Live at the Eagles Ballroom, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 10/30/03

by Dr. Abner Mality

It's been a while since I've been in the venerable Eagle's Ballroom in Milwaukee. The site of many a Metalfest for me, this is just about the right size of venue for a brutal show such as this.

I was accompanied to the festivities by the beauteous Mistress Hydra, the blond temptress you can check out over in the Necro Girl section. She's #2. Hydra ws the perfect partner for the show, as she was dying to see Slayer but otherwise not much of a metal fan. Therefore, she provided a hilarious running commentary most of the night, saying such things as "that guy should shave his back" and "how can you have a 12 year old kid wearing a shirt that says "Tell your Mom I said Hi"?". She was a riot.

The first band had the unusual monicker of Lazy American Workers, which made me immediately think I should be a member. They played a brief but lusty set of very fast hardcore with dual vocals. Despite their bald headed tough guy look, you could tell what their influences were when they covered Priest's "Electric Eye" and Maiden's "The Trooper". Both very obvious covers but still pleasing to the ear.

The whole evening was sponsored by the fine people at Jagermeister, as if anybody could fail to notice with Jager holograms flying all over the room, twin tvs flanking the stages playing constant Jager spots and an enormous Jagermeister backdrop for the first two bands. Commerciality at its most sickening, that's for sure. But the cake was taken by the "cheerleader" dude who came out between sets constantly flashing a bottle of the deadly nectar. At one point, this manly poster boy for corporate greed apparently chugged a whole bottle of Jagermeister to the approval of the brain dead in the crowd. I'll bet you every fucking dollar I've got that it was iced tea in that bottle. The scene drove home Jagermeister's warning to "drink responsibly". I know these corporate tours are a necessary evil, but this really grated on my nerves.

Next act was the red hot Arch Enemy and these guys were KILLER! Their musicianship was flawless and the guitar work of the brothers Amott won the day. Hydra was slack-jawed upon hearing the deep roaring vocals of frontwoman Angela Gossow. "That's no girl!" she gasped. "She must have a penis!" If so, she's one of the sexiest she-males ever. Angela was every ounce the raving metal singer, headbanging wildly and prowling the stage like a tiger. The band's set was unhappily short, but we heard some great stuff like "We Will Rise" (my favorite), "Dead Eyes See No Future" and "Heart of Darkness". The crowd responded very favorably to Arch Enemy and there's no doubt their future is extremely bright.

Hatebreed are a great example of this KISS Principle. KISS meaning Keep It Simple, Stupid. The band is not musically adventurous, not particularly exceptional in terms of talent and don't really push themselves that hard to be "different". Vocalist Jamey Jasta's roaring vocals are one-dimensional to say the least. That having been said, Hatebreed is still an ass-kicking experience of the first rank. Their music is so rhythmically powerful and insistent that experimentation is not only unneeded, but unwise. They hit bass-heavy grooves so deep that the Grand Canyon looks like a crack in the sidewalk. Something about these guys ignites a pit like nothing else...not even Slayer had one so big. Most of the tracks were culled from their last record "Perserverance" but we did get a sneak peek at stuff from their new "Rise of Brutality" and as expected, it was just as devastating as what went before. Hatebreed is on the cusp of something very, very big and are ready to take brutal music to the next level of public acceptance.

That left mighty Slayer and I was actually thinking they would fall short in matching the response garnered by Hatebreed and Arch Enemy. So naturally the fuckers go out and put on the best show I have ever seen from them, with a crowd response just as furious as it would have been in 87 or 88. I mean, this was the real deal. The velocity probably stripped the paint right off the Eagle's walls and rarely let up all night long...welcome back, Dave Lombardo! Yes, the original Slayer drummer was back behind the kit and proving that he is THE man when it comes to high speed double bass. He hit that drumroll during "Angel of Death" with no problem whatsoever.

The sound was surprisingly excellent all night long and for the first time, the solos of of both King AND Hanneman came across equally loud. The Metalfest sound in this space back in the day was always terrible. Great light show,too, and the Jagermeister crap was fortunately replaced by Slayer's own props. I know Hydra liked the flying inverted crosses during "South of Heaven".

First track was "Disciple" from "God Hates Us All" and that led into an all-meat no filler set that leaned heavily on the classics. Didn't hear anything from "Diabolus" or "Divine Intervention". But we did hear some great old thrashers like "Die By the Sword", the incredibly complex and mayhemic "At Dawn They Sleep" and my all-time Slayer favorite, "Chemical Warfare"! Hell yeah! Oh, does that make me feel young again! Now it has to be said Tom Araya's voice is not what it once was, but so far he hasn't had a Anselmo or Ozzy type meltdown. One thing's for sure, Tom's neck must be made of rubber to headbang like this every night.

A selection of slower and more ominous cuts then appeared...stuff like "Dead Skin Mask", "Seasons in the Abyss", "South of Heaven", broken up by the occasional furious blast of a "Hell Awaits" or "Payback". Now I had heard rumors that the band was going to play the entire "Reign in Blood" opus in sequence during this tour and all praise to Satan, this is exactly what they did! This is sheer bliss for any thrash fan, to hear the genre's seminal effort performed live as it was meant to. With no mercy! "Angel of Death" is awesome, but we're all familiar with it. But how cool is it to hear the likes of "Piece by Piece", "Criminally Insane" and "Epidemic" performed flawless in front of an appreciative crowd? I KNOW how cool it was. I was there for the whole thing. Even Hydra was headbanging like a demon-possessed succubi.

After this, the band thanked us for 20 wonderful years (has it been that long?) and left the stage. We could have gladly heard more...I would have loved "Evil Has No Boundaries" or "Ghosts of War"...but were so exhausted by this evening of high-quality thrash and hardcore metal that rest did not seem a bad option. So a grinning and loopy Dr. Mality and Mistress Hydra piled into the Mality Machine to make the long trip back to Rockford...happy indeed to have seen the Slaytanic Wehrmacht at their absolute peak.

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