Words & Photos by Scott Murry
In a sea of black t-shirts, with a triple threat of mammoth metal on queue for the evening, I couldn’t help but think, “cotton candy e-cigs, guy? That’s pretty un-metal on so many levels.” Nothing could unhinge the palpable anticipation brooding in the crowd however, not even sugary plumes that spawned olfactory flashbacks to elementary school fairs with Chuckles the Clown. Building the suspense, Slayer groomed their stage in satanic grandeur as a recording of “Delusions of Splendor” from Repentless played behind a curtain, projecting imagery of upside-down crosses.
As the curtain dropped, Slayer emerged with thick smoke up their wastes as if they were already half-deep in war. With guitarist Kerry King’s massive chains rattling through the deathly fog, hot orange flames bursting, and ghoulish imagery flashing in the backdrop, this wouldn’t be a good spot for the apprehensive Ichabod Crane … or even someone seizure-prone. Slayer has a rep for utilizing controversial imagery and ways to instill morbidity far beyond the imagination of Washington Irving.
With all the doom and gloom visuals and sound lurching through the venue, Tom Araya’s bright, warm smile can catch one off guard. “First and foremost, I wanna thank you for coming out tonight,” the bearded lead greeted. “You guys ready to have some fun? You’ve got chairs and seats [the crowd booed heavily]. It’s alright … It’s alright. You guys can just stand there and wiggle.” Hearing him joke and repeat the verb a few times with a smile added an endearing complexity to the character.
Introducing “Dead Skin Mask” Araya said, “This song, it’s about loving someone so much … [voice drops to gravely whisper] you love them to death.” 15-foot flames continued to shoot behind the band, beautifully synched with each snare pop. Near their final three songs, the side curtains dropped to reveal their eagle logo atop a pentagram made of stone. Modified with illustrated drips of blood, it was a clear signal that they’d be playing the 1991 head-banging classic “Raining Blood.”
With King on one side of Araya, and guitarist Gary Holt on the opposite, the band tore through 19 tracks with minimal breaks and no encores. The stage presence was fitting for a group that have stood tall in thrash music for 36 years. They continue to play hard and spark a bit of existential dread in their audiences. Blood, smoke, and smiles, they are the master class of thrash.
Lamb of God came on just before Slayer, and lead Randy Blythe also mentioned the awkwardness of seats at a metal concert, “Apologies for the seats, that was not my idea.” Displaying excellent stage calisthenics, he repeatedly encouraged fans to “whoo” in the style of retired pro-wrestler Ric Flair. He also had a laugh over popular Boston vernacular, “wicked pissah,” before expressing great respect for the city’s bands like Sam Black Church, Gang Green, and Killswitch Engage. He later suggested, “Fuck Fox News, MSNBC … it’s all bullshit. Think for yourself Boston!” It’s a nice sentiment in a concert setting—but perhaps “Stay informed, here are some valid sources,” would work better, but I get his frustrations. Footage of police brutality and riots fueled the song. At the end of their set, Blythe yelled, “Thank you so goddamn much,” in a growl fit for fending off any Stark wolf on the attack.
The openers, Behemoth, stood behind mic stands of wrought iron snakes, creating an elaborate holy presence. The death metal men wore intricately leathered and looped outfits resembling ancient armor. Lead man Nergal peered through demonic eyes from under his hood. With a sinister laugh at the end of “Alas, Lord is Upon Me” the crowd erupted in cheers and raised horns. Their dark appearance felt misplaced with sunset creeping through the edges of the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion tent, but it began the night of this Repentless World Tour on the right foot.