LIVE: Slayer / Lamb of God @ Manchester Arena, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

In the rustic surroundings of The Beer House pub in Manchester Victoria station, a heavily tattooed gentleman places one biker boot on the table to create his podium. Sporting a sleeveless denim jacket and adorning a patch of Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’ album artwork, he takes a deep breath and summons a gutural cry of “Slaaaaaaayeeerrrrrrrrr”. It diverts the attention of fellow patrons from their own conversations before they respond with a “Slaaaaayerrrrrr” of their own.

This is the last time the rainy city of Manchester will be in the company of the thrash metal pioneers. After almost 40 years of mayhem, Slayer are hanging up their pentagrams and calling time on one of the most iconic careers in music. It is the last time Manchester will hear the shredding riffs of Kerry King, the hellish screams of Tom Araya and the wall of fire that accompany every Slayer performance.

Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe expertly summed up the importance of Slayer’s legacy during the Virginia five-piece’s support slot as he bellowed “this is the band whose name you carve into your arm”. While both Lamb of God and Anthrax provide monumental sets, this is Slayer’s night and it is going to be as fast, as intense and as Satanic as the first time they ever set foot in this fair city.

There are numerous roars of “Slayerrrrrr” as fans twitch with anticipation waiting for the lights to go out and the curtain to drop. The haunting melody of ‘Delusions of Saviour’ drifts over a series of pentagram projections and as they form it spells out the word their fans like to scream so much. The fire rises, the curtain falls and Slayer are here.

It is an onslaught of a start as they slam straight into the visceral ‘Repentless’ and from this moment on it is a breathless charge through a flawless back catalogue. There are no moments to breathe, the controlled chaos of King and Gary Holt’s (a long-term replacement for the late Jeff Hanneman) guitar work matched in the rampaging mosh pits that accompany every song.

Tonight is an audience baying for every drop of blood that Slayer deliver. The arena is converted into a sea of thrashing heads as they howl each of Araya’s words back at him. There is a brief respite as Araya takes a moment – and a single spotlight – to thank the masses for tonight and the career they have enjoyed.

“All I can say is thank you, there isn’t really anything else to say.”

These are all the words needed as Slayer continue to demonstrate why they will forever be the godfathers of thrash metal. The raging ‘Payback’ crashes into ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ and completes with an explosion of fire in the terrifying ‘Hell Awaits’.

In one of his numerous monologues, Lamb Of God’s Blythe used the words ‘evil’ to describe the sound of Slayer – and as the classic ‘Raining Blood’ and the truly spine-chilling ‘Angel of Death’ (which included an unfurling of a tribute to Hannemann) wrap everything up, it feels as though we are in the devil’s playground.

Both King and Araya remain on stage as the house lights turn on, the pair gazing out at the people to whom their band has come to mean so much. They look incredibly humbled as they make the final adieu, while their band’s name is echoed through the streets of Manchester long into the night.

For one last time, everybody join with me – Slaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyerrrrrrrrrrrr!