So last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be at South Side Ballroom in Dallas, TX for the Slayer/Gojira/4ARM show. You can only imagine how I was feeling, especially getting to see 4ARM! You cannot talk about today’s newer thrash bands like Havok, Warbringer, and Hatchet without including 4ARM in that conversation.
Through three albums (13 Scars, The Empires of Death, and Submission For Liberty) they have continually delivered a Molotov cocktail of insane riffs, thunderous drums, and venomous vocals, and those are just the STUDIO versions! So believe me I was fired up to hear this stuff live.
After an interview with Mick (Vafiotis, drums), and dinner with my good buddy Jordan from Darkhouse Image, it was time to begin.
With Mick leading the way, the band immediately made its presence known with a wall of sound that quite frankly shocked me.
I couldn’t believe the first band on the bill could sound this good. Sonic highlights included “Raise a Fist”, “The Oppressed”
(two personal favorites) and brand new song “Dying Time” which needs to be recorded and released like, yesterday!!
Singer/guitarist Danny Tomb was a study in contrast, as when he engaged the crowd between songs he was very laid-back, but when singing, the amount of anger in his voice was frightening. A perfect example of this occurred during “I Will Not Bow”. When he roared,
“I WILL NOT BOOOOOW!!! NOT NOOOOOW!!”
I damn near felt it in my toes. It was so great to see such a big turnout for these guys. Not only that, but to see everyone so into them was even better.
One thing is certain: 4ARM are the real deal, and they need to hop on another tour after this and come back to Dallas and see us again.
Which brings me to Gojira. This is another band that I got into last year, and have just fallen head over heels for. Their sound is unlike anything that’s out there yet carries a heaviness all its own. I also got to interview drummer Mario Duplantier recently who told me the band is having a ball on this tour, but they can’t wait to get back in the studio. Music to my ears.
Opening with a pair from latest record L’enfant Sauvage, Gojira treated us to high-octane versions of “Explosia” and “The Axe”. This band is tight, and first-rate musicians, especially Mario. Wow, two bands, two amazing drummers, and we still had Paul Bostaph to watch! Singer/guitarist, and Mario’s brother Joe Duplantier was having some fun with the crowd throughout their set, and we all ate it up. Up next was the first of three off the From Mars to Sirius album, “Backbone”, featuring a heavy, downward-slashing riff that just pummels you into submission while the strobe lights went crazy.
A dedication to fallen axe-masters Jeff Hanneman and Diamond Darrell preceded “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe”, bringing cheers from every corner of South Side Ballroom, and it really was the perfect tribute. This song goes hard, with some seriously crushing riffs.
During this one Joe screamed to the crowd,
“Why you come here? You come here to take a fucking nap?!?
Then let me see you HEADBAAAANG!!”, whipping the pit into a frenzy, and inciting mayhem.
Then, when it was over, he very calmly said,
“Thank you so much for headbanging”, just like that.
It was funny, yet also a very metal moment.
The band closed things out with “Toxic Garbage Island” (another personal favorite), and “Vacuity” from 2008’s The Way of All Flesh. If you’ve never seen or heard Gojira before, these are the perfect songs to get started. Not to mention the live versions have a brutality all their own. Can’t wait for another album and tour from them!
By this point both 4ARM and Gojira had whipped this crowd into shape with their own brands of thrash,
but now it was time…
Time to worship at the Altar of Slayer.
I had seen the setlist from the previous show and I said, “Hooooooly Sheeeit!!” Nothing but old school classics, which is what the tour was billed as. The most recent songs being played were from Seasons in the Abyss, hot damn! This was gonna be a good one. A fierce barrage of “Hell Awaits”, “The Antichrist”, and “Necrophiliac” damn near leveled the joint and we were only three songs in.
Singer/bassist Tom Araya never sounded better on these and other classics, particularly “Mandatory Suicide” one of my favorites off of lackluster album South of Heaven. I almost thought it was 1988 again (I wish!).
My all-time favorite Slayer tune, “War Ensemble” was up next, and drummer Paul Bostaph didn’t let me down for a second as guitarists Gary Holt and Kerry King nearly set fire to their fret boards.
For a minute there I thought the smoke in the air was coming from their fingers, it was pretty intense. When the band tore into a triple-bill from landmark album Reign In Blood I thought I was gonna faint.
Admittedly, I am not a Slayer super-fan, but I defy anyone to keep still during “Postmortem”, “Altar of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves” back-to-back-to-back! And if that wasn’t enough, next thing I know Tom took to the mic for the intro to my other favorite: “They say the pen is mightier than the sword…well I say FUCK the pen!! ‘Cause you can DIE By the Sword!!” before just KILLING IT on that song.
Other highlights included “Hallowed Point”, “Dead Skin Mask”, and of course, “Raining Blood”. During those three some guy five feet away from me looked like he was going to burst from sheer excitement. Man, I love to see that at a show. Real fans who live and die for this stuff, like me. Another cool inclusion was a cover of vintage Exodus tune “Strike of the Beast” which Gary sure seemed to enjoy playing.
The Bay Area Boys closed with a pair of all-time classics “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death”, but the fact that those are such killer, kickass songs isn’t what made them special. It was the change in backdrop.
With his name in the Heineken font, the guys in Slayer paid tribute to our fallen Brother in Metal, the late Jeff Hanneman, and I thought that was really classy. That’s not a word people expect to hear at a thrash metal concert, I’m sure, but it’s the truth.
With shredding riffs, pounding drums, undisputed attitude, and a touch of class at the end,