Around the start of November, my youngest son, Nick, told me that French progressive death metal band Gojira was coming to Detroit. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I, as a die-hard metalhead, have never seen Gojira live. I thought to myself that this would be another great father-son metal concert experience. I wondered who else was playing and lo and behold I discovered thrash legend Slayer was headlining.
I’ve seen Slayer numerous times, the last time with all four original members being August of 2010. The next time was July of 2012, with Gary Holt filling on guitar due to Jeff Hanneman still recovering from Necrotizing Fasciitis, aka flesh eating disease. With the sad, unfortunate passing of Hanneman earlier this year, and Paul Bostaph replacing Dave Lombardo once again, I was curious to see how the band chemistry would be. To make this metal road trip even better, when I asked my oldest son Kevin if wanted tag along, he said yes before I could finish the question.
Established in 1925 with a seating capacity of 2,200, The Fillmore is located in Detroit, across the street from Comerica Park where the Detroit Tigers play baseball. When we walked up to the venue, I was really hoping we were one of the first ones there since only ten people were hanging around the front door, but my hopes quickly disappeared when we were told the line started across the street. I credit security for moving the line at a steady pace, and in no time I was inside and out of the cold. My first impression when I stepped through the door was, this is the classiest place I’ve ever gone to watch a concert. The interior is breathtaking! I was surrounded by gorgeous chandeliers, a suit of armor guarding each end of the stage, a grand staircase leading to the balcony (where a shorter guy like me can have a closer look at the stage) and the beautiful sight of the 80 foot ceiling . My words can not give justice to the beauty of the Fillmore. If you want to check it out, there are pictures on their website.
While waiting for the start of the show, I struck up a great conversation with a older Ohio gentleman. He was here with his 18 year old grandson. We talked about what other metal concerts we’ve both attended, college football, video games, and his career at one time being a roadie for the band Tesla. It just shows you never know who you may bump into at a metal show.
I have to give a big shout out to the opening band, 4arm. This also was the first time for me watching the band from Melbourne, Australia. After the end of their set my sons and I agreed that 4arm dished out thirty minutes of thrash metal ass kicking. Great start to the show.
After a brief intermission, Gojira hit the stage. Their playlist mixed recent Gojira songs such as ‘Explosia,’ ‘The Axe,’ and ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ and older material like ‘The Heaviest Matter in the Universe,’ ‘Flying Whales,’ and ‘Love.’ It looked to me like the crowd and the band were really enjoying themselves. I have no idea how bass player Jean-Michel Labadie didn’t hurt himself. He would get a running start and do a parkour-like jump off the drum stage. All three of us had a good laugh while watching his insane antics. I witnessed multiple mosh pits from up in balcony, but nothing was better than seeing the crowd explode when Gojira finished their set with fan favorite ‘Vacuity.’ Overall, Gojira were heavy as hell, but I think I put myself at a disadvantage sound-wise by sitting up in the balcony, the wall of speakers pointed straight out to the crowd on the floor. Afterwards, both of my sons graded Gojira‘s performance with two thumbs up, and that’s what counts in my book.
So here it was, the moment so many fans were waiting for. After listening to so many Slayer screams throughout the night, the band emerged through the smoke generated by three fog machines and proceeded to whip the audience into a frenzy that lasted throughout the night. They played 19 Slayer classics overall, with nothing older than the ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ album, and a cover of Exodus‘s ‘Strike of the Beast.’ My opinion after watching is that Slayer, as a live band, is still a force to be reckoned with. Tom Araya‘s vocals still deliver that destructive edge he’s known for on songs such as ‘War Ensemble,’ ‘The Antichrist,’and ‘Hell Awaits.’ Kerry King and Gary Holt served up diabolical riffs. Nothing is better than watching guitars being shredded on ‘Raining Blood,’ ‘Black Magic,’ and ‘Seasons in the Abyss.’ Bostaph is a top notch thrash drummer and he showed why during ‘Jesus Saves,’ ‘Postmortem,’ and ‘Altar of Sacrifice.’ All four of them came together to perform the perfect encore of ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Angel of Death,’ with an enormous banner that paid tribute to Jeff Hanneman. It resembled the Heineken beer logo with the words “Still reigning” and “Made with natural ingredients.”
Time will tell if Slayer can move forward and release another Slayer like album without the contribution of Hanneman‘s song writing skills, but for this one night, in the words of a sweaty exhausted man that was exiting the pit and heading out to the cold Detroit night, “That show kicked my ass, SLAYERRRRR!!!”