YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Holding back nothing

The Unholy Alliance Tour with headliner Slayer stomps, rages and screams to the ever-replenishing heavy metal fans.

July 24, 2006|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

"This is your religion, right?"

Tom Araya smiled upon his congregation, a crowd of more than 8,000 roaring heavy metal fans gathered Saturday at the Long Beach Arena, hands held high with the devil's horns salute. They had come to hear the angry gospel of loudness and speed from Slayer and four other irritable metal acts. And Araya looked pleased.

The singer is bearded now with a touch of gray, but Slayer appeared and sounded much it has for two decades as Araya introduced a new song, "Cult," just another of Slayer's ecstatic attacks on organized religion:

"Oppression is the Holy Law / In God I Distrust ... Religion is hate / Religion is fear / Religion is war!"

Whether this was a new satanic manifesto of rage for the Slayer faithful, a pointed form of antisocial protest or simple metal theatrics depended on the listener. Araya was raised a Catholic.

These were some of the final moments on this stop of the Unholy Alliance Tour, a 30-city metal road trip across the U.S. created by Slayer and manager Rick Sales to feed the insatiable metal multitudes.

Like Ozzfest's local concert just two weeks ago, Unholy Alliance was aimed at a vibrant subculture that is in no danger of fading away. Lack of radio support will not kill it. Neither have decades of shifts in pop music styles and tastes. There is always a new generation of angry young dudes in crisp black T-shirts ready for the mosh pit.

The intense, speedy riffing that Slayer (along with Metallica) created in the early '80s is not for everyone, and how could it be? Songs of death and rage and horror are an acquired taste.

Earlier, Mastodon was led by a pair of bearded young singers who looked less Rob Zombie or ZZ Top than Middle Earth, standing with legs planted far apart while unleashing waves of grinding prog-metal.

Children of Bodom wore its hair long and straight, like a kind of throwback to metal's earliest days, before the hardest skulls had become shaved and tattooed. The sound was fast and obsessive, with lots of busy playing from singer-guitarist Alexi Leiho, aiming his Flying-V guitar skyward, fingers crawling up the neck.

When Lamb of God landed onstage at 8:50 p.m., the room was nearly full at last, with fans surging toward a stage erupting under a torrent of fog, soaked in hellish, billowing hues of reds and purples and greens. Songs were heavy with galloping beats and jagged machine-gun guitars, finding a brutal rhythm and momentum as Randy Blythe howled and shrieked on politics, betrayal and rage.

He was livid. He was inconsolable. And fans clawed at the air as if being attacked by locusts.

Blythe then challenged the crowd to expand the mosh pit out across the floor and dedicated "Redneck," a song from Lamb of God's upcoming album, to L.A. metal act Fear Factory. But as he shouted out the lyrics -- "So drunk on yourself, self-righteous, the laughing stock of your own . . . stage!" -- the finer points of his dedication were left open to interpretation.

Slayer's 70-minute headlining set began quickly, with guitar patterns harsh and melodic, often pieced together from precise, minimal patterns that at their best could be both exciting and chilling.

For all the insanity of the sound and content of Slayer's music, the band has mastered pacing in a metal context, knowing when to slow down and leer at fans or to leave a simple riff alone.

"God Hates Us All" came off as an alarm in Araya's delivery as spinning pentagrams were projected onto the ceiling, joining in with the images of violence and horror, from Nazi Germany to serial killer Ed Gein, as fans desperately crowd-surfed and tumbled into the photo pit.

The band has faced trouble for these kinds of images, which are typical enough interests for the disaffected teen, a kind of ultimate rebellion against taste and the status quo. Fans will have to wait for "Jihad," a song written from the perspective of an anti-American terrorist, which will be included on the band's "Christ Illusion" album.

Slayer could age as easily as Motorhead, though guitarist Kerry King has said it's unlikely given the physical demands of his performances. All those hours of banging that bald, tattooed head to an insane rhythm inevitably takes a toll. Speed kills.

But in Long Beach, the Slayer noise machine continued to unleash its bad vibes, and fans screamed out favorite song titles or just chanted, "Slayer! Slayer!"

Araya just looked and smiled, in this context an image somehow more unsettling than all the screaming that came before.

Los Angeles Times Articles