To say I was excited for this show would be an understatement. Even after seeing 500+ metal bands live in concert over the past four decades, I still get excited to see Slayer. They’re just THAT good and they continue to impress as live performers, recording artists and individuals. Needless to say, adding Behemoth to the bill, who are still touring in support of one of the greatest extreme metal records of all time with The Satanist, got my blood pressure up even higher. The icing on the cake was the inclusion of Lamb of God on the tour, who are devoured by Philadelphia audiences nearly as much as a Geno’s cheesesteak followed by half dozen Federal donuts.
Behemoth opened the show. Philadelphia audiences have been treated to this Polish quartet a lot in recent years with their recent tours including Watain and Cannibal Corpse. While Behemoth has been putting out records for quite some time it wasn’t until the more recent releases that they’ve grabbed hold of American metal audiences. It goes without saying that The Satanist, they’re most experimental, yet mature record, put them on the level of international stardom. But even with that star appeal, frontman Nergal still comes off as a down to earth, genuine individual who loves his fans, works tirelessly for his art and remains extremely approachable. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Nergal a number of times in Europe and he is an amazing man who loves life and lives fearlessly. It’s more than mere coincidence that Nergal is touring with Slayer frontman, Tom Araya, who exhibits similar qualities.
Behemoth was without their usual skinsman, Inferno, who stayed behind in Europe for family reasons, but Job For a Cowboy’s Jon Rice more than proved he has the chops to fill in. While they did play a couple of songs from The Satanist (such as “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” and “Messe Noire”), with the wide of appeal of the Slayer and LOG audience, they mixed up the set list to include more of their greatest hits. This appealed to all Behemoth fans as we got to hear some songs we didn’t hear on the last tour through town. Included were “Conquer All,” “Ov Fire and the Void” and, of course, the masterful “Chant for Eschaton 2000,” which they closed their set with. The crowd was intense right from the get-go and Behemoth was able to get their entire performance in right before the rains and lightening came in. Show went to a hold while the staff waited for the weather to clear. To the management’s immense credit, they let people leave the venue and then come back in after the delay.
Nergal does things his way and Behemoth features that “work hard, play hard” attitude that appeals to so many in the City of Brotherly Love. While the masses might be encouraging one philosophy and way of viewing things, Behemoth carves their own path. This was particularly apparent when they decided to play Israel against the wishes of ignorant boycotters and myriad of virtue signalers on social media. Unlike Roger Waters, Behemoth take a more informed and balanced approach to the Middle East conflict and wish to provide their music for anyone who wishes to listen – literally “giving the middle finger” to all of those who tried to tell them what to do. Behemoth threw political correctness out the window long ago in favor of the human spirit and a desire to stay true to their artistic vision and principles.
Slayer is a band who has experienced similar social media dogpiling, mostly because of Tom Araya’s desire to speak his mind about politics. This willingness to dare utter a few words about the 2016 election has resulted in sorry attempts at social media ridicule at the hands of the alt-left. These social media trolls, sadly (but not unexpectedly) also took aim at his family. But like Nergal, Slayer and Araya pay little mind to the incessant noise of the ill-informed masses. And, honestly, their body of work speaks for itself. Araya did poke fun at the ridiculous controversy at the drenched and soaked, yet fierce, Philly show by stating:
“Thanks for coming out in the rain. I understand a little rain can make some people melt but we don’t have any snowflakes here, do we?”
The diverse and extremely patient crowd gave cheerful approval.
This is the second time I’ve seen Slayer with Gary Holt on guitar. Gary looks like he’s having fun and his enthusiasm is contagious. Not that it takes that much to get Slayer fans enthused. Especially with a set list that features “War Ensemble,” “The Antichrist,” “Dead Skin Mask” and “Born of Fire.” And if that’s not enough, these guys from SoCal are going to throw in classics like “Hell Awaits,” “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death.” This is all in addition to the newest tracks from Repentless.
Now we all know many critics (who hide behind pen names) were rather harsh on this record when it was first released, however, I believe those earlier reviews were rather short-sighted. The more I’ve listened to Repentless, the more I’ve grown to love it. In fact, I believe a lot of the negative reviews written about this record had more to do with politics than anything else. As someone in the Generation X demographic, I’ve noticed a lot of my friends and peers who loved Slayer in the 80’s still love Slayer now and think their newer records are on point. Personally, I’d go see a show of just Repentless, World Painted Blood and Christ Illusion songs. Of course, Slayer doesn’t do that and instead gives fans a smattering of their massive discography appealing to all different age groups in attendance. Frankly it’s pretty difficult to not get intensely pumped when the band tears into “Repentless” at the drop of the curtain.
Quite honestly, if you can’t feel a rush of adrenaline as you watch Gary Holt and Kerry King shredding incessantly with Tom Araya belting out his vocals in between them and Paul Bostaph killing it on the drums, you might have to rethink if live metal is really for you. Slayer, always professional on stage, gave the extremely wet Philly fans a killer show – even if slightly altered given the stormy conditions and the extended delay. While the outdoor Electric Factory parking lot was filled with puddles from the flash flooding and visibility was poor at times given the mist, the sound for Slayer was really well done and the crowd appreciated the fact that the show still went on… and went on professionally.
Lamb of God played in between the two and, of course, put on a show that Killadelphia could more than appreciate. Philly’s love of LOG goes way back and it shows given the fact that a couple thousand people braved downpours to see them hit the stage. LOG got the worst of the weather but still absolutely killed it. Even throughout the horrendous conditions, I’d say they delivered one of the best performances I’ve seen from them. The guys from Richmond stuck to the classics and fan favorites, which was more than appropriate for the sing alongs and intensity of the approving crowd. Highlights for me were “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For,” “512” and “Engage the Fear Machine.”
Overall, these three legends gave the crowd exactly what they’ve come to expect. It’s little surprise these bands deliver tour after tour given their intense amount of old fashioned sweat equity. The people I spoke with who ordered the VIP packages were incredibly stoked and there was a nice little group of people at the Slayer sound check. The Philly show was completely sold out and some unfortunate fans were a bit too late in ordering their tickets. There were many who were shut out thinking they could get tickets at the walk-up and then went scrambling to find a ticket at the last minute. My advice is simple: don’t make that mistake. If this tour is coming to your town – get your tickets now because the buzz on this show is huge. I might just have to hop on the train to New York and go see this again!