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Slayer w/ Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus @ Eagles Ballroom

May 16, 2014

slayer metal the rave 2014
Photo credit: Alexander Stafford
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As a genre, the image of metal has changed with any number of fads, alternately represented to the general public by the head-spinning array of styles and sub-genres that it’s spun off over the decades. Yet, for all the trends that have come and gone, there are a few constants, a handful of bands that never seem to go out of style, Slayer being near, if not at, the top of the list. Since forming in Huntington Park, Calif. in 1981, the thrash kings have remained scene staples, maintaining a huge following while a million kinds of metal, from hair to nü, have flourished and perished. Even now, despite the fact that they haven’t released a new studio album in five long years, the band has no problem selling out the sizable Eagles Ballroom.

While they likely didn’t need it, Slayer did have some significant help in packing the place, being joined on this tour by closely related contemporaries Exodus, who played an all-too-brief opening set, and crossover thrash pioneers Suicidal Tendencies, who really got the crowd revved up with an animated 45 minutes of fan favorites, memorably including “War Inside My Head” and the anthemic “Possessed to Skate” from their 1987 breakthrough Join the Army. Once they finished, the crowd, all black T-shirts as far as the eye could see, mostly passed the time by yelling “FUCKING SLAYER!” to no one in particular as a smoke machine belched out more and more fog, obscuring the stage. Finally, the lights went down and hundreds of signs of the horns went up in the air.

Like Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer seemed intent on giving the people what they want, delivering hit after pummeling hit, each enhanced by some creative lighting techniques that drenched a series of backdrops in vivid colors, contrasting ones illuminating the four enormous inverted crosses hovering above their heads. It wasn’t high tech by any means, but it was effective, keeping frantic pace with every shredding solo from Kerry King and punctuating Tom Araya’s snarling vocals. The band was charging full throttle from the very first note, but saved the best for last, breaking out an encore of “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death” in fittingly brutal tribute to founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away last year, leaving the band’s future uncertain. True to form, however, Slayer is still going strong, and hail Satan for that.