While themes of dying and violence are always an integral part of any Slayer concert, a genuine sense of tragedy hung in the air at this sold-out Universal show, as the heavy metal community continues to mourn the recent shooting death of guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott of Pantera and Damageplan fame.
Numerous Dimebag tributes to could be seen on T-shirts in the crowd, and Slayer guitarist Kerry King — a longtime friend of Abbott’s — affixed messages to his instruments dedicated to the slain musician, considered one of thrash metal’s premier players.
“We want to take this time to say goodbye to someone,” said Slayer vocalist Tom Araya midway into the band’s perf, eliciting protracted applause. “We wish Darrell well on his next journey.”
As for the show, Slayer delivered a brutally impressive survey of its 20-year recording career, demonstrating why it is considered the best-preserved of the classic thrash bands (the others are Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth).
Opening with “Disciple,” from 2001’s excellent album “God Hates Us All” (American Recordings), the veteran quartet created a thunderous 100-minute din. “Mandatory Suicide,” a graphic tale of wartime horror from the landmark “South of Heaven” album, was an early highlight and built to a ferocious climax of frenzied guitars.
Many of the 20 or so songs offered were lifted from the L.A.-based band’s classic early releases. The blistering “Necrophobic,” one of many played from the groundbreaking “Reign in Blood” opus, was taken at breakneck speed and stands as perhaps Slayer’s fastest song. The horrific “South of Heaven” remains the band’s signature piece and was clearly a fan favorite.
Show ended with more from “Reign in Blood,” including the nightmarish, Nazi-inspired tale “Angel of Death,” on which King and Jeff Hanneman traded scorching guitar solos, and “Raining Blood,” by which point the faces of all four band members were covered in the red stuff.