Hard Rock Corner: Slayer, The Final Campaign | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, December 16th, 2019  

Hard Rock Corner: Slayer, The Final Campaign

November 6, 2019, Giant Center, Hershey, PA

Nov 27, 2019 By Frank Valish Bookmark and Share


Slayer has been on its Final World Tour for over a year and a half, supported by a rotating gala of guests featuring some of the foremost purveyors of heavy music over the past 30 years. The last leg of this tour, dubbed The Final Campaign, saw the thrash legends play Hershey, PA on November 6, supported by Ministry, Primus, and Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals doing an all-Pantera set. And it was an epic event by any definition.

Set to start the show at the ungodly early hour of 6:00 PM, Phil Anselmo and his Illegals played to a packed but not yet capacity crowd, as people were still filing in en masse. The set was short at 40 minutes but its intensity was unwavering, a mix of pure anger and vitriol as Anselmo punched his way through Pantera classics. Anselmo finished with the song that he said best encapsulated the Pantera attitude, "A New Level" from 1992's A Vulgar Display of Power. After the last notes faded, he concluded his set by intoning the words, sans instrumentation, "...and she's buying a stair-fucking-way...," to which the crowd responded with "...to heaven." Anselmo then made a throat cutting gesture, dropped the mic, and was gone.

Needing respite already after no more than a few songs, this reviewer took the break between sets as an opportunity to hit the concourse and mingle with the metal masses. And mass it was, a sea of people, beer lines 20 people deep and so many fans willing to spend their hard-earned dollars on merchandise that one couldn't even get close enough to see the wares. One could hardly manage to procure a soft pretzel in the mess before the next band began.

Ministry sounded simply like rolling thunder from the concourse, menacingly beckoning the beer thirsty patrons back to their seats. By the time this reviewer reached his, it was evident that the earplugs in use were straining their effectiveness and about to give in from the noise. Introducing each of his songs by title and album, frontman Al Jourgensen stalked the stage from behind his illuminated cross podium with an intensity only he can purvey. "I think you'll recognize the next four," Jourgen said as he introduced what would be the final quartet of songs in his set: "Just One Fix," "N.W.O," "Thieves," and the track that defines Ministry for the casual fan, "Jesus Built My Hotrod." Between the machine gun riffs of "Thieves" and the strobe lights so intense that they could give a non-epileptic a seizure, Ministry ended its set with a bang.

Primus provided some much-welcomed levity to the proceedings, although its set of psychedelic heft and low end stomp fit in with its tourmates much better than anticipated. The set began with a nearly 10-minute rendition of "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers" from 1991's Sailing the Sea of Cheese. Pausing mid-song, frontman Les Claypool stopped to say, "I know why you're really here," and proceeded to lead the crowd in a chant of "Slayer. Slayer. Slayer. Slayer." "Too Many Puppies" found Claypool displaying his classic duckwalk. Their cover of Rush's "Cygnus X-1" was instrumentally thrilling, and Claypool played "Mr. Krinkle" clad in a cat mask and on upright bass. As for the comic relief, Claypool took the opportunity to pause his set to talk to the crowd. "I'm here to see Slayer," he said. "I got in for free, so fuck all y'all," ending with the comment, "I've been semi-erect all evening."

Finally it was the time everyone had been waiting for, the band of the hour. With AC/DC cued up to lead the band on, and the sight of someone in a wheelchair crowd surfing, one knew this was going to be quite an experience to behold. And Slayer didn't disappoint. Coming out to the rotating images of crosses inverting, followed by floating Slayer logos crisscrossing the stage to the recorded sounds of "Delusions of Saviour" from the band's excellent 2015 album Repentless, the band then launched into that album's vicious title track.

What followed was a brutal 20-song set that zigzagged through Slayer's catalog, hitting all eras and all the high points. The first half of the set found its smatterings of later era songs, such as "World Painted Blood" and "Hate Worldwide" from 2009's World Painted Blood album, "Stain of Mind" from 1998's Diabolus in Musica, and "Disciple" and "Payback" from 2001's God Hates Us All.

It was the second half of the set that was all classic Slayer. Overall, the band played four songs from its classic Reign In Blood album, and went all the way back to its 1983 debut for "Show No Mercy" and the 1984 Haunting the Chapel EP for "Chemical Warfare." Seasons in the Abyss was well-represented with four songs, including the title track and the show's penultimate song "Dead Skin Mask." And the band even performed the title track to 1988's South of Heaven, along with "Mandatory Suicide" from the same album.  As far as setlist goes, this Final Campaign show hit all the marks.

As an overall experience, the night was a spectacle. First and foremost was the fire. Blazing from, at this reviewer's count, nine different spots on the stage, fire was omnipresent. Those close could feel the literal heat coming from the stage and the band projected figurative heat from their instruments. Walls of flames, flames crisscrossing above the stage to make crosses, flames shooting out from all around the stage, flames seemingly everywhere, punctuating the songs in the best way possible. Crowd surfers were like rag dolls taken from security at the front of the stage and deposited back from whence they came. There was even, inexplicably, a fan in overalls stalking the pit. At one point, the crowd yelled, "Primus sucks" between songs. Not that there was much between-song time, as the wall of metal reverberated constantly and seemingly without pause throughout the band's lengthy set.

Once the final chords of "Angel of Death" rang silent, frontman Tom Araya stood still, gazing over the crowd as guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt flicked picks into the audience, and drummer Paul Bostaph hurled drumsticks. Araya just stood in awe, staring at the sea of devil horns in standing ovation, even after the rest of his band departed. Thumbs in his pockets, Araya lingered, cheers from the crowd not abating. Finally, he shared his parting thoughts, introspective after a night that should prove his last in this eastern Pennsylvania town. "Thank you very much," he said with utmost sincerity. "Those words mean a lot to me. So thank you very, very fucking much. I'm gonna miss you guys. Thank you very much. Goodnight." And with that Slayer's reign ended. 



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