February 11, 2007

Concert Review: Slayer w/ Unearth, Only Hell Remains 2/10/07

It was nearly five years ago, the lights were dark, the crowd was insane, and the music was loud. I left that night battered, bruised, and completely exhausted. If you are wondering, that was the first, and only other, time that I witnessed the behemoth that is Slayer in the live setting. It was a great show, very much impressing this casual Slayer fan. The support for that show was Soulfly (which was the best I had heard them sound) and In Flames. The draw for this show was not only to see Slayer again, but also to witness another band I recently began listening to, Unearth.

The show was being promoted by The Chance Theater, a local music club. Knowing that more room would be needed they held it at The Mid-Hudson Civic Center a few blocks over. In preparation for the show, the club had a weekend long battle of the bands to find a local opener. The weekend featured twelve bands competing to win that slot, a great opportunity for any local act. The winning act was Only Hell Remains. Unfortunately, I was not able to go, but judging by the winner's performance, the right band won.

When I walked into the auditorium, there was already a lot of fans getting warmed up as Only Hell Remains had begun their set. I have to admit, they were impressive. I have seen many local bands, but this was my first experience with them. The riffs were heavy, and the energy was high, but the definite highlight was the machine gun drummer. The drummer was excellent, the fills, rhythms, everything point towards a bright future. The only downfall was a technical glitch where all of the monitors went out for nearly ten minutes. This led to some chants and frustration, but overall the crowd dealt with it well. Only Hell Remains proceeded to finish their set, with approval from the crowd. This was a great opportunity for them to get out to a bigger crowd than they are probably used to.

Unearth was up next, I stood there anticipating what was to come. My first exposure to them was just recently when I checked out their new album, III: In the Eyes of Fire, and was impressed with their blend of old school thrash and hardcore, putting them right in the midst of the burgeoning metalcore subgenre. Now, Slayer fans are famous for not being too kind to the opening acts, and true to form, there were a few scattered fans out there ready to hurl a "you suck" or "Slayer!" at the stage, but for the most part, the crowd was ready for Unearth to prove their worth.

For about 40 minutes, Unearth took the stage and played with amazing ferocity. The opened their set with "Giles" from their latest release. The crowd, again minus those few Slayer diehards, was ready and willing. This is a band that knows where it came from and pays tribute to their influences while forging a new direction. Down in the crowd you could witness moshing, headbanging, circle pits, and body surfing coexisting within the energy emanating from the stage. Unearth possess a nice balance of sheer heaviness and technical expertise, and they form a tight unit in the live setting. I really had a good time in their set. At one point, vocalist Trevor Phipps called for more budy surfers, it was at this time when there was a flood of humanity washing over our heads and leading towards the stage. Needless to say, their set was well worth witnessing, they are an up and coming band with a load of talent.

Their set included: (this is not complete, and the order is completely wrong)
The Great Dividers
March of the Mutes
Sanctity of Brothers
Zombie Autopilot
This Time Was Mine
Black Hearts Now Reign

OK, now, the moment we had all been waiting for, the arrival of the mighty Slayer to the stage. This is a band that no matter when you see them, when you listen to them, what album you listen to, or anything, you are going to get the same thing. There are a lo t of bands who change their approach over the years, but not Slayer. They are still playing the same aggressive thrash that they were over twenty years ago.

This show was loud, raw, and the crowd was into evey single note. I know I was loving it. Watching the interplay between Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman is very impressive. I never looked to them as a terribly technical band, but there is some amazing solo work between the two. They are as quick as ever with the pick, and I have never heard anyone sound quite like they do. Then there is Dave Lombardo on the drums. He rejoined the band in 2002, making his return to the studio with the 2006 album Christ Illusion. He is an amazing drummer, there is something that is invigorating in his playing, I cannot quite put my finger on it, but seeing it live is awe inspiring. Tom Araya is excellent as usual, although his voice does not seem to be quiote what it was.

Overall, their set was tight, and the crowd was great. Not quite up to the level of that 2002 show, but still great. From the performance of newer cuts like "Jihad" and "Eyes of the Insane" to personal favorites "Seasons in the Abyss" and "Dead Skin Mask" there is nothing quite like seeing them live.

Setlist (believed complete):
1. Darkness of Christ
2. War Ensemble
3. Disciple
4. Jihad
5. Die by the Sword
6. Show No Mercy
7. Captor of Sin
8. Cult
9. Bloodline
10. Supremacist
11. Eyes of the Insane
12. Silent Scream
13. Seasons in the Abyss
14. Dead Skin Mask
15. Postmoretm
16. Mandatory Suicide
17. Raining Blood
18. South of Heaven
19. Angel of Death


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