Just one image of Slayer’s ever-changing backdrop Photo by Marcus Mathews
As I was leaving Sunday Night’s Slayer show at the LC, I saw a group of disheveled, rotund men wearing matching shirts that said “Cleveland 216 Juggalos.” I chuckled at the idea of a group of dudes putting on the same outfit and driving two hours so they could represent their local chapter of Insane Clown Posse Fans. I also thanked Allah, God, Jesus, Richard Dawkins, Jah, Jehovah, Clarence 13x and Lucifer that when I was young and rebellious ICP was not an outlet for my adolescent desire to identify with the ugly and appalling because of youthful, Holden Caulfield-style cynicism. I will admit to wearing a Slayer “South of Heaven” shirt to church and catechism in middle school and might be coming from a slightly similar place, but at the end of the day Slayer has made music that most anyone will admit to being classic, and legendary. Sunday at the LC was another classic night performed by the legendary Thrash metal band. Slayer played an “old school” set. Their longtime guitarist and songwriter Jeff Hanneman died in May of liver failure at the age of 49. Hanneman was the man who wrote “Angel of Death,” and “South of Heaven.” I am guessing the motivation for only doing songs from 1990’s “Seasons of the Abyss” and prior was to help themselves and the fans bond over their favorite songs in a time period of mourning in the metal world. On the Sabbath, Slayer immediately charged into “Hell Awaits” when taking the LC stage with a “Slaytanic Wehrmacht” Skull backdrop behind them and several inverted crosses above them. They were not messing around. Slayer blistered through tons of scorchers including “Necrophiliac,” “Mandatory Suicide,” and “Jesus Saves” while the crowd in the front moshed. Metal couples screamed lyrics to each other and in general the crowd was united in elation of hearing their favorite songs about Satan, murder and general depravity. Metal ladies kept grabbing my beard and metal dudes kept putting their arms around me to head bang, and basically dance. For being proponents of evil, Slayer’s fan base is a really friendly group. I also saw one man in his 40s, with short hair wearing a sleeveless denim-vest and hoop earrings, slap his lady friend on her backside periodically, make out with her and detail the various sexual acts they were going to partake in later while Slayer churned out “Alter of Sacrifice,” “Jesus Saves” and “Die By the Sword.” It cracked me up, but I am not against living in a world where Slayer makes people horny. At some point during all of this, the Slayer backdrop changed to the Slayer logo with swords. Gary Holt from Exodus was performing on Jeff Hanneman’s guitar slot, so Slayer slid in a cover of the Exodus song “Strike of the Beast,” after playing “Seasons in the Abyss,” and before unleashing “Dead Skin Mask,” “Reigning Blood” and “Black Magic.” Then the stage backdrop changed again. Behind Slayer was a Heineken beer logo changed to say Hanneman with “Angel of Death” above it. When this backdrop changed, Slayer launched into “South of Heaven.” Hanneman died of liver failure, which has something to do with alcohol so basically Slayer was saying ‘fuck it. Let’s not beat around the bush.’ I also thought it was interesting that they were playing a song about Hell that says very early on in the lyrics, “Before You See the Light/You Must Die.” Peter Tosh has the famous lyric, “Everyone Wants To Go Heaven/But Nobody Wants To Die.” Slayer inversed, and obliterated that sentiment. I’ve read interviews with Slayer. They find Hanneman’s death to be a horrible loss, and they are not also not Satanists. But how else would Slayer address death but just taking the tragedy head on shredding through the pain as a tribute to their fallen brother with no fear. Slayer ended the night by performing, “Angel of Death.” Which received a lot of flack when it was released on Def Jam Records because of it’s detailing of the Holocaust. So I am guessing you have to give Slayer credit for delving into their friend’s death in the same ghoulish manner they had approached other dark subjects: harness the the intensity of the subject and brutally push through. I feel like Slayer is the only band on the planet that could pull that off, and leave everyone feeling weird. This finale left the whole room feeling a cathartic breakthrough and elation.

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