Slayer review – thrash legends unleash a barrage of malevolence

Wembley Arena, London
The LA four-piece’s final world tour delivers a furious rush of excitement in a celebratory sweep through 37 years of mayhem

The news broke earlier this year that Slayer were hanging up their blood-spattered pentagrams after one final world tour. As a result, tonight feels a lot more celebratory and atmospheric than a gig in Wembley’s chilliest shed has any right to be. It certainly helps that the LA thrash legends have insisted on maximum value for money for their fans, with “big four” peers Anthrax and modern metal heavyweights Lamb of God on the bill, too. Even better (although more sensitive mainstream rock fans may disagree), Floridian death-metal titans Obituary kick things off at 6.20pm, remarkably to a two-thirds-full arena. They conclude with an old favourite called Slowly We Rot. We are very much in Slayer’s world here.

Both Anthrax and Lamb of God threaten to bring the ceiling down; the latter are easily big enough to headline this show, and the absurdly huge circle pit that erupts during the closing Redneck suggests that Slayer’s most logical successors are already waiting in line.

But tonight is all about the band that created one of metal’s most unarguably flawless albums, Reign in Blood (1986). From the discordant malevolence of their trademark riffs to the reliably unapologetic grimness of the lyrics, Slayer’s sound is seminal and ageless. If the band’s steady march towards retirement (this tour, it is rumoured, could go on for years) has had any effect, it has been to confirm how utterly irreplaceable they will be. The visceral rush of opening song Repentless sets the tone, with 10ft swaths of fire erupting from all corners and guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt (who replaced original guitarist Jeff Hanneman after his death in 2013) firing off scabrous, atonal solos with rapacious intensity.

Thereafter, Wembley is assailed by an unrelenting barrage of classics, culminating in a heroic encore that starts with the still terrifying Raining Blood and ends with the unerringly unnerving Angel of Death, a strident visual tribute to Hanneman featuring a huge amount of extra fire – just in case anyone was in any doubt that Slayer will remain the devil’s house band long after the tour bus wheels stop rolling.


Dom Lawson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Slayer: Reign in Blood vinyl reissue – review
Slayer's definitive album, and one of the great metal albums of all time, sounds just as Satan intended on this deluxe vinyl reissue, writes Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson

19, Dec, 2013 @10:45 PM

Article image
Slayer: Repentless review – thrash masters still stupidly exciting
Despite deaths and departures, Slayer’s evil powers remain undimmed on this whiplash-inducing new set

Dom Lawson

10, Sep, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Slayer announce global farewell tour
‘The age of Slayer is coming to an end,’ announce the legendary heavy metal band after 37 years and nearly 3,000 gigs

Laura Snapes

24, Jan, 2018 @11:26 AM

Article image
Slayer review – vital, vicious and loud
With a reconfigured lineup and renewed commitment to the infernal cause, the LA metallers reclaimed their crown as the masters of darkness

Dom Lawson

01, Dec, 2015 @12:18 PM

Article image
Slayer: where to start in their back catalogue
In Listener’s Digest, our writers help you explore the work of great musicians. Next up: the LA metal band who made the sky pour with blood

Joe Muggs

22, Apr, 2020 @7:11 AM

Rock live review, Slayer/Trivium, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Hammersmith Apollo, London: Even with something as visceral and immediate as thrash metal, it takes time to get this good, and Slayer were nothing short of superb

Jamie Thomson

04, Nov, 2008 @12:57 PM

Article image
Def Leppard review – metal legends revisit a riff-laden classic
The British hard-rock favourites play their 1987 album Hysteria in full in a show that demonstrates their scintillating craft

Michael Hann

07, Dec, 2018 @4:54 PM

Article image
CD: Slayer, Christ Illusion


Jamie Thomson

18, Aug, 2006 @2:57 PM

Slipknot/Slayer, SECC, Glasgow

SECC, Glasgow

James Smart

05, Oct, 2004 @10:58 PM

Slayer: 'You do wonder if you've grown together or apart'

With 50th birthdays approaching, Slayer are feeling the toll of three decades on the road. But, they tell Rob Fitzpatrick, disappointing their fans is unthinkable

Rob Fitzpatrick

29, Oct, 2009 @11:40 PM