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Review/Photos: Slayer, Testament and Carcass at the House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

Posted by on February 29, 2016

Slayer3EditedFriday, February 26th, metal titans Slayer descended upon North Myrtle Beach’s House of Blues with death metal forefathers Carcass and long-standing thrash stalwarts Testament in tow. Tickets ranged from $49.95 to some fans reporting paying upwards of $200 for VIP passes, but in spite of the February chill and what a number of parking lot heshers indicted as “rockstar ticket prices,” a line of fans waiting to enter had wrapped around the venue’s exterior well before the 7PM door time. Signs announcing “NO MOSHING” and “THIS IS A POUR OVER EVENT” accosted a crowd that filled most of the venue’s standing room at first, and eventually swelled to near capacity by the time the headliners took the stage at 10PM. In a lineup of acts staffed entirely by genre veterans, nearly all of whom are in their third decade of performing heavy music, the turnout demographics proved to be a healthy mix of both older fans and younger upstarts, in spite of old headbangers waiting for VIP entry lamenting it’d be a night of “us fuckers provin’ we ain’t too old for this shit.” The show opened at 8 with British melo-death-grind visionaries, Carcass, whose Facebook presence recently touted them as “Liverpool’s second most famous band.”

 

Carcass
“1985,” the harmonic guitar intro track from Carcass’s 2013 comeback LP Surgical Steel, has become a staple prelude to the band’s live shows over the last three-ish years, and as it oozed, bass-heavy but ethereal, from the House of Blues’s house P.A., even the sound engineer could be seen adjusting his earplugs. The band’s iconic concentric circles of surgical tools adorned the stage backdrop. As “1985” rang out, Carcass stormed the stage amid blasts of light patterns and screens across their road cases projecting images of scalpels, spreaders, razors and gore, launching immediately into “Unfit For Human Consumption.” The set proved to be Surgical Steel-heavy, the band opting to omit material from Reek of Putrefaction and Swansong. “Consumption” led directly into to “Buried Dreams,” the opener from 1993’s Heartwork. It’s likely the band’s most popular track, and the venue floor came alive to prove it. There were already gray-hairs in the pit at this point, mingling with kids who couldn’t have been far past high school. As proof of the band’s longevity, the heaps of praise for Carcass’s reunion album was joined live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, of all places, between colliding bodies, young and old. Singer/bassist Jeff Walker’s snarl dropped off as “Buried Dreams” ended. Oddly enough, Carcass had graced HoCo before, but not since 1992, according to Walker’s banter. With that, a sample played from what the band would’ve been touring at that time, 1991’s death metal archetype Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious. The sample fed into “Incarnated Solvent Abuse,” just like on the album. Walker and lead guitarist Bill Steer are both original members of the band, having been in this profession off and on since 1985, but there was nothing about their on-stage demeanor to suggest their age. After the next song, “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System,” technical mishaps forced Walker’s bass to be replaced in time for the band to forge on through “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” and “Captive Bolt Pistol,” both from Surgical. Nearly three years since its release, the band’s faith in their comeback record hasn’t been swayed, and based on the crowd’s reaction, it’s continued to go over as well as anything they’ve ever produced. For their finale, Carcass plowed through another Necroticism highlight, “Corporal Jigsore Quandary,” seguing into a rousing rendition of “Heartwork,” after which Walker thanked the crowd and the band exited the stage, once again to “1985.”

 

Testament
Following the set change to a backdrop and stage accents matching album art from Testament’s most-recent release, Dark Roots of Earth, a crew member brought out a black paper plate with several lit incense sticks jutting from a green ball of wax. They’d burn for the entirety of the band’s set, and a photographer by the stage barricade asked another if he thought the incense was on the band’s tour rider, or if it was important enough that they traveled with it; they were still laughing when Testament rushed the stage. The band’s current lineup consists of Testament mainstays guitarist Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy, as well as off-and-on classic era guitarist Alex Skolnick. But a treat of this performance came with watching the band’s current rhythm section, death/thrash fretless bass legend Steve DiGiorgio and Gene “The Atomic Clock” Hoglan, one of the most respected and prolific drummers in the genre’s history. Aside from Testament, the musicians onstage were involved in some of heavy music’s most revered and influential acts, from Peterson’s black metal side project Dragonlord, to DiGiorgio’s time in Sadus, to Hoglan’s work with Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory. Hoglan and DiGiorgio both also did time in Death. Vocalist Chuck Billy (the only vocalist of the night’s three acts to not play an instrument in addition to singing) stalked between Skolnick, Peterson and DiGiorgio, shredding air-guitar while brandishing an arm’s-length, chrome microphone scepter. The band played a classics-heavy set consisting of fan favorites like “The New Order” and “Practice What You Preach.” Billy’s ability to incite the crowd to violence was clearest during the chorus callbacks of “Rise Up” and the “wall of death” pit formation for “Into The Pit” and “The Formation of Damnation.” Both Peterson and Skolnick absolutely nailed their solos, and DiGiorgio took several opportunities to approach the drum riser, flicking and thumbing at his bass from a number of angles. At every turn, the players in Testament displayed the technical prowess that’s helped them forge a career as one of the most successful acts in thrash.

 

Slayer
Prior to the release last September of Slayer’s eleventh studio full-length, Repentless, the band had been embroiled in behind-the-scenes turmoil. Tour payment disputes led to drummer Dave Lombardo publically airing a number of the band’s financial policies, which cast Slayer in a negative light for some fans. And for many, Lombardo’s subsequent dismissal from the group drove another nail into Slayer’s coffin. But the most crushing blow was dealt in May 2013, with the death of original guitarist and songwriter Jeff Hanneman. Hanneman had suffered from protracted illness, and had been absent from touring since 2011. After his death, guitarist Kerry King insisted that the band would press on, but bassist/singer Tom Araya seemed less certain of Slayer’s future. Following the official replacement of Lombardo with drummer Paul Bostaph (for the second time, as Bostaph had already logged a decade as the skinsman for Slayer), the band began work on the followup to 2009’s World Painted Blood. While the band named Exodus guitarist Gary Holt as Hanneman’s official replacement, the entirety of the music for the band’s eleventh album was shouldered by King, save one track called “Piano Wire,” a holdover from the World sessions, and Hanneman’s last writing contribution to the band he helped found in the early 1980’s. When it was finally released on September 11, 2015, Repentless was favorably received by the band’s fans, and the album’s subsequent support tours saw the latest incarnation of the seminal thrash act embraced with all the rabid fervor characteristic of the band’s following, dubbed the “Slaytanic Wehrmacht.”

By the time Slayer’s drop sheet obscured the stage from view at the North Myrtle Beach House of Blues, attendees were packed shoulder-to-shoulder across the venue’s entire first floor. Dancing projections of inverted crosses and pentagram cut the dark of the stage as the Repentless’s eerie opening instrumental, “Delusions of Savior,” erupted through the house P.A. By the time the sheet fell away and Slayer launched into “Repentless,” the crowd was in full riot. Any doubts about the band’s new material going over well live can be put to rest. Fans screaming along to the song’s chorus were greeted enthusiastically by Araya, who for all his hesitation in the wake of Hanneman’s passing, seemed genuinely all smiles as he shrieked the King-penned lyrics memorializing their fallen guitar counterpart. The band’s performance was energetic and lively, with Araya’s posturing more fitting of a musician in his 20’s, posted between King and Holt, who would trade sides from song to song, solo to solo, screaming lyrics into the faces of fans pressed against the stage barricade. The first five songs spanned nearly as many albums, with Slayer throwing as far back as “Postmortem” from their landmark Reign In Blood release, through “Born of Fire” and “War Ensemble” off of 1990’s Seasons In The Abyss, and up to 2001’s God Hates Us All, playing the old favorite “God Send Death,” as well as live necessity “Disciple,” during which the crowd hit its loudest point of the whole evening. King’s bald, tattooed head and imposing frame thrashed and bobbed reliably with every note he delivered. Araya’s between-song banter and verbal jousting with the audience, while more sparing than in past performances, was just as genuine as ever. And Bostaph, despite suffering a number of physical setbacks over the years, the latest as recent as 2011, played busy fills and relentless double-kick bass drums with ferocity.

Repentless was represented in spades throughout the band’s set. “When The Stillness Comes” and “Take Control” received warm greetings from a crowd that was, as shown with the opener, clearly familiar with them already. Slayer also played “You Against You” and crushing album-closer “Pride In Prejudice,” both of which are being performed on this tour for the first time since the album’s release. The pit was particularly vicious by the time the band reached “Mandatory Suicide” and “Payback,” and the crowd’s mania seemed to peak around “Seasons In The Abyss,” about two-thirds through the set.

Other highlights included early Slayer favorites “Black Magic,” “Chemical Warfare” and “Hell Awaits,” “Hate Worldwide” and the title track from 2009’s World Painted Blood, Seasons In The Abyss’s “Dead Skin Mask” (“A song,” Araya crooned as he introduced the Ed Gein-themed tune, “about the love between a mother and son.”), and the closing unholy trinity of “South of Heaven,” “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death.” Not surprisingly, absent from the set were any tracks from the band’s tepidly-received 1998 release Diabolus In Musica (despite a woman near the bar screaming, “STAIN OF MIIIIND” between nearly every song), but it seemed odd the band played nothing from 2006’s acclaimed Christ Illusion, or Divine Intervention, the molten punk-driven 1994 debut of Bostaph during his initial tenure. But in spite of what the band didn’t play, no one seemed to leave wanting.

There’s a reason Slayer has such amazing staying power: they’ve turned what they do into a lifestyle. Despite reports of Araya’s waning commitment to continuing on after Hanneman’s death, despite King’s occasional bullheaded commentary in the press, and despite the drama surrounding the rotation of drummers Lombardo and Bostaph, Slayer are just as vital on stage now as they ever were. While some have criticized their recent recorded output as flagging or uninspired, when the band delivers onstage, there’s no doubt that they believe 100% in what they’re doing. And throughout the show, as a surging crowd of two generations of disciples gathered to worship before Slayer, it’d be hard to imagine anyone there would disagree.

 

Slayer’s setlist

  1. Delusions of Savior
  2. Repentless
  3. Postmortem
  4. Born of Fire
  5. Disciple
  6. God Send Death
  7. War Ensemble
  8. When The Stillness Comes
  9. You Against You
  10. Mandatory Suicide
  11. Hate Worldwide
  12. Chemical Warfare
  13. Take Control
  14. Pride In Prejudice
  15. Payback
  16. Seasons In The Abyss
  17. Hell Awaits
  18. Dead Skin Mask
  19. World Painted Blood
  20. South of Heaven
  21. Raining Blood
  22. Black Magic
  23. Angel of Death

 

Testament’s setlist

  1. D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
  2. Legions of The Dead
  3. Rise Up
  4. Dog Faced Gods
  5. The New Order
  6. Practice What You Preach
  7. Into The Pit
  8. The Formation of Damnation

 

Carcass’s setlist

  1. 1985
  2. Unfit For Human Consumption
  3. Buried Dreams
  4. Incarnate Solvent Abuse
  5. Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
  6. The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills
  7. Captive Bolt Pistol
  8. Corporal Jigsore Quandary
  9. Heartwork

All photographs: Jeremy Razook

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