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Metal/Prog Metal Concert Reviews

Slayer

Live in Chicago, August, 2007

Review by Travis Jensen

Another summer season had arrived, which meant that I would attend yet another Slayer show. Last year it was the Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee, this year at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont Illinois. I’d been to the Allstate many times before, most recently to see Iron Maiden. However, this has been the first time that I’ve been there as a photo journalist, pressed against the stage. This is an experience like no other, especially when it is a group that is a metal legend known around the world. This is real sword-swallowing, punch you in the stomach metal, and not some of the crap that the media, radio and TV tells you is metal. Those of you that understand what I’m talking about need no more of an explanation; for those who don’t, an explanation isn’t possible. Anyway, here is the next chapter in my Slayer saga.

The stage was dark, covered with an enormous tapestry with inverted crosses flying around in a flurry. There was a very small space between the gate that held back the fans and the stage. The scent of smoke, sweat and beer permeated the air and I realized that I was in my element. Slayer is now going full speed with the Christ Illusion album, so it only made sense that they start out with a cut from that LP. “Flesh Storm” was the first song that ripped though the 20 foot stack of amplifiers and the crowd went wild! This is an incredible song from beginning to end, so a very powerful opener, in my opinion. Tom has been quoted as saying “As far as thinking about death and murder and various ways of killing people and how people die... I probably have the most twisted mind in Slayer.” This to me is the perfect quote that probably embodies this particular song. Kerry King is such a driving force of the band with a monumental stage presence. Combined with Jeff Hanneman, the switch from each guitar was like a lightning storm.
     
The song set continued and “War Ensemble” came up next. Having Dave Lombardo back on drums made all of these emotions in me take flight. The next song was one of my personal favorites, “Chemical Warfare,” so I was really into it, and so was the crowd and the place was literally on fire with adrenaline. “Ghosts of War” was after that and by this time I’m (like much of the crowd) was singing along with Tom Araya.

The next thing I knew, all of us photographers were herded back out from the front of the stage like cattle, leaving me in the back of the floor seats area half a mile away from the stage. A couple of songs had gone by from having to exit outside the stage area and exchanging my ticket for a wristband. My concert experience was incredibly different then, but the enthusiasm from years as a hard-core Slayer fan keep me going strong. The remainder of the show was filled with songs that I’m very familiar with, so I was now wishing that I was still in the front of the stage, because they are the nostalgic songs that I’ve been breaking my neck to for years. “South of Heaven” started, so I slammed my beer and get ready for the crowd to start moving. I chipped a tooth last year, but getting a guitar pick from Kerry King made it worth the minor inconvenience. Sure enough, bodies were flying around, so intelligence moved me out of the line of fire this time.

     
“Raining Blood” was next so I tried to maneuver myself closer to the stage, but wasn’t very successful, as the crowd was too thick and even more obnoxious. “Hell Awaits” came after that, followed by “Mandatory Suicide” and then “Angel of Death” for the finale. My favorite part of the show was probably when (during the spoken word portion of the song “Mandatory Suicide”) Tom Araya screamed this only as he, and only he, can do it. He started it just as usual, but as the lyrics progressed, it grew with enthusiasm that seemed to be coming from a growling demon in his stomach…

Lying, dying, screaming in pain.
Begging, pleading, bullets drip like rain.
Minds explode, pain sheers to your brain.
Radical amputation this is insane.
Fly swatter stakes, drive through your chest.
Spikes impale you as you’re forced off the crest.
Soldier of misfortune
Hunting with bated breath.
A vile smell, like tasting death.

Dead bodies, dying and wounded
Litter the city streets.
Shattered glass, bits of clothing and human deceit.
Dying terror,
Blood’s cheap, it’s everywhere.
Mandatory suicide, massacre on the front line.
       
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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