Slayer - London, Alexandra Palace - 25th May 2012 Print E-mail
Written by Johnny H   
Saturday, 02 June 2012 04:20

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Every year I cast a watchful eye over what All Tomorrows Parties (or ATP as they like to called) bring to the UK gig going calendar.  I've done so ever since they had Cheap Trick play one of their bills way back in 2002, I always seem to paw through their weekend line ups hoping that one day maybe, just maybe, I might get to attend a show of theirs, but invariably I've always found their events to be perhaps a little too "indie" for my palette, and the thought of spending a weekend in a British holiday camp surrounded by a load of Penguin novel readers, discussing the latest NME raves Squidgitt & Pomfrey - Haberdashers To The Underworld, isn't exactly my idea of a good time.

 

One thing I would say is that without the precedent set by ATP and their now hugely successful concerts the more recent upsurge in rock themed holidays at your local Butlins, Pontins etc would most probably have been nothing more than a brand marketing managers idea of a fantastic tax loss leading into the new millennium. So with gigs confirmed already for this year at their usual home of Butlins Minehead, as well as the slightly more exotic location of Studio Coast Tokyo, it was this Mogwai curated weekend at London's Alexandra Palace that finally got me to part with my hard earned and take the plunge for an ATP ticket....

 

Why?  Well for one night only ATP was the only place to be to hear the mighty Slayer perform their thrash-terpiece ' Reign In Blood' in its entirety and in sequence for the first time since (I think) 2009, and I just had to be there.

 

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So with a Friday day ticket purchased and a hotel quickly added for the "real metal must attend event of the year" (that of course being Judas Priest headlining the Hammersmith Apollo the following night) I started making noises to the rest of the more locally based UR massive about what to expect from a show at Alexandra Palace, to which the stock reply seemed to be "a fucking long walk".  And you know what? They certainly weren't wrong there, because if you choose not to take your car to the People's Palace, whichever way you look at it you need to have the physique of a gypsy's dog to make it up that long winding hill from the nearby train station without stopping to catch your breath.  Thankfully though (and I know I must be insane saying this reading it back) with the temperatures touching the high 20's instead of it pissing it down with rain as normal; at least the breathtaking views of the city of London could be enjoyed in all their glory.

 

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Finally arriving at the fantastic looking venue as opening band A Storm Of Light were taking their final bows (sorry guys) and with the guest list backed up halfway to Finsbury Park, I felt kind of smug getting straight in with my purchased Golden Ticket, and with the throbbing bass of Oregon doomsters YOB echoing from their soundcheck in the West Hall - beckoning me in like some metal mating call, it was straight into the live action for yours truly as the trio (you will notice a pattern developing here) proceeded to deliver a set as heavy, sweaty and claustrophobic as having a post fight Sumo wrestler park themselves on your hooter for the whole afternoon.  Seriously folks with music this heavy being played by younger /newer bands, why anyone gives a flying fuck who is drumming for Black Sabbath is beyond me?

 

MelvinsQuickly acclimatising myself to the relentless humidity of the early evening (magnified around about 100 times due to the venue's glass roof) and the frantic two hall band on/band off set up, it was then over to the Great Hall for my first live encounter with the Melvins. Now this is a band I'd wanted to see for quite some time, and I'd actually forsaken seeing them play a low key warm up show in Bristol the previous night in favour of catching them on the humongous enormodome stage of the Ally Pally. Hmmmm. More fool me then I think as their 'Blazing Saddles' intro tape segues straight into 'Hung Bunny' and this 10 minute plus stoner fest pretty much set the tone for what was to follow.  The band's pulsating set pleasing the faithful but leaving me wondering if the lure of a cooling ale and a bag of fried potatoes from the 'Hippy Chippy' (yours for just under £10) wasn't more satisfying than the ultra sludge Buzz and Co seemed only too happy to peddle here tonight. Oh well there's always next time I suppose - beer it is.

 

Having had a good friend of mine (perhaps more renowned for his love of avant garde indie) confess to me recently that he'd put down his Penguin novels long enough to discover the black metal delights of Wolves In The Throne Room, had me wondering just exactly what I was missing within the Washington trio's 'Celestial Linage' album.  So it was back to the West Hall for some black metal double bass drum blast beats to restore my faith in evil - but wait what's this?  A 10 minute battle metal intro tape?  Or is it the first song?  Ahhh, now I remember what it was about that album that I didn't get - the ambient bits.  Oh well there's plenty of them on offer here tonight and after opener 'Thuja Magus Imperium' has called everyone in from their twilight nicotine fixes it's my turn to go in the opposite direction, safe in the knowledge that I'll probably never own a Wolves In The Throne Room album.

 

SleepAnd so to the band most people appeared to be here to see (well judging by the T-shirt count anyway), nah not Slayer, but San Jose doom giants Sleep.  With their recently reissued 'Dopesmoker' album being heralded as reissue of the week by The Sunday Times, it seems highly fashionable to namedrop Sleep within music circles these days, but credit where it is due, as right here in ATP's circles they have almost a god given rite to do so, as it was for their 2009 event that Matt Pike, Chris Hakius (since replaced by Jason Roeder) and Al Cisneros first resurrected the legend of Sleep.  Choosing tonight to bookend their set with the aforementioned 'Dopesmoker' opus this is music to lose your minds to plain and simple; trippy and free flowing with those imaginary sumo wrestlers back and once again wanting to suffocate me. Tonight 'Dragonaut' steals the stoner dungarees right from underneath the noses of their previous wearers seemingly never to be returned, that is unless Chris 'Casey Jones' Robinson decides to come a steamin' and a rollin' back into London town anytime soon.

 

With the evening's line up to this point being about as heavy as it could possibly get but also more than just a little light in the excitement stakes (I was just waiting for a Pete Stahl or Pete Dolving type character to seize the moment and inject a bit of energy into things, and sadly that never happened), the arrival of Slayer couldn't come soon enough if I'm honest, and after one last look around the elegant architecture of the Alexandra Palace I was soon rammed into the Great Hall about half way back waiting for the opening bars of 'Angel of Death' to rip my face off. But I'd have a bit of a wait yet as taking the stage to rapturous applause Slayer throw an immediate curveball in the set list department as the best ever thrash band to come out of the US of A bulldoze straight into 'World Painted Blood' and the place literally explodes.  Now this is more like it, bodies flying past me trying to get to the front only to just as quickly fly straight back past me drenched in sweat.

 

SlayerThis is insane, and I love insanity. If you ever wondered why it is when anyone tries to interview a fan of Slayer the interviewee simply insists on screaming the band's name back, something akin to "SLLAAAYYYYYEEEEEER!" here is all the proof youwill ever need, as after just a few bars of an intense 'Psychopathy Red' I'm screaming it too, at the top of my fucking voice. This is the Slayer effect in full force, don't try and fight it - just go with the flow.

 

Next up a real treat for us old schoolers in the shape of a rare live outing of 'Die By The Sword' that even comes complete with the 'Ultimate Revenge' intro spiel, sweet! It's only really around this point that I remember that Jeff Hanneman isn't actually accompanying the band on this trip around Europe before the band then head home for the Mayhem Festival, and it is to Gary Holt's absolute credit that he fits so seamlessly into the shoes of a true thrash metal guitar legend.  Just imagine how fucking intense Slayer would sound if when Jeff does return the band did a Maiden and kept going with 3 guitarists - they could demolish cities with that sonic assault.  Tonight they appear content to settle with just shaking the walls and foundations of Alexandra Palace and thus making the portaloos a very dangerous place to be, especially when 'Chemical Warfare', 'Hate Worldwide' and 'Dead Skin Mask' all fly by at lightening fast speed.

 

Kerry_KingThen as the Slayer backdrop is finally pulled away to reveal a huge 'Reign In Blood' affair, we all know what is up next, and for the next 30 odd minutes the inmates of the Alexandra Asylum turn insanity into a fine art form thanks to the music of their all conquering heroes.  Look I'm not going to go through this segment track by track as it is quite simply the best thrash metal album of all time played by the.... Oh you get my drift.  I do however have two questions that spring to mind that demand an answer, the first is "How the hell does Dave Lombardo still manage to drum like this at 47?" and secondly "Is that really my normally placid wife going absolutely bananas during the outro of 'Raining Blood'? 

 

See what I mean about the Slayer effect!

 

Frantically scribbling notes on my drenched crib sheet I appear to have written 'Reign In Sweat' at some point, and by the time the encores do come around I start to wonder if you are not soaked from head to toe you must either have the constitution of, or actually be one of, the cover stars from 'Live Undead'.  The floor is like a makeshift bloody ice rink at this point. So it is with some welcome relief that 'South Of Heaven' takes the pace back down slightly before 'Snuff' and then 'War Ensemble' send us all back out into the warm night air gasping for breathe only to have the long slog back down the hill to get our train.

 

It did take something very special for me to eventually lose my ATP cherry, but then in saying that, a Slayer gig is always something very special, so here's to the next one- "SLLAAAYYYYYEEEEEER!"