Raining Classics on a Lacerated London
Slayer and Lamb Of God at the London Astoria, 8 July 2003
by: Jackie Smit
With the promise of never-before aired oldies and some less frequently played favourites attracting the throngs to a reunion with the undisputed gods of metal, the air of excitement in (and around) the Astoria tonight is almost overpoweringly palpable. Add to this that the opening act happens to be one of metal's hottest and most promising properties right now, and one can't help but frown at the fact that two lone female security guards man the front barriers when Virginia's Lamb of God hit the stage.

Plagued by a distorted bass sound that often drowns out their intricate trash-core riffing, Lamb of God -- in particular front man, Randy Blythe, who takes to the stage looking like a psychopathic beach-bum -- nevertheless get things going with far greater skill and ease than Ellis did when opening for Slayer in this venue exactly a year ago. Songs like "Ruin" and "As the Palaces Burn" are absolutely crushing, with Blythe's voice sounding even more threatening here than it does on record. Keeping things short and to the point, Lamb of God know not to outstay their welcome and close proceedings with "Black Label" after about 25 minutes, almost certainly having won themselves a decent number of new fans with their uber-intense display of metallic prowess. No matter how cynically you care to approach the topic, this band is definitely set to (deservedly) be a big name sooner rather than later.

Of course, there are few names as prolific and revered as that of Slayer. Arguably the remaining member of thrash's "Big Four" that can hold their collective head highest and proudest, the Slayer live experience is not so much a show as it is a grand event. You'd certainly be able to number on one hand the amount of acts that can elicit such a crowd roar as to virtually overpower the face-ripping viciousness of the opening number -- coming to us tonight in the form of "Disciple". Venue security is immediately stepped up, as "God Send Death" and "War Ensemble" follow, the audience now nothing more than a human tumble dryer stretching from wall to sweat-soaked wall. Reliable stalwarts like "Seasons in the Abyss", "Dead Skin Mask", "Hell Awaits" and "The Anti-Christ" force the assembled mass to draw on energy they didn't know they had in them, but it is when Slayer delve further into their back catalogue and start throwing out such rare renditions as "Post Mortem", "Jesus Saves", "Altars of Sacrifice" and "Necrophobic" that the true carnage begins. Tom Araya, as ever, seems genuinely moved by the crowd's overwhelming response and when Slayer finally end the night with the dual assault of "Post Mortem" and "Raining Blood", it is fair to assume that whatever tickets were still available for the following night will be sold out within a matter of minutes to the countless fans who'll want to take in another night of this madness.

You can argue all you want about the quality of their post-_Seasons in the Abyss_ efforts, and you can even go as far as to say that Slayer are past their prime (though a few thousand people in the London Astoria tonight will strongly disagree with you). But as far as live shows are concerned, no one can come close to matching Slayer's intensity, stage presence and sheer bludgeoning ferocity. They have been hailed the greatest live act by countless media sources and polls, and to quote a phrase "they are that damn good". Truly, if you ever only see one live band in your life, do yourself a favour and make that band Slayer. No matter what your persuasion, you will not be disappointed.

(article submitted 20/7/2003)


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