A legion of fans vested in thrash metal uniform stormed The Forum in Los Angeles this past weekend for what would be Slayer’s final live performance. At 17,000 strong, this crowd confirmed that never have I witnessed a more unified and genuine following. Everyone seemed wildly unique yet subtly cohesive, as fans showcased their favorite bands’ patches on black denim jackets along with well-kempt beefy beards, studded platform boots and long flowy hair. I was completely out of my element — an innocent sore thumb. Yet I was pulled out of the freezing L.A. wind and into a group huddled around a patio heater, where they proceeded to call me their “Slayer brother.” For a genre of music that revolves around death and the horrors of hell, the sincerity and love from the crowd was undeniably palpable.
Slayer is a chaotic, full-throttle, speed metal band whose themes of hell and dismemberment have garnered them waves of controversy and a rabid cult following. Their intensity and chilling instrumental prowess have cemented them as pioneers of the thrash metal scene, alongside the other members of the legendary Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax).. The gravity of Slayer’s importance in the metal genre and pop-culture was evident by the attendance of big-name celebrities including Post Malone, Jason Momoa and Bill Burr. Metal veteran King Diamond and Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett were also in the audience. Everyone was hyped and ready for a night of headbanging pandemonium.
Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals, whose frontman is best known as the lead vocalist for the massively successful heavy metal band Pantera, started off the concert with an aggressive verve that would carry on throughout the night. Anselmo announced that although his group has their own music, they would exclusively play Pantera songs for all the true fans out there. At only 15 minutes into a five-hour show, the mosh pit had already begun.
The following act was Ministry, another heavy metal band known for their contributions to the industrial metal scene, that offered a punky, electronic performance. The music was psychedelic and synth-laden, yet still possessed this dynamic belligerence that describes the industrial metal genre.
Primus, the third band of the night, is notorious for their strange, quirky funk-metal sound, which revolves almost entirely around frontman Les Claypool’s hard-hitting bass. The weird pure rhythms they produce have some hints of King Crimson and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with Claypool describing his music as “psychedelic polka.” Regardless of their more wacky and off-the-wall swing, they maintained enough of that heavy metal rampage to keep the crowd thrashing about.
Finally, the superstars of the night came onto the stage, and the crowd roared like an army about to enter into battle. I was in the pit, both excited and absolutely terrified for my safety. The vitality of the crowd was contagious; my fear quickly subsided as I prepared to fight for my life. Slayer started with one of their popular hits, “South of Heaven,” and I could feel my blood boiling with animosity and fury; I was an instant fan. The visuals and the fire shows added to the frenzy as if the fire-forged inverted cross and Gary Holt’s “Kill the Kardashians” shirt weren’t enough. For their final song, Slayer played their critically acclaimed 1986 anthem, “Angel of Death,” before finishing the night with a heart-wrenching goodbye speech. Frontman Tom Araya, who is the bassist and lead vocalist for the group, put together this final tour because he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, Araya let his fans know that they were family, too, and said one last thing before exiting the stage forever: “Time is precious, so I want to thank you for sharing that time with us.”