Photos by Third Eye Visuals

Slayer. Metalhead or not, everyone knows the name of one of the world’s biggest and best thrash bands of the century. Over the last thirty-plus years, the thrash veterans have built a stunning career for themselves. Not only have they been immortalized as being one quarter of the fearsome “Big Four” bands in metal, they have also provided endless inspiration to their peers and fans alike. Their fearlessly controversial and aggressive lyrics and music influenced countless bands over the years, and will undoubtedly continue to do so for a long time yet. This was an influence that was unique only to Slayer. The band found a way to touch the darkest parts of the world as we know it, bringing it to light and unleashing a form of cathartic brutality that has remained unparalleled since the band’s inception in 1981. Slayer has always possessed the kind of unhinged primal fury that never seemed to burn out, passage of time and age be damned.

But now, after all this time, Slayer are finally ready to say goodbye to their career and to their fans. It is something that lead singer Tom Araya has hinted at for quite some time now, and as of January last year, the vague notion of Slayer’s final years became a bittersweet reality.  

With the saddening but exciting news of the band announcing their final farewell world tour, it was clear that the band wanted to make damn sure that they would give themselves and their fans the send off they deserve. Slayer are intent on making sure that everyone has a chance to see them perform one last time; and with the farewell tour having no set end date yet, it may yet be some time before we truly see the end of Slayer.

After waiting a year for the band to add Australian shows to their farewell tour, fans down under were finally gifted with phenomenal news. After 6 years, Slayer had finally announced some shows for us. Playing at Download Festival in Sydney and Melbourne this Saturday and next Monday, the furious four-piece also extended their dates to include sideshows in Brisbane and Adelaide too, just for good measure.

Considering their support acts for the sideshows consist of fellow Download acts Anthrax and Behemoth, there was no questioning the intensity and insanity that these shows would bring.

With Anthrax also being a member of the elite “Big Four”, these shows would be a double-whammy of superspeed riffs, rumbling kicks and churning moshpits. The blackened death metal addition of the darkly thrilling Behemoth to round out the bill was the bloody icing on an already astoundingly violent cake.

Just last night, Slayer brought their rage to The Riverstage in Brisbane to begin the Ausssie leg of the farewell tour. And oh boy, the bar was set impossibly high by all three bands with their flawless performances.

In typical sleepy Brisbane fashion, the venue remained only half-full until Behemoth swept the stage with regal command. High aggression mosh pits broke out the moment the dark metal lords began their first song, “Wolves ov Siberia”, and it only got better from there. Adam “Nergal” Darski stared the audience down with his icy gaze as the band ripped through an impressive display of their creative catalogue. Before long, the powerfully composed lead singer Adam “Nergal” Darski confessed his appreciation of our enthusiasm before inviting the audience to look around and admire the atmosphere with him; within the span of a few songs, the Riverstage was filled to the brim with people ready to rampage. “Demigod” stirred the furore of the pits into a whirlwind of chaos, continued on by the destructive power of “Lucifer”. The band at some times were literally spitting blood for dramatic effect, adding a gruesome edge to their dark but regal performance. Behemoth’s set was absolutely crushing; a perfect beginning to an evening of diabolic devastation.

After an interval in which many alcoholic bevvies were imbibed, the sky grew dark just in time to welcome Anthrax to the stage. Painting a sharp contrast to the dark and ferocious sounds of Behemoth, Anthrax had the audience jumping, running and crowdsurfing their way through the pit with wild glee. Bodies churned as the band broke out the big guns; “Caught in a Mosh” generated deafening cheers and frantic circle pits as the band grinned and hopped across the stage, loving every second of the hysteria before them. “I Am the Law” brought the chaos to a whole new level, with the pit opening up far bigger than before as the audience screamed every word, somehow managing to drown out the incredible vocals of Joey Belladonna. By the time Anthrax powered through their final song “Indians”, the audience was a mess of drunken, raucous commotion.

A giant black curtain dropped over the stage after Anthrax’s departure, and the riverstage went from full to overflowing as we waited enthusiastically for Slayer to take us straight to the gates of hell, one last time.

Slayer chants filled the air, as did the palpable excitement that grew with each passing minute. The ferocity of Anthrax and Behemoth were no match for the savagery that was about to ensue.

Roars erupted from the crowd as “Delusions of Saviour” began playing over the speakers; the time had come for Slayer to pulverise our ears and our necks. Suddenly the curtain dropped, and the four men we’d all been frothing to see stormed the stage with nothing less than a terrifying, focussed fury. Opening with the title track of their latest album, “Repentless” saw the moshpits devolve into a violent frenzy that met the aggression of Slayer’s sound head-on. Tom Araya’s vocals were just a mighty as ever, delivering his gritty yells and growls with just a much vigour as he always has. Kerry King was a stoic but warlike presence onstage, delivering rip-roaring solos with the excellence of a man who has honed his aggressive sound into a weapon wielded with ease.

Their massive setlist relinquished all of the crowd favourites and then some, as the band powered relentlessly through tracks like “Mandatory Suicide”, “Jihad” and “Dead Skin Mask”. Despite the quick-fire succession of songs, with Slayer refusing to let the audience rest between songs, fans had no choice but to lose their minds in order to keep up in the pit. The floor was absolutely packed with people but somehow the pits still extended the entire width of the stage as the giant mass of agitated limbs and fearless crowdsurfers conveyed their fierce love for Slayer. More bangers followed as they raged through tracks like “Hell Awaits” and “South of Heaven”, before finally allowing us a moment to breathe before their devastatingly satisfying encore.

As Slayer once more came onstage to play their final songs, Brisbane was struck by an almost impossible moment of surrealism; as the band fired up the galvanising riffs of “Reigning Blood”, the sky itself answered in kind with a torrential downpour that conveniently only lasted for the duration of the song. The sudden “Reign” brought the energy levels to a joyfully feral high, with punters throughout the entire venue whipping their soaked hair around and moshing their hearts out.

Following that undeniable high point was the furious “Chemical Warfare”, before the band took the night home with the face-melting speed of “Angel of Death”. It was at this point that the fury of the audience became tinged with the poignant knowledge that this was it, this was the end of Slayer for Brisbane. The final time we would witness the band that has brought so much intensity and influence to the metal scene. Nevertheless, the pits roiled with a brutal, uninhibited energy to see Slayer off.

And suddenly… that was it. There was no heartfelt speech from the band as they almost reluctantly left the stage, but the simple, emotionally charged words of Tom Araya were all that was needed. “Thank you all so much… We’re going to miss you.”

It is the end of an era. Slayer will soon be a vital and much-loved part of history, but the night of unhinged mania we experienced here in Brisbane last night will be held dear in our hearts forever. For a band that is about to call it quits, they showed no signs of weariness, and their sound was still as stunningly heavy as it has always been, and now always will be.

Download Festival attendees, it’s now your turn to rage. Make sure you show your love and support for Slayer; one our founding fathers of metal deserves all of the moshing, screaming, headbanging and horns we can muster before they go. If you were lucky enough to catch tickets to their sold-out show in Adelaide on Wednesday… make sure you give them a damn good last show in Aus. Tickets to download festival in Melbourne and Sydney are still available here!