Review + Photos by Frank Ralph

Tonight’s Slayer show at Manchester Arena was momentous in more ways than one. They brought all the fire with them (and we mean ALL the fire), they brought not one, not two but three incredible bands along for the ride – and most of all – it will be the last time we get to experience Slayer on a world tour – Hell’s house band are retiring.

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This is their ‘retirement’ party and when they say it’s their last tour we believe them, Slayer do not seem like the kind of band that would stage a ‘comeback’ tour within 12 months of retiring like many others have. Although the odd festival appearance may still be on the cards. Hopefully.

Knowing that this is probably their last chance to do this in this kind of setting, the crowd created an incredible atmosphere from the off. This was never going to be anything other than a celebration of one of the most relentless, most savage and most adored bands there has ever been.

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Obituary were up first and even though it was a little bit early in the day for death metal they had a big attentive crowd and made the most of it by throwing down some incredibly heavy classics.

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Anthrax are ALWAYS good. They never ever disappoint and it was no exception this time. I don’t think there’s anyone who works harder to get bodies moving than Joey Belladonna, and Scott Ian’s riffs are like catnip to metalheads. Opening with Caught in a Mosh and Got The Time they really cut loose straight away. Frank Bello looks like he loves every second of performing and his crazy expressions brilliantly sum up Anthrax. With a shortish set they finish with Anti-social and Indians but they could easily play for hours without anyone getting bored. They were a truly fitting part of this line up having shared a spot in the Big 4 alongside Slayer for decades.

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The chants for Lamb of God were as loud as the ones for the headliners and they fully deserve them. As natural successors to Slayer they could easily headline a venue like this with the following they command. Randy Blythe’s commanding presence and energy on stage is so compelling to watch. He flies about the stage like a Tasmanian devil and often launches himself almost into the rafters of the arena.

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The power of Omerta, Walk With Me In Hell and 512 are unforgettable and hit you in the chest. There were so many limbs and bodies flying about in the pit by the time Redneck was played that the crowd just looked like a living breathing organism. Again another perfect name on the line up.

As the curtain dropped the traditional chants of SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! became screams of adoration. There are few bands that garner the kind of following Slayer have had for the last 3 and a half decades. There were heads banging from the front right to the very back of the venue. I’ve seen them umpteen times and can honestly say this was the best I’ve ever seen them.

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The set list was incredible and played out as a greatest hits with classic after classic, building in intensity as it went on. I’ve never heard anything fill the arena like Tom Araya’s blood-curdling scream did during South Of Heaven.

Kerry King is a powerhouse and Gary Holt combines with him to recreate some of the eeriest spine-chilling noises you could imagine. An emotional tribute to Jeff Hanneman also salutes a hugely important part of their history.

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If this was truly their swansong there was absolutely no better way to go out. They have been a constant and relentless presence in generations of metal heads lives (myself included) and when the reality sets in that we’ve seen our last Slayer tour we’re gonna enjoy the legacy and the memories they have given us but we may need a support line to be set up to get us through it.

Thank you Slayer.

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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