Written by Michael Welter on October 13, 2016 for Bloodrock Media

For me, live music has always been a family affair, the perfect escape and bonding opportunity. In 1979 my uncle Robb took me to see Kiss with Judas Priest. I was eleven years old and from that moment forward I have been hooked. Naturally, when my son turned nine, I took him to see Pantera. He still says it was the greatest day of his life. So it came as no surprise that while my daughter and I were seeing Black Sabbath in August, she snuck off only to return with a pair of Slayer tickets. This would be our third time seeing them.

On a gorgeous Indian Summer day, we made the drive to Indianapolis a few hours early so I could have a conversation with Ted Aguilar from Death Angel. Born and raised in San Francisco, Ted grew up in the middle of the thrash metal scene. He played in several local bands before joining Death Angel in 2001. Now, two weeks on the road, I ask how the tour is progressing. “It is truly awesome to be on tour with these bands. There are no egos. Everyone is just here to put on a great show and the crew makes sure it is an easy transition from town to town. It is a very comfortable environment.”

Between the three bands, they have nearly ninety years of ass kicking combined. Ted explains what contributes to their longevity. “We are lifers. We still have the hunger and that fire inside us. We will continue to do this as long as we are able.”

I mention that Death Angel plays with a certain finesse, going beyond the standard three chord progression and ask if that helps to keep them interested. “That’s what being a musician is about. There is nothing wrong with the regular three chord and some people do it well. We just like to expand our sound and mix things up. We have a large catalog to choose from day to day and we try to play a different set each time to keep us on our toes. We are into adding spice, you know, to craft each song to be better and that makes us better. We are always learning new ways to build upon our foundation.” Their new album The Evil Divide is on the Nuclear Blast label.

Michael Welter of BRM with Kerry King of Slayer
I lingered around the stage door for awhile in hopes of encountering Gary Holt. Not since hanging out backstage with Dimebag in the late 90’s have I been as determined to simply shake someone’s hand. Mission accomplished and in the meantime, Kerry King obliged me with a quick photo. Not bad for a Tuesday in Indiana!

I made my way to the soundboard to secure a spot and my kids met up with me there. Just a few steps back from the pit is close enough for safety and optimal sound.  Death Angel hit the stage and as Ted said before, it was exciting and full of energy. Their singer has a great vocal range and the bass player has excellent stage presence.  Both of them interacting with the crowd and quickly gaining new fans, myself included.  Blazing guitar riffs and thundering drums, they were the perfect start to an epic night. I have seen Anthrax a few times in the past and have to say, they seem to have a new head of steam. Touring behind their latest release, For All Kings, the band was tight and full of life. Lead shredder Jonathan Donais was particularly impressive, with a mild mannered demeanor and deliberate, lightning fast leads. Scott Ian was clearly having a great time while singer Joey Belladonna did his best to keep the crowd chanting along. The rhythm section kept the train rolling for a rowdy set.

One thing that can be said for Thrash Metal fans, Slayer fans specifically, is we are dedicated to the cause. As a tribe, we are not concerned if you are offended by our music, tattoos and attitude. Personally, I enjoy seeing the horror on someone’s face when I catch them reading my Slayer t shirt. I thrive on it. And being able to share the energy and experience with my kids takes it to another level.

I made my way back to the photo pit at precisely the right moment to post up in front of Holt. I get goose bumps thinking of it. The crowd was electrified in anticipation, with a crazed look in their eyes like a bull about to do his best the buck the cowboy from his back. As the lights go down, the prelude begins…curtain drops and it is on!

Holt comes out blazing, almost manic in his approach. Head banging from the first note at break neck pace, his hands too fast to see. He is the Godfather of Thrash and he proves it every moment on the stage. No other player could have filled Hanneman’s shoes. Throughout the set the band plays homage to their fallen brother, but this group is not living in the past. Three quarters through a world wide assault, they show no sign of slowing down.

On stage left, Kerry is doing his thing. It’s tough to call him a rhythm guitarist because his shreds are so precise and add the perfect accent to each song. Tom is in classic form, black t shirt and leather pants and smiling ear to ear. He is a no frills singer. No falsetto and no bullshit. He is clearly the captain of this ship and he engages the crowd of loyal followers from time to time. “Are you ready to have some Fucking fun?”

The crowd is repeatedly whipped into a frenzy, each time more and more driven. We hang on his every word and sing along to the soundtrack of our lives. For a few hours we forget about the world outside, leaving our troubles at the door. Releasing all our aggressions in the mosh pit, head banging on the fringe or simply through the feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

Near the end of the night, Araya sums it all up, laying it down on the table, “We have been in this relationship with you for over thirty years now. You all keep coming out because you love the music. We come back because we love making the music for you.” Fucking Slayer indeed!