Published May 23, 2019Most people won't understand the gravity of this night for headbangers in Ottawa. The impact that Slayer have had on thrash metal over their storied 35-plus-year history have made them idols to their fans. Wednesday night, Slayer brought three other amazing bands to play one final performance in Ottawa in front of thousands of moshing fans.
As black-shirt clad fans bounced and skipped into the arena ecstatically howling "Fucking Slayer!!!" death metal outfit Cannibal Corpse took the stage at 6 p.m. for a brutally heavy set. Anchored by legendary front-man George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, the band bludgeoned their way through a rapid-fire six-pack of cuts from their 14-album catalogue. Opening with 2009's "Evisceration Plague," Corpsegrinder poured guttural vocals into his microphone while performing nearly constant headbanging and intermittent windmills.
Cannibal Corpse's lead guitarist Erik Rutan did an excellent job filling in for Pat O'Brien, who is taking some time off from the band after losing his cool a bit late last year. The band shredded and flailed in front of a simple Cannibal Corpse logo backdrop, giving the effect that a smaller club stage was suddenly dropped into the middle of the arena. As the crowd continued to file in, Cannibal Corpse ended the set with one of their most renowned tracks, "Hammer Smashed Face."
The arena was mostly filled by the time Swedish Viking death metal outfit Amon Amarth took to the stage, adorned with the bow of a Viking ship with a carved dragon figurehead; glowing red eyes peered out into the arena.
As the band performed their 2004 hit "The Pursuit of Vikings," crowd surfing commenced quickly. Stabbing their way through a ten-song set, the guitarists prowled about the stage, often perching atop the boat, to wail riffs at rabid fans. Hulking vocalist Johan Hegg led the band through myriad cuts from the band's surging discography, including stellar performances of "Deceiver of the Gods," "Twilight of the Thunder God" and a razor-sharp rendition of "Raven's Flight," from their 2019 release Berserker, saw the band basked in smoke and green light. "I hope you will join me when I raise my horn to the almighty Slayer," Hegg bellowed at the crowd, before spiralling into a terrific performance of "Raise your Horns" from their 2016 album Jomsviking.
Next to pound the stage were American outfit Lamb of God and the crowd were about to go next-level apeshit. Drowned in red and green lighting, and with heavy smoke often engulfing the stage, the band got straight down to business, delivering a devastating rendition of "Omerta," from their 2004 album Ashes of the Wake. Vocalist Randy Blythe ran about the stage, performing occasional and impressive aerials, and the band spiralled through a crushing set that included "Walk With Me in Hell," "512" and "Laid to Rest."
Moshing and crowd surfing were in abundance, but most impressive were the circle pits on the floor, hitting a feverish pitch during Lamb of God's closing song "Redneck," which saw the swirling crowd thrashing across almost the entire width of the arena floor. Surely that must have been the biggest beatdown that the arena has ever seen, and a moment that metal fans in Ottawa should be very proud of.
All that had come before was to be temporarily forgotten as the anticipation for Slayer began to set in. Thousands of fans swarmed the front of the stage chanting "Slayer! Slayer!" as their instrumental track "Delusions of Saviour" played over the PA and spinning crosses were projected onto a massive black curtain covering the front of the stage. When that curtain finally fell, and Slayer leapt out to dive into the 2015 track "Repentless," the crowd hit a new whole new level of ferocity, and began a marathon of moshing and crowd-surfing that would continue for the entire show.
Bassist and vocalist Tom Araya stood centre stage, shifting and raising eyebrows as he pounded his base and growled familiar lyrics into his mic. While the high-pitched Araya wails of yesteryear are a thing of the past, the vocals were as powerful and excellent as ever, often projecting anguish, ferocity and despair into the arena. Behind him, Paul Bostaph pounded the crap out of his drum kit, while legendary guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt manned the front corners of the stage.
The outrageous amount of pyrotechnics seemed to multiply with every passing song, evolving from popping flumes of flames, into more abundant fire including a massive inverted flame-cross, to the point where half of the stage seemed to be aflame, radiating heat far out into the arena. Hopefully the band were paying for the gas, otherwise that bill might just bankrupt the arena.
The front half of the set showcased many vintage Slayer tracks including "Mandatory Suicide," "Postmortem" and "War Ensemble" from the 1990 masterpiece Seasons in the Abyss. It was the second half of the set that was absolute crushing awesomeness. "Seasons in the Abyss," arguably the best metal song of all time, was performed masterfully. The crowd seemed close to spontaneous combustion where the band belted out "Hell Awaits," and as those iconic opening notes of "South of Heaven" began to ring out into the crowd, you could sense millions of arm and neck hairs throughout the arena suddenly stand at attention.
The Slayer performance was no-nonsense; they may have been short on words, but the significance of the performance to fans and the band was always apparent. After Slayer closed with extra evil renditions of "Dead Skin Mask" and "Angel of Death," the band took several moments to flick picks and hurl drumsticks into the crowd. Afterwards, Tom Araya stood silent for a couple of minutes on the front of stage right, just staring off into the arena and the crowd, absorbing the scene and soaking in the night. It was truly incredible. We are unlikely to ever see the titans quite like Slayer ever emerge again.