It was early doors for Floridian death metal legends Obituary (8) with John Tardy and the boys hitting Manchester’s MEN arena stage at approx 6.15pm. Not that the hour deflected from their performance of course! This is death metal royalty we’re talking about here and with “Redneck Stomp” mashing our melons with pure Floridian groove, it quickly became apparent that this band remains as potent as ever. A limited set time leads to a rapid-fire burst through old classics and newer material alike, with the solid-gold likes of “I’m In Pain” and “Don’t Care” nestling nicely next to “Sentence Day” and “Visions In My Head”. Just the one minor quibble. Nuthin’ from the seminal Cause Of Death was played. Not a sausage. So, we just had to ‘make do’ with the formative “Slowly We Rot’ instead. Poor us, eh!
It comes to something when Anthrax (9) aren’t the main support to Slayer but here they were, 3rd on the bill, and also contending with a seriously truncated set time. Opening with “Caught In A Mosh” is a given – and mandatory, frankly – and one of the finest tracks from one of thrash metals greatest bands never fails to hit the spot. State Of Euphoria‘s “Be All, End All” was predictably, suitably epic and, in 2018, closing with “Indians” also feels obligatory! However, while “Got The Time and “Antisocial” don’t really feel like cover songs anymore – so long have they been an integral part of Anthrax’s discography – we’d gladly have swapped one of ’em for something else from Spreading The Disease and / or Persistence Of Time. Regardless, Anthrax don’t know how to put on a bad show and a very succinct set was delivered with the level of energy and skill that only these East Coast thrash legends can muster. Pure gold!
Lamb Of God (8) are a colossal beast. Ferocious, feral and fuckin’ fantastic, their groove heavy take on thrash set Manchester’s metal lovin’ throng alight and the likes of crushing opener “Ometa”, the sonically devastating “Ruin” and a rip-roaring rendition of “Redneck” provided a manna of mosh-worthy moments. Going for the throat, it’s clear that Lamb Of God are more than ready to fill the gaping hole left by the imminent retirement of Slayer. So, embrace them; Lamb Of God are here to stay and ready to make the leap to the very highest level!
These were support bands of the highest calibre but to many in attendance, there was only one band on the bill that truly mattered and that was fuckin’ SLAYER (9).
Let’s cut to the chase. This gig was monumental. A moment to be cherished because Slayer’s importance is indefatigable, their discography virtually untouchable and their deity-esque status amongst the metal elite has been set in stone ever since Reign In Blood ushered in a new era of extremity over 30 years ago.
However, time is a brutal mistress and the journey of this unshakeable band is sadly coming to an end. Amidst high emotion, unparalleled expectation and a steadfast commitment to unrelenting thrash, Slayer had to somehow sate their most loyal audience one last time…. and satisfy them they most certainly did!
Did you expect anything less?
There may have been times when the sheer intensity of Slayer’s thrash attack rendered some of their carefully selected setlist virtually indistinguishable from one another but when they did hit the highs, they smashed a hole straight through MEN’s cavernous ceiling!
What of the highlights? Well, take your pick from a manic “War Ensemble”, a deft rendition of “Dead Skin Mask” or the whip-crack attack of all time classic “Hell Awaits”; all were exemplary.
But, the best was saved for last as Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph somehow raised the ante further with note-perfect renditions of “South Of Heaven”, “Raining Blood”, Chemical Warfare” and “Angel Of Death”. A 4-track closing salvo that no band on the planet could match…..and it left us all exhausted, emotional and utterly in thrall to one of the finest metal bands (thrash or otherwise) to have ever graced us with their presence.
With Tom Araya visibly touched at the end of the gig, as he graciously took the time to stay on stage and attempted to soak up a sea of adulation, you’d be forgiven for wiping a tear from your own eye. Powerful stuff.
We will never see their like again.