Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Slayer

Thrash brand wields Excalibur

“They say the pen is mightier than the sword,” ventured bassist/vocalist Tom Araya early into Slayer’s headlining set Sunday night at Fun Fun Fun Fest. “I say, FUCK THE PEN! You can ‘Die by the Sword’!”

The maturing lion king of extreme metal was, of course, announcing the next song, but for all the aggression the three-decade-plus Southern California thrash brand unleashed, it acted as a statement of purpose.

Slayer remains master of assault and battery. There are no mid-range frequencies to its chaos theory. It’s all about a brute force low-end thudding you relentlessly. Those beats are locomotive in their attack, so it’s understandable why Araya had neck surgery and now stands stock-still onstage: Slayer’s sole rhythmic mode is “whiplash.”

This is aggression at its most primal. Melody stems from Araya occasionally, while lead guitar amounts to two guys – founder Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman replacement Gary Holt of Exodus – torturing high gain amps with squealing, squalling, abstract bursts of notes that almost sound like free jazz. With Paul Bostaph ably sitting in for Dave Lombardo on drums, there’s a technicality within the musical maelstrom worthy of that foundational genre.

Closing Fun Fun Fun Fest, Slayer treated Austin to greatest hits and then some: “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Seasons in the Abyss,” etc. They also dug out the aforementioned “Die by the Sword,” a high point off their 1983 debut LP, Show No Mercy.

After fooling no one with a false ending of “South of Heaven,” the third backdrop of the night unfurled at the back of the stage: a parody of the Heineken logo reading “Hanneman” and bearing his life dates. The top read “Angel of Death.” Reign in Blood’s terrifying opening track – and closing number on Auditorium Shores – now serves as an epitaph for Slayer’s fallen co-founder.

Photo by John Leach

It was an appropriate and beautiful note on which to end the night. Surely everybody exiting the park felt like they’d just gone three rounds with Leon Spinks. And it hurt so good.

For more Fun Fun Fun Fest coverage, see For photo galleries from the fest, see

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Fun Fun Fun Fest, Slayer, Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, Gary Holt, Exodus, Paul Bostaph

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