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Slayer with Anthrax & Death Angel | ACL Live
October 8, 2016 @ 7:10 pm
NO CONTROL Radio presents Slayer with Anthrax and Death Angel!
SLAYER, the long-reigning titans of thrash, returns with Repentless, the band’s 11th studio album and its first album for Nuclear Blast. Produced by Terry Date, Repentless was written and recorded by guitarist Kerry King and singer/bassist Tom Araya at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, along with returning drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt. Repentless is crushing and brutal, steadfastly refusing to cater to the mainstream.
Thirty-four years into its career, Slayer remains the preeminent punk-thrash band that helped establish the genre and that up-and-coming metal heads continue to revere and emulate. Slayer is a five-time nominated, two-time Grammy Award-winning metal juggernaut that writes songs which mirror the turmoil and aberrations of our society. Repentless, the band’s first new album in six years, continues the Slaytanic offensive with a twelve-song, blood-shaking sonic attack. Repentless is dark, fast, aggressive and without mercy. It was also the most challenging record Slayer has ever had to make.
In 2013 the world mourned the loss of guitarist Jeff Hanneman who died from complications following a two-year illness. A co-founder of Slayer, losing Jeff was very difficult for the band. During Jeff’s illness, friend of the band, guitarist Holt stepped in to help out on tour with Jeff’s blessing and stayed on. Around that time, drummer Dave Lombardo exited the band for the third time and Paul Bostaph, (who played with the band from 1992 – 2001), returned to take over the throne. Slayer never skipped a beat and since Holt and Bostaph both played in Exodus, it was all-in-the-thrash-family.
But it didn’t come easily. As guitarist and Slayer co-founder Kerry King puts it, “I remember the day that Jeff died. It was the day of the Revolver Golden Gods Awards. We knew he’d been sick but nobody expected it to be so quick. I assumed I’d be able to go out there and see him after I got done with whatever business I had to do and that day never came.
“We went out and toured afterwards to see how we felt about it. That’s what you do as a musician: you either go out and tour or you stop working. Even though we’d been touring for two years without Jeff, thinking he was going to come back, now there was finality to it. And the thing with Gary was that we were all friends. Exodus was the first band we’d ever met that became our friends immediately and we stayed friends throughout the years. Gary is just a guitar dynamo and he was the guy.”
Tom Araya agrees. “Jeff would want us to continue. I’d think that if something were to happen to someone else in the band, whoever it was would feel the same way. Just get on with it. Gary’s a friend, a friend of Jeff’s, he knew what was going on and he wanted to help in any way he could, so Gary made Slayer a comfortable place to be. Having Paul back was also a comforting feeling. He’s a former member and that’s the best thing about it. It wasn’t some other guy. Having Paul and Gary made everything a little easier to handle. It’s about the band. Slayer was a big thing for Jeff, and so I’m looking at it in that sense. It was his baby, too. And we hope we’ve done Slayer and him justice.”
King said that Slayer still had to test the water. “Now we were out to see if it made sense to continue, to see if we liked it, to see if the band still enjoyed it. And the way I looked at it was: if it wasn’t this, it was going to be something that sounded exactly like this, so why not continue doing this? It’s super-potent. We’re really tight right now and we’re stoked that we’re still doing it. Once we had that under our belts we started thinking about a record and never looked back.”
After two decades with American Recordings, Slayer found a new home with Nuclear Blast, the German independent label known for its metal roster. King is enthusiastic about the move, “I like it,” he declares, stressing the work like. “Having been with American for so long we wanted to give them first right of refusal because that’s how we are. I think continuity is far stronger than switching all the time. But at the end of the day, Nuclear Blast made us a great offer and so it was time to move on. At Nuclear Blast, people go to work, they do their job, get paid and they fuckin’ like it. All hands. So it was the right choice.”
When the time came, Slayer entered the studio with producer Terry Date. Date is the first producer the band has worked with since leaving American, where all their albums were produced or executive produced by Rick Rubin. On working with Date, Tom says, “He’d done all these great albums – Soundgarden, Pantera – and as a singer I need someone I respect who can tell me whether he likes it or not as opposed to telling me how to do something I’ve been doing for 30 years. He would guide me. That’s why I really liked working with him, because he was so cool. I regard him as a friend, for sure.”
Kerry adds, “It was as business as usual as it could be. The oddest thing for me was Jeff’s presence… not being there. When we were recording, in the past, whether he played or not, having him there and having his opinion and stuff like that: that was what I missed. Jeff’s not being there was the oddest thing.”
Gary Holt came on board to help out with tour commitments when Jeff first became ill. “My role in Slayer started out as a tour and happened to come when I was taking time off from Exodus and I spoke to Kerry who asked if I could help out. I went down to rehearsal and Jeff showed me some things. I’ve known Jeff forever but it wasn’t until his memorial that I learned how much of his blessing I really had. At the end of the day, we all wanted Jeff to come back and then tragedy struck; so here we are five years later and Repentless is coming out and I think Jeff would have loved it. I’m super-excited. It’s a good feeling and I know it’s got to be a great feeling for Tom and Kerry for all the work they’ve done – and Paul as well. Everybody’s excited.”
Repentless marks the return of drummer Paul Bostaph, who was extremely enthusiastic.
“Before I was in the band I was a fan and just because I’m the drummer doesn’t mean I stop being a fan: it just means my tickets are cheaper. After I left in 2002 I never thought I’d be sitting on the drum throne with the band again. This particular style of music delivers something for me, musically and physically, that’s challenging and exciting. I feel better as a player and I’m more mature and the band is maturing and getting better, like fine wine. It feels natural to be back and it’s good to be back with Kerry and Tom. The San Francisco Bay-area metal scene is very tight knit: everybody knows everybody. I consider Slayer to be part of that even though they’re from Southern California. Gary I played together in Exodus and he’s amazing – one of the godfathers of thrash with Exodus – so it’s like coming home for me. And we’re having fun and I think if we weren’t having fun we wouldn’t be doing this.”
Repentless marks a number of transitions for the band but with their undisputed attitude, Slayer emerges triumphant, says Tom. “After 35 years, the thing that Kerry and I share is our dedication to the band, and Jeff’s included in that. It’s the same with Gary. He’s been doing this a long time and he’s had the same commitment. It’s a common bond we share with a lot of musicians out there. I’m really excited about the new album, we’ve put a lot of work into it, Kerry especially, and it was all for Slayer.”
Repentless is loaded with sensational songs, from the hyper-aggressive metallic blasts of the title track, “Take Control”, “Implode” and “Atrocity Vendor” to the ferocious thrash pounding of “Vices” “When The Stillness Comes” and “Pride In Prejudice” the album is Slayer through and through. For Paul Bostaph it’s simple: “The songs are awesome.”
Tom puts it bluntly, “This is definitely Slayer. No one will be disappointed with what we’ve done.”
For Kerry King, the feeling is mutual. “Musically for me – it’s certainly not an “I told ya so” because Jeff’s not a part of it – but I do know that a lot of people assumed Slayer’s not going to be functional with Dave not being here and Jeff never being here again. But we did it and it fuckin’ sounds like Slayer – period.”
Slayer’s place in music history is secure as one of The Big Four (alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax): they helped define the thrash-metal genre. With Repentless Kerry, Tom, Paul and Gary affirm that Slayer is unstoppable. Slayer continues fearlessly, aggressively and without contrition; and most importantly, Slayer still rules!
It’s rare that a career gets a second shot, let alone a whole second act, but then ANTHRAX isn’t your average band. Formed in New York in 1981, the group that would go on to sell over ten million records and become the living embodiment of America’s hi-top wearing, riff-spitting, ear-thrashing answer to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal has undergone not one, but two complete eras – but that isn’t their real achievement. More than the group who let a fledgling Metallica crash on their studio floor in 1983, who became a lightning rod for geekdom by immortalizing Judge Dredd with ‘I Am The Law’ in 1987, who enthusiastically raised a middle finger to the critics and unimaginative fans alike by collaborating with rappers Public Enemy in 1991, and who – in 2011 with the release of Worship Music – proved that classic albums aren’t a bygone concept, the story of Anthrax is one of gritty determination in the face of outrageous odds.
The liveliest fourth of the Big Four, they’re arguably the only member of that legendary fraternity who’ve kept their eyes so firmly focused forward and who’ve so consistently delivered the goods, both on stage and in the studio. Ironically, it was on stage alongside those immortal co-conspirators where the story of Anthrax’s 11th studio record began. Seeing their names in lights next to Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica had a catalyzing effect on the band weary from years of toil and changing times. According to bassist Frank Bello, it wasn’t just a potent reminder of what they did back in the 80s, but also of how far they’ve come.
“Charlie, Scott and I have talked about how we have to credit Metallica with what we’re doing right now,” he says. “When the Big Four got back together back in 2009, it kinda reminded us that we belonged, that we really were part of that group of bands. We didn’t forget it but maybe people did – it suddenly made sense. It was like, ‘wow, we’ve been busting our asses for all those years,’ and then we released Worship Music – that was the catalyst. We knew we had something awesome, but it was about everybody giving it a chance – we sold a lot of records. It’s testament to how great metal fans are, because they came back.”
“We’ve been doing this for 35 years now,” Frank continues. “We are who we are, we can’t be something we’re not, we can’t bullshit people…that’s just a New York mentality.”
As with any band, Anthrax has its creative turbulences, but those add up to their unique chemistry. While all five members contribute ideas and make suggestions to pretty much every song, drummer Charlie Benante makes early writing inroads with foundation riffs and other ideas, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian has a very particular way of incorporating his intense lyrical ideas into the band’s music, Bello has proven to be a very talented melody writer, something that has helped set the band’s music apart from others in the same genre, Belladonna crafts his vocals to best utilize that soaring voice of his, and guitarist Jon Donais brings crushing leads. In the end, the five bring it all together to create what simply is Anthrax music.
Scott will be the first to admit that the For All Kings (Nuclear Blast) backstory hasn’t exactly been conventional or without its setbacks. In the summer of 2012, Charlie realized that due to his ongoing carpel tunnel syndrome, he would be unable to join the band on all tour dates going forward. But Charlie wasn’t about to just sit around at home, so began writing riffs for the new album.
“When the Mayhem tour was over,” said Scott, “Frank, Charlie and I got together in the Jam Room in my house in L.A. and started arranging, and out of those first sessions, we had like four skeletal arrangements. Those first sessions were unbelievable.”
Crucially, Charlie would employ a secret weapon that would become central to the process of creating an album that would stand tall in a back-catalogue bejeweled with some of the most important and influential releases of all time: a mutant guitar called The Shark.
“It’s a weird story,” he says. “Paul Crook, who used to be our guitar player (1995-2001), hooked me up with a good friend of his from Las Vegas, Mark Katzen, who spent all his time making custom guitars. I wanted this Eddie Van Halen replica of his, which is taken from an Ibanez Destroyer but it kinda looks like an Explorer now. Mark made an exact replica for me and from the time I got it, there was just something strange about it – it’s like I just wanted to keep playing it. About a year later I heard that Mark had passed away, and I had this weird feeling about the guitar, like he packed it with riffs and went, ‘here, take this and do something great with it.’”
The result, in short, is a record that’s as diverse as it is satisfying: a feast for the ears, and something of a victory lap for a band that bears the unique distinction of inventing what they do while still being the best at what they do. From the straight-ahead, no-nonsense fury of ‘You Gotta Believe’ and ‘Evil Twin’ to the sprawling, heavy-riffing masterpiece of ‘Blood Eagle Wings’ (original working title, ‘Epic’) to its stately title track, For All Kings was – as Joey reveals – as much fun to record as it was to listen to. Chalk it up to the masterful efforts of Grammy-nominated Worship Music co-producer Jay Ruston, whose credits span the likes of Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage, and Steel Panther, among others.
“It’s awesome working with Jay,” says Joey. “It’s like we can just nail a track and move on. I love that confidence, and we’re doing some crazy things. Listen to ‘Zero Tolerance,’ man – that song is so fast!”
There have been other changes, too. In 2013, it was announced that Rob Caggiano, longtime lead-player who’d become known for his startling solos as well as his backstage antics, left the band to resume his role as a producer, but not before he’d introduced the band to highly respected shredder Jonathan Donais from New England bruisers Shadows Fall.
It would be an emotional experience for Jon, who confesses to the unique problem of simultaneously being a fanboy of a band in which he’s now a full-time member.
“I grew up with them,” says Jon. “I still remember being in junior high, on a beach trip in Maine and my parents got me »State of Euphoria«. I just loved it as soon as I heard it. Anthrax were a huge influence on me and my other and so it’s still kinda weird for me. I mean, Scott is just a top-notch rhythm player – there are a lot of classic riffs going on! I was working most closely with Charlie. He’d go, ‘alright, gimme some Dimebag, no – go for Randy this time. Ok, now gimme some Eddie.’ It was intimidating, I mean these guys are legends.”
It’s about more than just the music though, and true to Anthrax form, For All Kings isn’t just infused with pop-culture references, but deeper subtexts that bespeak the thoughtful artistry that underpins everything that they do. As Charlie explains, while Antrhax’s 11th studio record doesn’t have a running theme, there’s a significance to it all that comes straight from the heart.
“A king to me doesn’t mean King Henry the Eighth,” he says. “My dad passed away when I was five years old, I never really had that dad relationship so I looked elsewhere for role model and inspirations. KISS was a big thing for me, they were like kings to me. And that’s who this record is dedicated to – those people, maybe they’re sports figures, family members – the people that are big in your life.”
Look closely at the album artwork, and you’ll notice the fingerprints of one such hero in the band’s life – the inimitable work of godlike comic artist and longtime ANTHRAX supporter Alex Ross, whose immortal depictions of classic DC and Marvel characters are in a league of their own.
There’s an interesting parallel there, because there’s little that Antrhax does that doesn’t have a story or thought-process behind it. Take ‘Blood Eagle Wings,’ for instance, and consider the wide-eyed imagination that inspired it. Says Scott:
“I was sitting in my hotel room in London the day before hosting the Golden Gods, specifically with the intent of needing to write – I was so behind, and when I’m at home with my wife Pearl and my son Revel I just don’t have the discipline. I can’t go, ‘Daddy’s gotta go write!’ If I hear him playing, it’s like, ‘alright, I gotta go play, there’s some Lego Star Wars shit I gotta be a part of.’ So I was sitting there in London banging my head against a wall, and Pearl goes, ‘go get out for a walk,’ so I did, and I started thinking about London and the blood that every great city has been built on – the murder, the bones and the blood of so many millions of people. Any great city is built on the blood of the innocent: Rome, New York, Los Angeles, London, or go watch Chinatown. The last season of »Hannibal« also happened to be on TV at the time, where I learned about the Viking practice of slicing a person’s back open and pulling the lungs out, so…”
‘Evil Twin’ isn’t just influenced by the shocking state of international affairs, but by the emotions accompanied by the realization that you suddenly have everything to lose.”
“Lyrically there’s no overall concept,” Scott adds. “I have a child now, and this is the first record I’ve ever written lyrics for since I’ve had a son. That’s how I view the world now. You bring a child into the picture, and it makes everything so much scarier. Out of fear comes anger and it makes you hate the world that much more. You’ve got this human being you would take a bullet for – I would do anything to protect my son – so most of the album comes from that place. I don’t write happy lyrics, but to have a child in this world and then tell me that I shouldn’t be angry? That was a huge well of fear in my belly to draw from.”
The result is an album that’s as ferocious as it is sublime, as current as it is classic. From the straight-ahead thrashing brilliance of opener ‘You Gotta Believe’ and ‘Breathing Lightning’ to the seven-minute majesty ‘Blood Eagle Wings,’ For All Kings is the quintessential Anthrax record, and proof positive that you can’t keep a good band down.
Not every band can live up to a legacy but every once in a while a group exceeds expectations by pushing boundaries in a genre they’ve helped create. Among the youngest bands ever to storm the metal genre, DEATH ANGELl has come to be known as one of the most influential bands to emerge from the thriving Bay Area Thrash Metal Scene in the early 1980s. An era when one could catch Cliff Burton (Metallica) at the front of the stage at Ruthie’s Inn banging his head to Death Angel’s inventive style, and speedy, complex arrangements. Read more at http://www.deathangel.us.
Doors: 6:00 PM · Show: 7:10 PM