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Headbangers

Slayer and Unearth in Washington D.C.

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 @ 7:10 PM


At the 9:30 Club

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If Slayer were feeling at all full of themselves from their Grammy win for “Eyes of the Insane” of the previous week, they certainly didn’t show it when they tore up Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club on President’s Day. Indeed though frontman Tom Araya dedicated one war epic, “Mandatory Suicide,” “to the troops,” the band ripped through “Insane” with nary a word. And despite the political hue of the new Christ Illusion material — “Insane” included — Slayer opted not to take advantage of the setting (D.C.) or the President’s Day holiday to grandstand. Except when he was singing, Araya was, in fact, a man of few words. Even his traditional intros to “War Ensemble,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Die By The Sword” or “Postmortem” were abbreviated: “Do you wanna ...”

But since the capacity crowd (the band sold out a second night was well) was finishing his intros for him anyway, Araya really didn’t need to say anything more. Yet after watching everyone go ape-shit for first half of Slayer’s pummeling 80-minute set, Araya cheerfully acknowledged that he could, in fact, “feel the love.” That fever pitch would not ebb for the remainder of the show.

And it’s no wonder. After 25 years, Slayer are still arguably metal’s premier live act. Though they may not command as a large an audience as some others, no one can touch these guys when they are “on.” And in the 20 or so times I’ve seen them since 1986, I don’t ever remember a show where they didn’t simply, well, slay. The 9:30 show was no exception. With Dave Lombardo having been back beating the drums for a couple years, Slayer’s actually more vicious and precise now than they’ve been in quite some time. And that’s saying something. Powered by Lombardo’s kick-drum salvos, the stampeding “Silent Scream” damn near fractured ribs, as did “Captor of Sin,” and incendiary new tracks like “Cult” and show opener “Disciple” — one of only two songs from the Paul Bostaph era, “Bloodline” being the other — came and went in a veritable blur.

Once famously temperamental, Lombardo seems to really be enjoying himself upon his return to the Slayer fold, and his effortless enthusiasm has only made the band that much more formidable. Amazing.

Though rather warmly received, Boston bangers Unearth tried a bit too hard to rile up a crowd that already was more than ready to explode. Frontman Trevor Phipps’ incessant “let’s see a circle pit” audience-baiting grew old quickly and the band’s penchant for striking strategic “metal” poses to get fists and devil horns waving made Killswitch Engage seem modest by comparison. Despite all this, Unearth’s revved-up 35-minute set was lethally heavy — indeed bassist John Maggard’s hammering came uncomfortably close to accomplishing the mythic “brown sound” with intermittent low-end thrums that threatened to loosen the bowels. So if nothing else, the band kept everyone on their toes.



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