“You can’t kill the metal. The metal will live on.” –Tenacious D
People fell into the pit, a holy war began and it was raining blood in Glens Falls on Wednesday night. The American Carnage Tour, featuring Testament, Megadeth and Slayer, brought its thunderous assault to Upstate New York, leaving a satisfied crowd of metal-heads in its wake. This event was supposed to take place 6 months ago, but Slayer vocalist/bassist Tom Araya needed back surgery. It seems the delay only made the fans more bloodthirsty, and the arena was pretty packed. These three veteran speed/thrash metal bands played a very good show, although some technical issues kept it from being a great show.
Testament has never achieved the worldwide success that Slayer and Megadeth have, but they do have a well-deserved devoted following. Lead singer Chuck Billy, a looming figure with giant frizzy hair, nearly died about 9 years ago from a rare form of cancer. But following chemotherapy he has beaten it into submission, and seeing him back on stage rocking hardcore was a good thing. They played a few newer songs which were good, but it was their classics that had the crowd moshing madly. “New World Order,” “Into the Pit” and “Practice What you Preach” still sounded great after nearly 25 years, with Billy’s voice not missing a beat. Original guitarist Alex Skolnick, who left the band for a while, rejoined Testament 5 years ago and sounded terrific on Wednesday, leading the charge on “Dog Faced Gods” and “3 Days in Darkness.” The one negative aspect of Testament’s performance was sound-related – the guitars, at times, sounded very muddy and unclear, making it tough to really hear their signature grinding riffs. But overall their short set got the crowd pumped for what was to follow.
Megadeth has undergone many lineup changes over the years, with the one constant being its founder, guitarist/singer Dave Mustaine. Megadeth peaked in 1990 with its masterpiece album “Rust in Peace,” and the band has graciously decided to play that album in its entirety for this tour. Musically, it was amazing. “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due,” “Hangar 18” and “Take No Prisoners” catapulted the crowd into the rafters. Hearing the guitar solos played with such precision after so many years was impressive. But Mustaine’s vocals were another matter. They were sporadic, at best. You just couldn’t hear him singing. At first I thought it was an issue with the microphone, but after a while it was clear that he simply wasn’t singing into the mic most of the time. Perhaps he wasn’t able to hit the higher notes and just decided to shy away; whatever it was, it really brought the set down. Luckily most of the crowd knew the lyrics, so the words were sort of floating around the arena, but it would have been nice to hear Mustaine actually singing. Following the “Rust in Peace” album they played a few newer songs like “Headcrusher” and “Trust,” of which I am not a fan, but the crowd was rockin’ out. They closed with their classic “Peace Sells,” sending everyone into a tizzy. It would have been a really solid set were it not for the vocal absence.
Slayer has to be one of the most uncompromising bands of all time. They have been churning out their evil speed metal for almost 30 years now, with no attempt to mainstream their sound or kowtow to any trend. Their lineup has remained solid (other than having several different drummers), with Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman handling the guitars and Araya on bass and vocals. They banged out a couple of tunes from their new album “World Painted Blood” before playing their entire “Seasons in the Abyss” album, which like “Rust in Peace” was released in 1990. “Seasons” is not Slayer’s best album, but it has some sure-fire classics and some of the deeper tracks are terrific. The ferocious “War Ensemble” kicked it off, and throughout other tunes like “Blood Red,” “Dead Skin Mask” and the title track, King and Hanneman were trading blistering solos while Araya thumped the bass and howled away. They closed with the expected classics “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death,” but sandwiched in there was a very unexpected oldie-but-goodie “Aggressive Perfector.” There were no technical issues with Slayer – just bruised and bloodied bodies in the mosh pit.
It was nearly 4 hours from start to finish, and although the sound issues were disappointing, it was good to see these bands still cranking out the hardcore metal. It really highlights the lack of good metal being made these days, generally speaking. These songs will live on forever as classics of the genre, and it was a treat to see them live while we still can.
The American Carnage Tour gets 3 out of 5 stars!