Friday, February 16, 2007

Concert: Slayer, Unearth And Thine Eyes Bleed

Wednesday February 7 At the John Labatt Centre In London Ontario

This is the first big concert I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ve never witnessed a band play in a place like a hockey arena, especially a hockey arena as fancy as the John Labatt Centre. It was going to be a strange experience, as every concert I’ve been to has been a club show.

As hard as I tried to get home from work and make the hour drive to London, I still missed Thine Eyes Bleed. A friend who did make it to the concert earlier said the audience wasn’t into them which I’ve heard tends to be the case with many smaller bands for Slayer.

In what seemed like no time at all, Unearth took the stage. Big bright flashing white lights adorned their stage set up as vocalist Trevor Phipps controlled the stage and was constantly moving from one side to the other. Ken Susi was the second most animated, jumping from risers and throwing his guitar around while he played. Having seen Unearth in 2003 at the very first Headbangers Ball tour, I remember Unearth having a crazier live show with Ken being even more animated. Guitarist Buzz Magrath moved about the stage sometimes, taking charge of the bands melodies whenever a melodic line from one of their songs come up, while Ken Susi did the rhythm guitar underneath for support.

With the exception of the song “Endless” which was recorded on the “Endless” EP (but re-recorded on “Oncoming Storm”) Unearth only played songs from their last 2 full length albums. I was a little disappointed not to hear any songs from their very first EP, or their first full-length album “Stings Of Conscience” which is considered by some to be an underground classic. Perhaps they figured the Slayer audience wouldn’t be familiar with their older material.

Even though Unearth has now had experienced big shows like headlining tours and playing big stages on big festivals, the roots of metalcore, despite how mainstream it might start becoming are still firmly entrenched in performing in tiny crowded clubs. Seeing Unearth on a big stage was fun, but I couldn’t help feeling that their well done chugga style beakdowns fit better in a small venue setting.

When the lights dimmed and I heard the intro song “Darkness Of Christ” for Slayers album “God Hates Us All”everyone knew the show was about to get under way. The first song played by Slayer was “Disciple” a track that many people think of when they think of the album “God Hates Us All”, and from there they went straight into “War Ensemble”. Supporting the band was a spectacular light show of brightly coloured moving lights all over the place. These lights would often move to focus on either Kerry King or Jeff Hanneman whenever they played a guitar solo.

For being as old as he is, Tom Araya still has his signature voice. I was afraid he might be out of breath, as I’ve seen some live songs played for certain television shows where Tom had become short of breath, but this was not the case at this show. Getting towards the end of the show though, Tom became a little fatigued and the songs that required clean singing were done a little flat.

Kerry King headbanged throughout the set with much fervour and might. Its surprising he hasn’t broken his neck yet. He was the most mobile of the band, moving from one side of the stage to the next, while Jeff mostly stuck to his area giving a lighter sort of headbang, not quite as much as I’ve seen in the old Slayer videos, and Tom would move away from the mike every now and then while the guitarists did their solos.

There was very little banter from Tom between the songs, instead preferring to use the darkness onstage for the band to switch guitars, or to go straight from one song to the next. I’ve always felt that less banter and going straight to the next song was a more intense way to play. It also increases the mystery when a band speaks a little less.

I got to hear my 5 favourite Slayer songs, which was great. I usually feel a little saddened going to a live show hoping to hear a certain song which doesn’t get played. “Angel Of Death” and “Reign In Blood” from their classic 1986 album were done great, and “War Ensemble”, “Dead Skin Mask” and “Seasons In The Abyss” from my favourite album “Seasons In The Abyss” were done extremely well. I was surprised they actually played “Seasons In The Abyss”, as it’s one of Slayers longer songs and a bit slower than most of their material. The setlist skipped the albums “Divine Intervention” and “Diabolus In Musica” (I think anyways, there was one song I didn’t recognize, but I believe it came from “Hell Awaits” or “Show No Mercy”) both albums are considered by some to be Slayers less than great moments, of which I tend to agree.

The show wasn’t absolutely perfect, there were a couple of songs that started with a guitar riff that got a little out of time, and of course Tom did play a little flat during some points, but some people would say that’s what a live show is all about.



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