It was loud, it was sweaty, and it was brutal. It was also one of the best thrash shows Seattle has seen in years. The American Carnage tour is a triple-bill knockout featuring Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament. Their stop at the Wamu Theatre last night was an all-out assault, and the fans wouldn’t have had it any other way.
It is amazing to realize that headliners Slayer have been doing this for nearly 30 years now. The audience certainly reflected their wide-ranging impact. I saw everything from classic long-haired metalheads to punks, emo kids, and even a few parents with pre-teen children in the crowd. Of course only the most macho young males braved the mosh pit, which got completely out of control during Slayer’s set.
They opened with the title song of their instant-classic new album, World Painted Blood. In a live setting, the power of this band is incredible, almost overwhelming. Drummer Dave Lombardo is the rat-a-tat engine behind them, setting a pace that is unforgiving. Playing from the top tier of their two-platform stage, whenever the rest of the band stopped to let him briefly solo, the fans went nuts.
Then there is the astonishing guitar playing of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. They never let up for a second. The way these two are constantly bouncing off of each other is riveting. The otherworldly sounds Hanneman produces play off the expert solos of King in ways that nobody else can touch. Vocalist Tom Araya was is fine form also, although he understandably moved a little stiffer than usual, due to recent neck surgery.
The idea of playing an older album all the way through in concert is one that works well for Slayer, and they devoted the majority of their set to Seasons In The Abyss from 1990. It was a good choice, as there is not a bad cut on it, and the crowd obviously knew it well. They closed out with another classic, the always controversial “Angel Of Death,” which brought the house down.
Megadeth’s decision to play the classic Rust In Peace album from front to back was brilliant. For many fans, the 1991 record was the first that fully delivered on all the promise that Megadeth had shown. Judging by the crowd reaction, they could not have come up with a better choice. The band were incredibly tight, and Dave Mustaine’s lightning fast playing was as amazing as ever.
To round out the set they played a mix of old and new tunes. The first of these was the title cut from their latest album, Endgame. Although much of the audience seemed unfamiliar with the tune, it went down well. The one that really blew the place up though was the closer, a medley of “Killing Is My Business, And Business Is Good,” and “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?” The solo Mustaine played to bridge the gap between the songs was his most manic of the night, and prompted a spontaneous ovation from the crowd.
Opening band Testament are all about the twin guitar attack of Alex Skolnik and Eric Peterson. The two got into some fantastic duels at times, and had singer Chuck Billy playing air guitar next to them with his mike stand. Their 40-minute set showed the limitations of being the opening act on a triple bill, as it was way too short for the crowd. When the fans wouldn’t let them leave, Billy finally had to say, “Sorry, it’s all the time they gave us.”
If anything, time seems to be on all three of these band’s side though. When thrash first reared its ugly head in the early eighties, it seemed more of a live fast, die young culture than anything else. Old dogs Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament put the lie to that idea in the most forceful terms possible last night.