30 years from the day they released their seminal thrash album Reign in Blood, Slayer was in Dallas playing to a sold out Gas Monkey Live. At the time of its release, there probably were not many people who thought Reign in Blood, with its 10 songs in 29 minutes, would go on to be one of the single most influential albums in metal. Nevertheless, it did and Slayer maintains one of the strongest fan bases in any genre. And Slayer Nation was out in force on this night. Slayer tour t-shirts across three decades were worn by men, women, and children; but overall, the crowd was an interesting mix. I saw a pregnant woman in a “Bad Bitch” tank top drinking a beer (I did a double take, I think I’m right about this), an older gentlemen in overall’s and a Buc-ee’s hat, and one classy bro wearing a “Beer + Titties” t-shirt. I did not see many women at all, which kind of surprised me. However, I arrived at 7:30 – which apparently was late. The venue was already stuffed with no real possibility of pushing to the front, so I was relegated to the back for the night.
My ticket clearly stated that doors were at 6:30pm and show at 7:10pm, but when do these things ever go on schedule? I guess they did, because Death Angel was already tearing it up when I got there. Death Angel have a ton of street cred in the thrash metal world. Never as commercially successful as Slayer or Anthrax, but every bit as awesome, Death Angel sounded like a well oiled machine. I hope I never use “well oiled machine” in a live review ever again, but it is the most apt description. Apparently they opened with “The Ultra-Violence” and “Evil Priest” from their classic 1987 debut album The Ultra-Violence. However, they didn’t play any material from Frolic Through the Park (1988) or Act III (1990), which was a little disappointing. Further, they only played one song, “The Moth,” from their 2016 release The Evil Divide. Personal set list complaints aside, Death Angel played a great, yet short, set. Singer Mark Osegueda’s vocals were strong and when he wasn’t singing or screaming, he was talking about Bay Area thrash. The full band sounded tight, but it was indeed a pleasure to watch Rob Cavestany and Rob Aguilar shred on guitar. Their set was enough to satisfy knowing that Anthrax and Slayer were still to come, but I do wish they had a longer set.
I watched the last couple of Death Angel songs from the merch line that seemed to crawl at an interminable pace. I suspect the Gas Monkey is one of these venues that requires artists to mark-up their merchandise and give a cut to the venue; because $40 Hanes t-shirts are ridiculous. I still bought one of course, but was mystified by $100 Anthrax hoodies and $125 Slayer hockey jerseys. By the time I made it to the front of the line, Anthrax was kicking into their first song, “You Gotta Believe,” from their fantastic 2016 album For All Kings. I saw Anthrax earlier this year supporting Lamb of God at the Bomb Factory and I knew they put on a killer show. Tonight, they did not disappoint. Playing tracks from Kings, Worship Music, and Among the Living, the band was strong, but not as energetic as their gig at the Bomb Factory. Nevertheless, everything was spot on and they got a great response from the crowd. “Indians,” “Caught in a Mosh,” “Anti-Social,” and “Breathing Lightning” got crowd sing-a-longs and “March of the S.O.D.” was an unexpected treat. Playing a 9-song set and as a support act for the third time in a little more than a year, Dallas is dying for a headlining Anthrax gig.
Slayer took the stage around 9:15pm and kicked off with the title track to the acclaimed Repentless LP. The band played 20 songs across 8 albums, but surprsisingly only three songs from Reign in Blood (“Angel of Death,” “Raining Blood,” and “Postmortem”). Considering it was the anniversary date of the albums release, I was hoping we might get treated to a special set or some deep cuts off the album, but Slayer played their usual setlist from this tour. Overall, this was in no way a disappointment, because Slayer brought the metal hard. Guitarists Gary Holt and Kerry King traded off leads and solo’s masterfully while drummer Paul Bostaph pummeled the drums behind them. Bassist and singer Tom Araya was also in top form as he lead the band through their powerful set. “War Ensemble,” “Mandatory Suicide,” and “Dead Skin Mask” sounded especially hot, but when the band went into “Seasons in the Abyss” (the 15th song of their set) the crowd was as energized and joyous as ever. The band played a four-song encore that ended with a searing “Angel of Death,” but when the house lights came on it was hard to believe this show was really over. Simply put, Slayer is as good as its gets for live metal.
Now I have to call out the Gas Monkey Live as my least favorite venue in any city. I guess it’s the acoustics, but every show I have ever seen at Gas Monkey, including this one, the singers vocals are buried in the mix. Guitars and drums are loud as hell, but the vocals are always difficult to hear. I’ll admit, I had no trouble with Death Angel’s set, but both Anthrax and Slayer sets had the same issue. The Gas Monkey also has a stupid layout; with a ridiculously wide bar in the middle of the venue that takes up about 3/4’s of the entire floor space from end to end. If you get there late (7:30? C’mon!) and don’t get on the stage side of the bar, you’re shoved to the sides in the back. There are some decent viewing angles, but also more obstructions depending on where you stand. Oddly, once when I went around the back of the bar to move to the other side, I noticed that here – in the furthest spot from the stage you could get – the sound actually sounded better than when I moved 25 feet closer. It’s bad. Get it together Gas Monkey Live.
– J. Kevin Lynch