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Headbangers Brawl: On Slayer’s final world tour

Posted by on January 22, 2018

It’s hard to shock the jaded metal industry, but earlier today, Slayer, the heaviest of the Big Four bands, did just that by announcing via a 30 second video clip that they’d be touring the world one last time. While details are still somewhat scarce, this is coming directly from the band, not just swirling rumors from “sources.” So with that in mind, we asked Metal Insider‘s contributors for their thoughts on one of metal’s biggest and most important bands apparently announcing that they’re calling it quits?

Bram: Well, it worked for Black Sabbath. Their farewell tour was a huge success. Perhaps a better example would be Motley Crue, who called it quits even though they could probably still be milking it for years. But honestly, Slayer hasn’t been the same since Jeff Hanneman died, and exiling Dave Lombardo from the band over money essentially means that we’re seeing half of the Slayer that most metal fans fell in love with. 

That’s not meant as a slight against Gary Holt or Paul Bostaph in the least, as they’re crushing it. Tom and Kerry are still furious as well. But the band’s most compelling albums are at least 25 years behind them, and if you read Kim Kelly’s excellent Noisey interview with Tom Araya a few years back, it seemed like Araya was just going through the motions with Slayer, at odds with Kerry King and missing his family more than anything. Again, not that you’d notice from seeing them play. Seeing Slayer is still a visceral experience, but if this is coming from inside the band, it certainly makes sense that they call it a day before too long. 
 

Nick: I’m a little more from the school of not understanding the “it’s not Slayer” demographic – Bostaph has been in the band for longer than Lombardo at this point, and honestly brings it just as hard. Gary Holt is probably the only guy around that can pull of Hanneman guitar parts and have it make sense. Realistically, the focus of the Slayer machine has been almost entirely on touring for years now, with albums only in the mix as very sporadic reasons to continue touring. Considering that they only play material from 2-3 albums even when touring on new material, I can’t say we’re missing any essential contributions on that side. Look, at the end of the day, it’s physically demanding music, new material is an afterthought on most every level, and Tom’s heart and body isn’t in it anymore. He’s getting on in years and wants to be with his family. I feel like shit at 25; I can’t imagine pushing 60, post-multiple back and neck surgeries, living on a bus, and you can’t even cut loose and headbang at your own show? Can’t fault him for that at all.

 
The farewell tour is probably going to give these guys a nice nest egg – it seemed like their attendance was starting to decline in recent years, so calling it now will likely be the shot in the arm for ticket sales they need right now. They’ve given us enough, I’m all in favor of them hanging it up before it gets sad to see them any more tired than they already are. 30 years of reigning is pretty damn good in my book.
 
Jeff:  Bram, I’ve got to agree with you about Slayer not being the same with Hanneman.  He was the driving force behind much of the songwriting and really penned the bulk of the classics.  Not to slight Kerry King, because he has some good songs, and Lombardo’s contributions on the drums is legendary, but Hanneman was the cornerstone.  That being said, there is STILL something to see when Slayer comes to town and no matter how many times you’ve seen Slayer live, your heart is going to start pounding when you see that short video come on the screen and wait for the curtain to drop.  Slayer, even in its slightly weakened form, puts on a better show than 90% of the bands out there today.  And while Gary Holt is not one of “the original”  he is so fun to watch on stage and he’s clearly having such a good time up there.  Holt brings it every show.  Same with Bostaph.  People still pay good money to see Slayer and few (if any) go home disappointed.  
 
While Slayer’s newer records weren’t up the caliber of their classic material, they all had some really good songs on them.  I thought Repentless was quite good and I gave World Painted Blood many spins.  I was hoping Slayer would continue writing new material and performing to be honest.  Honestly, I’m saddened today with the news.
 

Matt: I’ll preface by saying that Slayer’s great and that their place in metal is indisputable, but out of the Big Four bands Slayer is the one I’m least interested in nowadays. This isn’t necessarily due to the absence of Hanneman and Lombardo; I like Bostasph just fine and Holt’s an amazing player. I just feel like Slayer is tired and wrung dry of the visceral energy that got them where they are in the first place. Christ Illusion was the last Slayer album I enjoyed and when I saw them on the final run of Mayhem Fest I just wasn’t feeling it. It was my first time seeing them and while it was great finally hearing songs like “Angel of Death” live, I didn’t feel the sudden surge of adrenaline and need to mosh that I expected. I know there are people that are way bigger Slayer fans than me that love every release or think they’re still as good live today as they were in the 80’s, and that’s great, I’m happy for them. But I’m not in that camp.

 
I know these farewell tours are often subjects of scrutiny, but I hope this turns out to be true so the band can bow out gracefully with a final series of gatherings. And hey, if the tour lineup ends up being as awesome as rumored, I’ll be there. The news will break the hearts of many, but a band as important and influential as Slayer should be going out on their own terms, and that looks like what they aim to do.
 
 

Zach Shaw: Alright, so this really should not come as such a surprise. The writing was literally on the wall when Tom Araya started to make it clear that his interest in Slayer has started to fade. And however you feel about the current incarnation of Slayer, its hard to deny that less and less fans are starting to show up to their shows, so pulling a “two years plus farewell tour” marketing ploy is a good way to get more butts in seats one last time.

 
With all of that said though … I still find myself amazed that Slayer is ACTUALLY calling it quits soon. To me, Slayer always felt like a band that would be around forever, to a point where you took them for granted. “Oh, Slayer is playing NYC next week? Eh, I’ll catch them next time. It’s not like they’re going away anytime soon,” I found myself saying more and more over the past few years. And yet here we are, about to face a world where Slayer won’t actually be active or touring nonstop … Ok, that sounds dramatic, especially since it isn’t THAT sad of a thing, just something I never thought would happen.
 
 
Zenae:  Personally, I haven’t cared much about Slayer’s material since 2001’s God Hates Us All. It’s true that iconic bands have a tendency to release at least one terrible-boring record such as Metallica’s 2003’s St. Anger and Megadeth’s 2013’s Super Collider but, there was something different about Slayer’s latest effort Repentless (2015). When I listened to it nearly three years ago, I sensed an end was near. The album was still “Slayer!” but, felt more forced than anything else. Hell, when Jeff Hanneman died back in 2013, I assumed their future was looking bleak. I have seen Slayer perform live many times and, I enjoyed every moment of it. However, just like Black Sabbath, Mötley Crüe, Rush, and more, all good things must come to an end. At this point, I don’t mean to sound like Gene Simmons here but, I’m more concerned with who the next Slayer is going to be since the legends are dropping like flies these days.
 
 

Jeff:  I still haven’t accepted that Rush is done yet.  I mean, I know they are, but I can’t wrap my mind around it especially since I sat out their final tour.  At least with Rush though I understand that Neil Peart just can’t play anymore.  It looks like all the members in Slayer can still play and although Araya has some physical limitations he’s still a monster live.  To steal a line from Judge Judy, Slayer live on their worst day is still better than 95% of bands on their best day.

 
No doubt though that with that farewell lineup there’s going to be some massive money to be made… and good for them, and good for those bands because they all earned it.  
 
Bram: Agreed. I’m certainly not begrudging a marquee band for slowing down or calling it quits. I think there also needs to be more clarity before we say that Slayer are dead. This is their last world tour. That doesn’t mean that they might not continue to create albums, since they’d already alluded to having more material left over from Repentless. Also, it’d be interesting to hear Nuclear Blast’s thoughts on this, given that they just signed the band. It’s easy to imagine that instead of doing a “world tour,” for then ext few years after this tour, they could pop up on some European festivals and make an appearance or two a year at an American festival like Chicago Open air, Ozzfest meets Knotfest, or what have you. I guess we’ll just need to wait to see how it shakes out. That being said, today’s confirmation of the Summer tour with Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament is one hell of a goodbye if this is the last we’ve seen of them live.
 
 
 
 
 

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Categorised in: Columns, Headbangers Brawl