August 2, 2015
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Justin Press
RockStar Mayhem Tour
Metal Titans Bring The Curtain Down With Fire And Brimstone
Weeks leading up to what is now repeatedly the last show the RockStar Mayhem Tour will ever produce were a tremendous war of words regarding the tour and the lackluster reception it was receiving from paid ticket buyers. Amphitheaters used to 15,000 were now getting 5,000 or less in many cities, as in the case at Gexa Energy Pavilion Dallas, TX, the final stop.
The tour producers ventured off the pasture to state that metal had grown "fat, bald and gray" (retracted after furor brewed) and some one particular band member was not having that as he exchanged barbs over the realities of the tour: lack of more stages, bigger names, etc. And true expecting two well known but at this juncture cult bands with varying appeals to carry the weight of the tour is absurd. As great as Slayer and King Diamond are, they're needed to be another more radio-geared hard rock/metal band out front pushing this trek. But alas, was not to be and with that, Mayhem has reportedly called it a day.
But what a last day it was as both Slayer King Diamond played like it was Wacken Open Air and 80,000 were in front of them and not the 4,500 that did show up on a blistering Dallas day where temperatures after 7pm were still topping 104 degrees. The bands lived up to their legacies of delivering over the top intense shows full of bombast, fury and flames, lots of the latter.
Amid a Gothic mansion stage set protected by gargoyles and a baphomet backdrop, King Diamond and his merry bunch of gravediggers tore into "The Candle" letting the throng know that an hour's worth of classic European derived power metal was to be bestowed upon them. King (age unknown, as it should be) was replete in his mortician's swath, stovepipe hat and iconic face paint howling at the stars and beyond with his falsetto stills a thing of Transylvanian wonder. He was assisted by a fair Gothic maiden singing side stage but still HE was the one initiating the piercing shrieks and demonic low tones. The pentatonic riff of "Sleepless Nights" was forceful without being brutish as longtime guitarist Andy La Roche held it together with his steadfast playing and complete knowledge of pacing. Denton-based drummer Matt Thompson provided the nailed to the floor boards foundation that La Roche and and the others painted over.
"Grandmaaaaaaaaaaa!!" heralded the entrance of material from the classic Them release from 1986, unapologetic with horror myths and King's stage dramatics including his wheelchair'd nemesis ala Psycho, where the Oedipus death desire was in full bloom. The breakdown during the mid-section of the track still wallops as La Roche and his guitar partner Mike Wead harmonizing drawing from the NWOBHM era. The triple threat of "Tea/ Digging Graves/ A Visit From The Dead" curtailed into King's former legendary band Mercyful Fate and their track "Evil" featuring an appearance from Slayer's Kerry King, a triple guitar pronged attack on a track that Metallica built their entire early career on as long, weaving time signatures coursed throughout the track no different from anything off of Kill Em' All. Changing backdrops kept the set design alive and ever changing as inverted crosses flashed on and off, subtlety and Satanism have never been familiar bedfellows. Veering back into his most well-known and revered record Abigail (which the band tours this Fall), "The Family Ghost" initiated more theatrics as a female ghost in white crept about the stage as the tale of a haunting miscarriage swirled around her. The twin acoustics opening "7th Day of July 1777" was a morose epitaph before heading into King's heavens piercing shrills.
As fitting end to any horror story is the narrators voice whispering impending doom above the fray and no other track than "Black Horseman" fits the bill more appropriately. With the heat index nearing Hell's flames, what better more than to share it with the Devil. Clocking in at almost 8 minutes, "Horseman" is a mist-filled fairy tale it requires patience to follow but the band delivers it as guitars crisscross the conjuring séance of King's lyrics. And like an apparition, King Diamond vanished soon after...
In order to follow such a complex and dynamic act it would little take the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, fortunately Slayer were available and very much up to the task. As the massive curtain dropped the floor beneath our feet gave way as we plummeted into John Milton's imagination. "Repent-less" the title track from their forthcoming record was pure razor wire harkening back to their most gnarly of eras. Flames leapt from behind the Marshall stacks as kerosene fired out across the sky creating blazing inverted crosses. A giant backdrop flashed scenes of religious figures, war, poverty, destruction and visions of Hades. "Hate Worldwide," "Jihad," "Disciple" and God Send Death" were at howitzer intensity as flames continued to bite at the sky.
Bassist and vocalist Tom Araya took a short moment to address the gathered throng in his rather soft-spoken manner before introducing the .50 caliber-killing machine that is "War Ensemble" as he let forth his primal scream intro. "Implode" the second track off of Relentless was pure attack as guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt (of Exodus fame) had a precise interplay of blitzkrieg runs, riffs and searing solos. At this point Slayer spent the next hour tearing flesh from bone as they dove into their sadistic catalog of tracks as the tweaked opening chords of "Mandatory Suicide" lurched forward shining an ugly light on the terror of wartime soldiering. Relevance has always been a trait for the band as their tales of war, terror, blood-lust and man unkind will never be anything but forefront and as we watch the world hold its breath on this impending Iran nuclear deal "Chemical Warfare" resonates some 32 years after its inception.
"Ghosts Of War" and the cannibal dance of "Dead Skin Mask" are powerful testaments not only in theory but in delivery especially the latter as Slayer pull back some and let the riffs really churn and froth like chum in red soaked water. As triple digits and 80% humidity gave one the feeling of being in the "dark kingdom" "Hell Awaits" felt like it was already here. Drummer Paul Bostoph kept the song throbbing along until the mid-point when King and Holt took over and the devastation began. One thing about Slayer that can be assessed by looking at their audience is that they become frozen like a deer in the headlights because the fury of the music that comes at them so quickly that they haven't time to move. A mosh pit at this point is almost futile because how does one keep pace with the carnage. So it's perfectly acceptable to be in a trance like state as the band plays with your feet cemented to the floor.
"South Of Heaven" and "Raining Blood" could be considered "singles" in Slayer's world as their now infamous riffs and melodies are implanted in any respectable metalhead's cranium. The images of stigmata and flowing rivers of red flashed cinematically behind the band and the fire, well that continued en masse. It is the evening's closer though that almost seems prophetic as "Angel of Death" spits its bile at 120 decibels. Initially penned to describe the horrors of Nazi Death Camps, as history tends to do, the savagery of the Middle East could easily fall in step with the song's context. If one song defines Slayer at its most brutal and unapologetic, it would be "Angel of Death" which served as the opener for the game changing 1986 release Reign In Blood, 27 minutes of pure musical holocaust and one that launched the band into the forefront of the thrash genre eclipsing the likes of Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth in pure sonic boom alone.
So as the last of the notes fall to the ground and the lights come up, thousands look at each like they are went through a psychiatric social experiment as Slayer left an incision that is not easily forgotten. May their forever Reign.