grew up with. In the blink of an eye, their set was over, with « Indians » bringing the obligatory war dance mosh pit on the floor.
Now things were about to get serious. As I waited in the photographer pit for Lamb of God’s set to begin, security guards were being briefed that things were about to get rowdy on the floor. Considering the concrete floor in front of the stage was splattered in blood, I’d say we were past that point already.
The band walked on stage and launched into « Omerta », and then « Ruin », in an unforgiving sonic assault. Charismatic singer Randy Blythe led the charge with intensity, belting out guttural vocals over the relentless musical bed his band mates laid down. A few words in French went a long way with the crowd who enthusiastically appreciated the band’s set. A large pit formed on the floor as the band closed their set with « Laid to Rest » and « Redneck », with security constantly pulling crowdsurfers to safety.
A black curtain dropped to hide the final stage changeover, and the anticipation for Slayer was building up. In the corridor, cries of « SLAYER » echoed frequently as fans went for a last beer run before the main event.
« Delusions of Saviour » played over the PA as the energy grew in the venue. As the curtain dropped, the band launched into « Relentless », « Blood Red » and « Disciple ». All the must have songs were played, as the band plotted through pretty much its entire catalog, with only the under appreciated « Undisputed Attitude » and « Diabolus in Musica » failing to crack the setlist. Drummer Paul Bostaph seemed to struggle with tempo a few times, but nonetheless the band was tight as ever. Singer Tom Arraya struggles a bit more than he used to, but it’s never detrimental to the show. Slayer has always been uncompromising in their way of doing thing, and we shouldn’t be surprised they’d rather go out on top. And let’s be honest : this isn’t easy music to play in your twenties, let alone in your fifties. Years on the road must have taken their toll.
But Slayer wouldn’t go without a bang. The last third of the setlist saw them line up « Seasons in the Abyss », « Dittohead », « Dead Skin Mask », « Hell Awaits », « South of Heaven », « Raining Blood », « Chemical Warfare » and « Angel of Death ». What a way to say goodbye! Farewell Slayer.