Even seemingly immortal, legendary thrash metal bands can lose some of the grit, some of the spirit. That’s how Slayer (considered one of the most influential thrash metal acts) came across at its Fillmore Auditorium show in Denver on Saturday. The spectacle remains, but there’s not much substance left.
While signature high velocity rhythms and ridiculously chaotic guitar solos were still the cornerstone of Slayer’s sound, these pieces stood out in hilarious contrast to the band’s fading attitude and persona. Frontman Tom Araya more closely resembled Willie Nelson than a bloodthirsty satanic warrior. The mosh pit, once a legendary maelstrom and rite of passage, looked more like a group of tired teens strolling in a circle as the band thrashed through furious anthems like “Mandatory Suicide,” “Hell Awaits” and the classic (and still powerfully chaotic) “Raining Blood,” among others.
Guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt traded lightning fast axework — including insane solos – for nearly two hours, brilliantly reproducing their innovative thrash sound, atop Paul Bostaph’s unmatchable thrash drumming. Through highlights of the night — “Postmortem,” “Seasons in the Abyss,” “Chemical Warfare” — Slayer tore into 19 songs under four giant inverted crucifixes. Just the speed of the songs – to say nothing of their voracity — was an exhausting prospect. At least when Araya wasn’t toying with the audience.
At one point Araya even donned the guise of a jaded elementary school principal, holding the entire audience hostage until he could “… hear the sound of silence.”
“I’m not going to say anything, or play another song until y’all shut the **** up,” he chided toward the far end of the 90-minute set. “You guys can’t do it, can you?” The exercise would have been merely humorous, maybe, if he hadn’t gone on for nearly 15 minutes, actually scolding the rabid metal heads for being loud — at a thrash metal show — before playing “Die by the Sword.” This outburst came in stark contrast to Araya’s praise of Colorado as a “…truly free state” earlier in the set. “You guys can do whatever the **** you want here! You should be proud!”
Nice of Araya to approve — surely all the metal heads appreciated it as well.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.