November 18, 2004

DVD Review: Slayer - Still Reigning

Slayer has stood among the top bands in the realm of metal for the past two decades. They have toured the world leaving destruction in their wake. Since they first released Show No Mercy way back in 1983 they proved they were the real deal, all the way through God Hates Us All, they have kept true to their brand of metal. Where other bands have sacrificed their vision for popularity, Slayer turned a deaf ear to the public and kept creating their own brand of chaos. That dedication to what they wanted paid off, winning them fans around the world, not to mention some of the most rabid group any band could want on their side. Now they return to their seminal 28 minute album Reign in Blood for a tour celebrating their past, and for the first time play the entire album live. To cap it off they make it rain blood in the most literal sense.

I must admit, I didn't get into Slayer until later on, my first CD was Diabolous in Musica. I have since gotten many more including my personal favorite, Seasons in the Abyss. My exposure did come earlier in the form of a tape of Reign in Blood. This would prove influential into getting me into other heavy acts of the time, but for some reason I never got any other Slayer until years later, but I am here to stay.

This DVD features a concert from the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine from June of 2004. The main program is Reign in Blood complete, and they blew the roof off of the center. They do not show any signs of aging. Most bands that have been around for as long as Slayer have will show some sign of diminishing over the years, especially when you play this style of music, but not here. They are are as fast and heavy as ever. The twin guitar attack of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman is unparalleled. I can honestly say that I have never heard a duo quite like them, from the lightning fast leads to the face melting rhythms, they all come through on this disk, from the opening strains of "Angel of Death" through to the bloody end of "Raining Blood." Behind that chaos is returning drummer Dave Lombardo, making his triumphant return to the road with the band he helped create, and he is as crushing as ever, beating the skins to destroy your eardrums. And lest we forget, the man behind that distinctive growl and grinding bass, Tom Araya, for as old as he looks (no offense!), he still sounds as good as he did twenty years ago. That evil grin behind the black mop of hair growling with such ferocity, that just digs itself into your brain.

Now that you know about the bands performance, I guess I should tell you, if you didn't know already, what makes this tour so special. At venues which permit, they have constructed a sprinkler type mechanism which literally rains blood down on the band during the climax of the show. What a sight to behold, as Tom screams out "Raining Blood" red fluid begins falling from the sky completely covering the band and their instruments. It is a great thing to see, all of the guys covered in blood. A pure visceral moment which incites the crowd even further. It is an incredible finish to a great album performance.

Usually I don't get into the extras until the end, but these shouldn't wait, they belong right here. There are only two extras on the disk, but they are substantial. First up is another half hour of music. It appears to be the set leading up to their playing of Reign in Blood. It features War Ensemble and South of Heaven, a list totaling 6 songs and nearly a half hour of stage time. He intensity is as high as it was on the main set. An excellent bonus to an already great performance. Secondly there is a 17 minute interview with the four band members on the development of the band. It gives us insight into the development of their sound, thoughts on their fans, and how their lives have changed over the years. A couple of great extras for their fans.

Video. The show has a distinctly video look to it. It looks good, but it has a quality to it that just makes it look a little strange, not bad, just a bit off. It is presented in an anamorphically enhanced ratio of 1.78:1. Each band member gets a good deal of screen time, although I wish the editing was a bit more dynamic. Also, I wouldn't have minded a bit more of the crowd, we don't seem them enough to see them going nuts. Minor quibbles aside, it is a fine looking transfer.

Audio. We get two flavors here, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. For my viewing I used the 5.1 option, and it sounded great. The two guitars split left and right, the vocals right down the middle. A very nice mix. Again, another small quibble, I would have liked a PCM option.

Bottomline. Overall a great gift for their fans, capturing a live performance of the influential album, capped off by that stage drenching of blood. Plus the bonus material, who wouldn't want more live performances? Good production values, a great performance by the band make this a disk not to be missed.


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