Tag Archive | Slayer

Bidding a hellacious farewell to SLAYER

Big Bertha the pickup truck was not herself. My vehicle was over-revving, lurching, and I smelled something burning. I was afraid she wasn’t going to make the trip to Jones Beach. I picked up my friend Javier from downtown Flushing and headed back home, where we were able to use the minivan. Javier helped me take out the car seats to make room for Beast and Sid, and we headed back to downtown Flushing to pick them up. We got a late start, but we weren’t going to miss a minute of SLAYER.

Slayer has embodied the best of thrash metal for nearly four decades. Coming to the world in the early 1980s California, it mixes the rapid-fire, unrelenting aggression of hardcore punk with the guitar virtuosity of more traditional heavy metal.

Over the years, Slayer has become easy shorthand for aggressive music that rejects any and all self-indulgent niceties or attempts to soften its image. Years ago I was dating a woman who was destined to soon break up with me. Even though I was coming off a long period of unemployment I shelled out to treat her to a performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ at Carnegie Hall. One of my biggest regrets of that time was not screaming “SLAYER!!!” in the famous venue between movements. I would have enjoyed the performance much better and it would have brought that relationship to a quicker and more merciful end.

I’ve had the good fortune to see Slayer several times, including with the definitive lineup that included Jeff Hanneman before his untimely death in 2013 and drummer Dave Lombardo. “No Jeff, no Dave, no thanks,” was a refrain that some Slayer fans abided by in these later years, and I hadn’t seen them since Lombardo was fired in 2013 after disputes over money.

For whatever reason—and maybe being in the same band for nearly 40 years is reason enough—Slayer is calling it quits. If you needed another reason to pay to see Slayer again, this was it. They even patched things up with Dave Lombardo.

So on we rolled out to Long Island to see Slayer’s final show in the New York City area. Opening for these godfathers of metal were other excellent thrash metal veterans Anthrax and Testament along with Napalm Death and Lamb of God. The name of the concert venue there changes every few years to that of a different corporate sponsor, but everyone just calls it “Jones Beach.”

Jones Beach can be lacking as a concert venue. Even though I quit the drinking life long ago, it is an outrage that the amphitheater only allows alcohol in one restricted area with no view of the stage unless you pay even bigger bucks as a VIP. And the prices on concessions are ridiculously inflated. While I had enough cash in my pocket, I was not going to pay $5.50 for a bottle of soda that costs $2 elsewhere. Six dollars for a hot dog? No thanks.

But Jones Beach gets good shows. A lot of the big concert tours don’t come to the five boroughs. I asked the peanut gallery of social media why this is. The two biggest concert venues within the five boroughs—Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn—share space with sports teams for much of the year, so there are fewer concert dates available. Also, the city is more expensive and so much of a logistical nightmare it is easier to go elsewhere.

Forest Hills Stadium is a great place to see a concert. I saw The Who there a few years ago and it was a great show. It’s intimate for a stadium and it has the kind of food and craft beers that both younger and older crowds enjoy. That venue tends to more mellow acts (Van Morrison, The B-52s with Culture Club, Imagine Dragons) because it’s in a residential area and the people who own homes in Forest Hills probably aren’t very interested in listening to live thrash metal at 9 p.m.—their loss.

Whatever the drawbacks of Jones Beach, the Slayer show rocked. All the opening bands were good; no one disappointed. And Slayer played the best kind of farewell show they could have played. They closed with ‘Reign in Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’ and then thanked the crowd for supporting them.

Someday we can hopefully make it easier for bands like Slayer to play within the city limits of our beloved Gotham more frequently. Music, and New York City, deserve it.

Hell Just Got Louder; RIP Jeff Hanneman

JeffHanneman

The man who made thrash thrive and kept rock music’s Satanic side alive has passed. Jeff Hanneman, one of the founding guitar players of SLAYER, passed away May 2. He had been in bad health for the past few years after contracting a rare illness from a spider bite.

It is not only the state of heavy metal music that wouldn’t be what it is today without Jeff Hanneman. Anyone who listens to metal, punk, hardcore or any variation thereof owes a big debt of gratitude to Hanneman, who made thrash metal faster, harder and louder than it ever was before.

Slayer is the thrash metal band that never turned away from its roots, never wrote an embarrassing love song, never apologized for singing about evil, and never gave up. While the more popular heavy metal bands of the 1980s were wearing makeup and buying hair spray futures, Hanneman was writing amazing songs that were fast and furious from beginning to end. His songs’ subject matter included necrophilia, Nazi war criminals, Satanic blood sacrifices, and other things that were evil and a lot more interesting than weeping about girls.

You remember how every heavy metal band used to have at least one slow, sappy ballad on every record? Slayer has none of those. Remember in the 1990s how heavy metal bands cut their hair to try to fit into the alternative or grunge scenes? Not Slayer.

In the 1980s, the punk rock and heavy metal scenes often did not mix. A punk rocker would never go to a heavy metal show and metalheads were likewise required to hate punk. Slayer changed that, and Jeff Hanneman was leading the charge.

Hanneman was a punk rock fan first and gravitated to metal because he wanted to play more blistering guitar solos than the punk genre allowed at the time.

For Hanneman, the divisions that fenced in the various genres of aggressive music were arbitrary and false, and he shredded through them with gusto. When Slayer put out an album of cover songs, they weren’t classic rock songs or tribute to popular groups of the day; they were mostly hardcore punk covers from bands that were little known at the time.

You’d rarely see a metal musician wearing a punk rock t-shirt until Jeff Hanneman did. And if Hanneman did it, you couldn’t argue it wasn’t heavy metal. He opened up aggressive music in that way and helped popularize the many great crossover bands that tread the line between punk rock and heavy metal.

[Author’s Note: For the past decade, I have regularly brought deviled eggs to parties and family gatherings and they have become quite popular among family and friends. My deviled eggs are called Double Satanic Deviled Eggs, and every time I make them, I must at some point listen to SLAYER.]

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