Slayer and Megadeth, Challenge Stadium (Perth), 12/10/2009

A live performance review is supposed to be a carefully written critical account of an event, stemming from the reviewer’s observations and notes on the band’s performance, song selection and delivery, the audio quality, lighting and other venue-influenced factors, and the crowd response. Fuck me. This is just not that kind of review.

Meg-a-deth! Meg-a-deth!

Sllllaaaaaayyyyyeeeeeeerrr!

The chants were already starting up, out in the carpark. That pretty much set the tone of the evening before we even got into the venue.

Inside Challenge Stadium, the lights were dimming for openers Double Dragon, who came out to a crowd only a fraction of the size of the one milling around outside. When they started up, they brought in some of the outsiders – even though it was halfway through their opening song before a sound board operator wandered over to plug the lead guitar and vocal lines in.

Full sound restored, the Adelaide boys started on a tough assignment – to warm up the early-arriving crowd and get them in the mood for what would most likely be the most thrash metal night of their lives. Double Dragon had been given the unusual honour of accompanying the main acts across all five Australian dates, even for this most remote show in Western Australia, and they stepped up to the task with style, delivering some solidly grooving tracks. Given the headline acts, this was a tough crowd to please, but they got a very good response, with the front few rows actively moshing throughout the set. I’ll look forward to Double Dragon’s return to Western Australia in support of Chimaira early in 2010.

The set changeover allowed just enough time to fight through the lines at the makeshift bar (in a basketball court, no less) to grab a drink, or visit the merch stand – but not both - so after seeing the line for the alcohol, we opted for the t-shirts. That the two headlining acts both had their own separate merch vans spoke volumes about the uneasy and much-publicised relationship the bands have had on this tour – and while most fans definitely fell into one camp or the other, most were more than happy to see both bands. It’s all thrash, after all.

Fighting our way back into the sold-out general admission/standing area with merch in hand, we were confronted with a Megadeth stage setup. Within a few minutes the lights went down again and then spotlights heralded the respective on-stage appearances of Chris Broderick, James Lomenzo, Shawn Drover, and finally, the man of the hour, Dave Mustaine. Set The World Afire started the set. That’s when 14-year-old Goatlady took over, and things got a little fuzzy for me.

First, some context. I, like so many other people who were also present at this show, grew up on a steady diet of Megadeth and Slayer. During my formative teenage years, I learnt every word and every riff to every Megadeth song, from the opening organ strains of Last Rites on Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! to the brilliance that is everything on Rust In Peace to the madness that came later, with Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia. And Slayer? My first Slayer experience was at 13, when a boy I was trying to impress let me dub his third generation tape copy of Reign In Blood during a school bus trip. I don’t remember his name these days but I sure never forgot Kerry King, Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo. Over the next six months I drifted off to sleep each night with South of Heaven on my tape player - Tom Araya’s not-so-silent scream ringing in my head.

Tell me that didn’t have an influence.

Let’s face it: I am, by now, almost pathologically incapable of impartially and critically reviewing either of these band’s performances. So I will attempt to recount what I remember and you can draw your own conclusions.

First, a feeling of almost pure joy came over me, hearing that first riff – Megadeth’s So Far, So Good, So What? album is criminally under-rated, in my opinion, and perhaps in a few other people’s as well because the mosh pit was hammering from where I was, several rows back and a little to the side of the most intense action. Wake Up Dead, Hangar 18, Skin O’ My Teeth – a highlight tour of the early classic albums, and all stuff that had everyone singing along. Then some new material: the first single from Endgame, Headcrusher, Mustaine giving up on teaching the crowd the chorus after two lacklustre attempts. It didn’t stop us from joining in anyway.

She-Wolf was a surprise inclusion, in my opinion, as was In My Darkest Hour, although the latter was a very welcome one. Then Tornado of Souls, where some random, bald dude with a tattooed head and I, thrust together by the random waves of moshers, momentarily grasped the heavens for invisible oranges in synchronicity as we screamed out those lyrics at the top of our lungs.

Occasionally the crowd parted as I was on an upward propulsion and I happened to catch sight of Mustaine’s crazy orange curls bobbing over his guitar. But as for what was generally going on, onstage, I can’t tell you a lot, other than that it included a lot of shredding. The man is arguably the best guitar player in the world, after all.

To make us feel extra special, Mustaine explained the band would be performing new song, 1,320, live for the first time, confiding that he’d never actually sung and played the song at the same time. It certainly didn’t sound any less polished than anything else played that night. Rattlehead led into Symphony of Destruction which led into Peace Sells, then it was briefly offstage before the encore: the much anticipated Holy Wars. Cue 10,000 sets of shred fingers over imaginary guitar necks.

Completely soaked through with sweat (and not all our own) we stumbled out into the carpark to buy water and rave about the Megadeth experience with other excitedly babbling metalheads.

Having a very much more cautious approach to Slayer moshpits, I elected to stay well back for the next part of the evening. This gave me the advantage of being able to actually see how the crowd was reacting to Kerry King, Dave Hanneman, Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo.

Red lights bathed the stage for World Painted Blood, then War Ensemble, Jihad, Born of Fire, Psychopathy Red, Mandatory Suicide... Slayer were unbelievably heavy, unbelievably tight, and each song was yet another blow to the chest. The music was almost physically pushing the audience back, but they pushed forward anyway – and despite my decision to stay back from the pit, I was pushed, shoved, knocked over, and covered in other people’s drinks anyway. Let’s face it, being anywhere within a 5 km radius of a Slayer show is not for the faint-of-heart.

Tom Araya, who had cancelled the band's Adelaide show due to laryngitis, sounded only slightly more scratchy than usual, although he was obviously being very careful with his vocal delivery. Oh, and there was fire: a giant metal Slayer logo at the back of the stage was lit up at several points and two rows of barbecue-style flame kept the front rows warm.

Chemical Warfare, Ghosts of War, Hate Worldwide, Dead Skin Mask – the songs chosen were very heavy on the older material, and this crowd didn’t mind one bit. Disciple was the one inclusion from the God Hates Us All album, then after Hell Awaits we got down once more to the last run of songs, the classics.

Angel of Death. Mere words can’t describe the experience of hearing it live, although they can relate how disappointing it was that the massive opening scream was not delivered by Araya (although most of the crowd filled it in). Then the encores. South Of Heaven, which possibly has the most evil-sounding riff in the history of music. Raining Blood. Raining fucking Blood. I think it might have been raining blood from head injuries in the front few rows.

Fuck, I love being a metalhead.