Slayer – SSE Arena, London, UK (3rd November 2018)

Slayer’s influence and standing in the world of extreme metal is difficult – the very act of just screaming their name at the top of your lungs is shorthand for ‘I like metal’. The pioneers of thrash metal have decided it’s time to bow out on their own terms with one final farewell tour, and a sold-out crowd in the SSE Wembley Arena had the fortune of seeing them perform for one last time, along with a top bill of guest acts.

Obituary kicked proceedings off with a tight set of classic death metal. With their downtuned guitars, thumping drums and the guttural screams of singer John Tardy, you could feel the swampy atmosphere of their native Florida practically seep through their music – a combination which got the moshpit going from the very start.

Second in line were Anthrax, who with the opening chords of ‘Caught in a Mosh’ foresaw where all of us would end up just seconds later. The New Yorkers have been undergoing a renaissance off the back of two successful albums with almost-classic lineup. Fronted by the tireless Joey Belladonna, the five were brimming with energy and hunger, delivering a set that was equal part fast, fun and furious.

Lamb of God delivered the final support set, a merciless onslaught of rapidfire riffs and bulldozing breakdowns. Vocalist Randy Blythe was in total control of the stage, his flying dreads shadowing his every move with a second’s delay. Certified classics of modern metal like ‘Laid to Rest’ and ‘Walk With Me in Hell’ showed why Lamb of God are on their way to becoming one of, if not the biggest band in metal, and it’s just a matter of time before they play a venue like this on top of the bill.

Two large casts of the Slayer inverted pentagram, engulfed in flames, pre-empted the oncoming transformation of the SSE Arena into one of hell’s fiery circles. It was moments layer when Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph erupted into ‘Repentless’. The flamethrowers surrounding the drumkit spat fire in sync with his kick drum, while a tornado of bodies consumed the standing area. The iconoclastic ‘Disciple’ saw Araya scream that “God hates us all” from the depths of his lungs, while Bostaph’s thunderous drumming on ‘War Ensemble’ resembled bombs exploding on a battlefield. On their farewell tour, Slayer are still fast, tight, and out for blood.

Slayer are normally not one for sentimentality, but even Tom Araya can’t help giving several thanks to the audience for the support, tonight and through the years. Towards the end of the show it is classic after classic from the latter half of the 1980s, a true golden period of thrash metal as a whole and Slayer in particular. It was the emblematic ‘Angel of Death’ which concluded the show, and after that, all we could do was shower Araya, King and co. with a long period of uninterrupted applause, foregoing the usual rush out to beat the traffic. Thirty-five years after their debut, Slayer’s relevance and influence is not diminished, and they are bowing out with dignity and the ability to still put on one hell of a show. Slayer, for your services to metal – we salute you.

The Slayer Farewell Tour continues in the UK:

7th November – Arena Birmingham
9th November – Manchester Arena
10th November – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
12th November – Glasgow SSE Hydro