The final campaign for thrash-metal icons Slayer is nearing the end, and one of the final fronts of that campaign was found last Thursday night (November 14th) in Moline, IL. With a whole battalion of acts to flank the crowd from every angle, Slayer commanded the room, as you'd expect in a venue with ties right in the name – the TaxSlayer Center. It was the last Midwest show on the last tour for the thrashers, and it was a night to remember.
The first act to hit the stage was Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegal, the band assembled by the former Pantera frontman. For this run, Anselmo is digging into the memories that you'd expect would come along with a farewell tour such as this, bringing out a set comprised entirely of Pantera tracks. Numbers like “Mouth for War,” “Becoming,” and “I'm Broken” had the crowd roaring along with the growling voice that's so well known to so many. Joined in this effort by Mike DeLeon and Stephen Taylor on guitars, Derek Engemann with the bass, and Joey Gonzalez behind the kit, Anselmo showed that he still knows how to fire up the crowd and deliver exactly what they want: No-holds-barred, gut-punching hard rock.
Creeping up on their fourth decade, Chicago's own Ministry took to the stage, their industrial metal sound grinding over the crowd like the welcome gears of a tank smashing through barricades and destroying everything in their path. With Al Jourgensen's vocal talents fronting the band comprised of Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto on six-strings, Paul D'Amour on bass, John Bechdel on keys, and Derek Abrams behind the kit, Ministry sounded tight and precise with every number. Opening with “The Missing” and jumping into “Deity” and “Stigmata” before covering Black Sabbath's “Supernaut,” there was no breathing room in this set. From the jump, they had the crowd screaming and ready for whatever was next. From behind his pulpit – housing at least three different microphones (for vocal styles), Jourgensen had control of everything in his sight.
The penultimate slot on the bill was held by, arguably, the outlier on the tour. Primus seems like an odd choice for this ticket, being more progressive and funk infused, not as much heavy and thrash styled, but they absolutely worked in the slot. Les Claypool's slap-happy, groove-style lead bass, Larry “Ler” LaLonde on guitar, and Tim “Herb” Alexander on drums are an incredible trio, and they sound amazing from that stage. From “Sgt. Baker” and “Frizzle Fry” to “Welcome to this World” and “John the Fisherman,” Primus knows what they do best, and they do it incredibly well. Their cover of Rush's “Cygnus X-1” was executed with style, and breaking out “My Name Is Mud” and Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” for the more casual fans in the crowd show that Primus knows exactly how to build their sets, regardless of the bill their playing.
Headlining the show, on the final run of shows before calling it a closed book on their touring career, California's thrash icons Slayers blasted out onto the stage with blasts of fire and blood-red light that was more fitting for their status as one of the Big 4 in the world of thrash metal. From the opening strains of “Repentless” and “Mandatory Suicide” through “World Painted Blood” and “War Ensemble,” the crew of Slayer proved again and again why they are masters of their trade. Tom Araya's vocals and bass led the charge, with Kerry King and Gary Holt as a dual-guitar attack, trading licks back and forth across the stage as Paul Bostaph held it all together from behind the massive kit at center stage.
From the views in the pit and from the seats throughout the arena, as strains of “South of Heaven,” “Raining Blood,” and “Seasons of the Abyss” made their way into the crowd, what was obvious to anyone paying attention was how at ease the members of the band looked. I can't speak for them, and this is purely my speculation and opinion, but it seems that putting the end-date on the run has taken the pressure off of the guys of Slayer, and has allowed them to just go out and enjoy themselves, and it honestly comes across from the stage.
The show closed out with “Dead Skin Mask” before “Angel of Death” ended the night. With that, Slayer's last visit to the Midwest came to a close. They have a run of shows through the Plains, the Rockies, and end up on the west coast, with the end of the road landing on November 30th. I was fortunate enough to see this final tour twice, and I wish nothing but the best to these gentleman, and say thank you for so many years of incredible music and performances.