If, as a child, the notion of mutilating the neighborhood cat made you a little squeamish, Wednesday night's concert at the Fillmore Miami Beach probably wasn't for you. One half of the all-time big four of thrash metal were in town — Slayer and Anthrax — and an army of their fans, clad in black, were ready and eager to bang some heads.
When both bands got their start in the early '80's — Anthrax in New York and Slayer in California — people were terrified of thrash metal, with its satanic imagery and machine gun tempos. But as the bands and their fans aged over the decades, those willing to put aside preconceived notions would learn that the metal community are among the most welcoming and friendliest in all of music. Last night in Miami Beach, there was almost a family vibe to the night — albeit a family that's 4-20 friendly and not intimidated by tattoos, long hair, and insanely bushy facial hair.
Anthrax, the more accessible of the two bands, played first. The band's music is more theatrical, led by the crowd pleasing singer, Joey Belladonna, who acrobatically jumped back and forth across the stage, shaking hands with fans in the front and hyping the crowd in the back to scream louder as a giant banner featuring robed skeletons holding pentagram scepters loomed behind him. The quintet's set was heavy on material from the group's new album, For All Kings. Scott Ian, the guitarist who 25 years ago trademarked the bald head with floor-length goatee look admitted to the crowd, "It's nice to be in this beautiful place that is way too nice for this kind of show."
Slayer's headlining set, which started at 10 p.m., was in stern contrast to Anthrax. As the band prepared to take the stage, projections of upside down crosses, pentagrams, and the Slayer logo beamed onto a white curtain. Music impossibly fast and loud boomed as the curtain dropped to reveal singer Tom Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostoph. For ninety minutes, the length of a violent slasher movie, they did not rest. Over the course of twenty songs of death, hell, and nihilism they had the masses in the pit moshing to a bloody pulp.
"I want to thank you very much for coming," Araya said after a few songs. Then the civility faded and he screamed, "Are you ready to have some serious fucking fun?"
Even a song like "When the Stillness Comes," which began with a pretty and somewhat delicate guitar solo by King eventually descends into volume and hellfire with Araya hollering like he's been diagnosed with damnation.
The closest the night came to sentimentality was on the final song, "Angel of Death," where a banner was unveiled honoring fallen original member of Slayer, Jeff Hanneman. "Angel of Death" caused controversy 30 years ago for describing the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele's experimentation on prisoners at Auschwitz, but tonight it was further proof that Slayer is one of the few things that do not mellow with age.