When it was announced that Slayer was headlining a run of shows this summer with support from Lamb of God and Behemoth, I made the claim that it was going to be the premier metal tour of the summer. I understand that there are other notable tours kicking around this time of year (Summer’s Laughter, for one). But how often does a tour feature the three-headed monster that this one does? (Pardon the lame reference to the tour poster). Each band is quintessential to the metal world in their own way. We have Slayer, the legends of death metal that they are. The hugely popular thrash groove intensity of Lamb of God. And Behemoth, who I would consider the very pinnacle (in terms of success) of present day extreme metal. Undoubtedly, this a tour that every metal fan was at the very least aware of. And I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to cover it.
Now, all that early hype didn’t necessarily mean that I could/would/want to attend. At least initially. Part of the reason for that relatively apathetic attitude is the fact that I’ve seen these bands a combined 16 times (or 60… who knows anymore) in the last half decade or so. The other part is that the Boston date was a weeknight in between busy weekends. Because, well, that’s every weekend in the freaking summer. But as the Boston date drew closer, I found it becoming more and more of a priority. Sure, it would mark the most mainstream metal show I’ve been to in at least a year or two. But I will literally never pass up a Behemoth show, regardless of their position on the bill. Lamb of God? A throwback to some of my high school and college memories. Slayer? Regardless of your opinion on their current status (and mine is definitely not consistently favorable), they are legends and they perform like legends. Something I’ve learned over the years. So, as it were, after work this past Tuesday I found myself hustling down to the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion in Boston’s Seaport.
No I wasn’t down here on photo assignment this evening, so you’ll need to deal with some lousy iPhone pictures. But hey, if a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m going to do my best to make up for the mediocre visuals in the form of written content. That said, in all reality it was really cool just being able to hang out and take everything in without stressing about the photography aspect. Even if photographing Behemoth is a life goal of mine.
First things first: venue talk. I loved my first show at the Pavilion. The space was great. The outdoor tent environment was very much enjoyable on a cool summer night. The sound wasn’t bad, either. In fact, after leaving halfway through the Slayer set (spoiler alert), being able to hear Tom Araya’s howls several blocks down the street brought the most shitting grin to my face. So many Boston upperclassers I passed that were annoyed because they were JUST TRYING TO ENJOY A (probably) MENTHOL CIGARETTE OUTSIDE THEIR BLAND SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS. Hilarious. A key detail I haven’t mentioned about the venue yet: no standing room under the tent. Seats only. I’m old, so I didn’t care. But it was weird seeing these bands perform and not experiencing absolute chaos on the floor. It was kinda sad. But also kinda nice. Because old. Still, it went against every previous experience I’ve had with any of the three bands. Ok — No more venue talk.
BEHEMOTH! The show started early, Behemoth opened “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” with probably less than a quarter of the audience ready to actually listen to them. I mean it was only 7pm and still daylight out, so I get it. I was sure to notice, however, how quickly that changed; after the first track it didn’t take long for folks to find their seats. A few points about the Polish champions’ set…
- I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing these humans perform. Those opening lines to “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” absolutely brought goosebumps to my skin. As they always have. Every single song they played maintained the level of entertainment, intensity, and passion that have defined their performances over the years.
- Inferno was not behind the drums this tour because of dad stuff. Jon Rice (formerly of Job For A Cowboy) jumped in and performed very, very well. The drums were no less powerful than before. In fact, perhaps a knock on the acoustics of the venue, the percussion came through more prominently than the vocals or guitars. Furthermore, corpse paint? Not a bad look on Rice at all.
- It was only a half hour set. They made the most of it of course, filling the time with seven tracks covering a rather impressive range of albums. I wanted more, but was happy with what they gave us. I’m used to their sets spanning at least an hour, enhanced with a significant amount of visual theatrics. So learning that they could also move efficiently without sacrificing much from their overall atmosphere was pretty damn impressive.
- There are still a significant number of metal fans that aren’t familiar with these guys, which absolutely baffles me. That being said, it was hilarious hearing some of the comments… “They are really heavy, but I can’t really understand him”. The reactions of awe and amusement when Nergal brought out the thurible was phenomenal as well. And yes, I did need to google whatever the hell that thing is called.
Look, there’s a reason I simply don’t miss a Behemoth set, regardless of duration. Based solely on personal experience, I say they are the best live performance going when you take into consideration all senses impacted by a live performance. Over-the-top? Sure, you can say that. But the quality, passion, and energy is always there. They want to put on a show, and they do. They simply do. not. hold. back. Also, fun fact, the guitarist/vocalist from Morne sat right next to me during this set. I didn’t say anything because that would be weird. But it was still kinda cool/evidence of a small world in the Boston metal scene.
Lamb of God time. I mentioned it earlier and I’m going to emphasize it here further. This set included some of my favorite tracks from Ashes of the Wake and Sacrament, which was so reminiscent of my life as a younger metalhead who only had access to the mainstream. And I was absolutely loving it. It had been at least, shit, nine years since I had last seen LoG live. But Randy and company brought the same anger and spite that they did back then. I wasn’t quite sure how the set was going to play out given the kink in his neck Randy dealt with just a few days prior, but he was still as active on stage as ever, jumping around and engaging the audience.
As expected, they played a few popular tracks from VII: Sturm und Drang, which included “Engage the Fear Machine”. This was introduced with a sharp criticism of mainstream media outlets, which I obviously appreciated. Now, I don’t listen to Lamb of God regularly anymore. Sure, I’ve given each new album a healthy spin or two out of curiosity, but that’s about it. One thing I did notice, however, was how much more apparent the deviation in their sound is when newer songs are played alongside the older stuff. Classic like “Ruin” and “Walk With Me In Hell” just seemed to have so much more fire and bite in them. It something I don’t notice when only listening to one album at a time. Shuffle mode for a band isn’t as fun as it was when I was 15. Regardless, they still played those songs that made me so reminiscent of a time before I could legally drink, and man was it a blast to relive those memories. Closing with “Redneck”? Icing on the cake. The band sounded sharp, Randy was charismatic in his own way, and the whole set was just… energizing.
And then we get to Slayer. Business-first Slayer. I respect Slayer. They are kings of the music we all obsess over. My album collection is littered with their work. I’ve seen them perform numerous times over the years (on their own, at festivals, etc.) and they have delivered in every setting. But I’ve also seen them with and without Hanneman, and you know what? As well as Gary Holt performs with them, it’s just not the same. No way. Nobody’s fault, but it’s tough man. I’ve seen all their classics played over and over again. I’ll be honest with you, they aren’t writing any new classic anymore, either. So when you’ve seen the same tracks from years ago played before, you feel pretty well content and the need to see them again diminishes after a few rounds. I stayed through most of Slayer’s set… I got “Mandatory Suicide”, “Dead Skin Mask”, “Postmortem”, “War Ensemble”, etc. It was tremendous. They still sound and look incredible and it’s still a privilege to see them perform. But as the night drew on, my need to see the entirety of their set diminished. Personally, when you’ve seen “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death” within an encore a handful of times already (including at Wacken and performed with Hanneman before that), you acknowledge that those are experiences that won’t be matched and apathy starts to grow. Maybe a better word is ‘content. Either way.
So I left after “Dead Skin Mask” and began my journey home with the voice of Tom Araya belting out behind me. It was a fitting an end to the evening and the sensation of hearing “Seasons of the Abyss” enshroud me as I trekked through the Seaport late at night was easily one of the most defining moments of the whole experience. It simply brought a smile to my face… because the entire show was enjoyable in every sense of the word. Rarely does a show do as much for me as this one did. Three titans of metal, each one defiantly leaving their own distinctive mark along Boston’s waterfront.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”