Concert Review: Slayer, Gojira & 4ARM at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, CT
The international brotherhood of metal was on full display once again as bands spanning three continents joined forces to bring an onslaught of extreme music to a rabid crowd.
Australian thrashers 4ARM opened things up with a pummeling assault, never letting up for a moment. Speedy riffs and a tight rhythm section made them a perfect opener for the bands to follow. Hailing from the other side of the planet, Gojira continued on their quest to play the heaviest metal in the universe. After leading off with “Explosia,” Gojira pounded their way through an unrelenting set with killer picks culled from L’Enfant Sauvage and others. They commanded the stage with their signature massive guitar tone, and Gojira’s performance was nothing short of bottled lightning.
The metal world was shocked earlier this year by the untimely passing of Slayer founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Slayer decided to honor his memory by soldiering on, and this tour features a setlist comprised of renowned Slayer cuts created by Hanneman. If you’re a fan of Slayer’s early material (and who isn’t?), then this show was an early Christmas present. “Dead Skin Mask”? Check. “South of Heaven”? You bet. “Die by the Sword”? “Captor of Sin”? “War Ensemble”? Yes on all counts.
The stage was festooned with inverted crosses and a changing backdrop, the final piece of which was also a tribute to Hanneman. Taking the man’s place onstage was Gary Holt of Exodus fame. He’s no slouch in the shredding department himself, and he had filled in for Hanneman previously during the latter’s recovery from another illness. Holt’s playing style fits right in with Slayer, adding brutality without taking away from their signature sound.
Surprisingly, a fan managed to make it onstage and throw up the horns alongside frontman Tom Araya, but his moment in the spotlight did not last: he was double-tackled by security and roughly dragged off within a matter of seconds, prompting some wry commentary from Araya once the song was over. I should also point out that during Slayer’s entire set, about a quarter of the fans in attendance – including those in the pit – were too busy watching the show through their cellphones rather than looking at the stage. This is unacceptable to begin with, but it’s sacrilege when it comes to Slayer. If you see someone focusing on their phone rather than the band they paid to see, stop them.
But I digress.
Every member of Slayer got their time to shine; from Araya’s forceful vocal delivery and foundation bass lines to Kerry King’s back-and-forth shredding with Holt, to a drum solo by Paul Bostaph which naturally led right into “Raining Blood.” Slayer continued firing on all cylinders throughout the show, and they unleashed their final attack with an encore featuring “Angel of Death.”
More than thirty years later, Slayer’s still got it. There’s a reason these classic songs hold up after so long; their legacy is secure, and Hanneman would be proud.