Slayer, Lamb Of God and more at Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater (2018)

Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater (Oklahoma City, OK, USA)

Slayer, Lamb Of God, Anthrax, Testament, Napalm Death
  SLAYER!!!People either love them or hate them, and I know and respect the opinions […]
By Dave Nowels
August 16, 2018

People either love them or hate them, and I know and respect the opinions of people in both camps.
But, you cannot deny that SLAYER has created a legacy that far surpasses, and will likely out live than most. If this year's summer tour is indeed the last rodeo for the band (I have my doubts), they went out with a bang. The Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater sits adjacent to the City Zoo Park, and is a really gorgeous outdoor shed venue. We were treated to five respected bands on the bill including one of the co-founding alumni of the BIG FOUR, as well as a band that should be an heir apparent to the metal crown. For an afternoon in Oklahoma City, metal was once again king. What an afternoon it was.

Beginning the day's festivities was Britain's NAPALM DEATH. Playing a fast, furious and short set, vocalist Mark 'Barney' Greenway and mates rendered a set with none to subtle political undertones. "Multinational Corporations", "Suffer the Children", "Scum" and the DEAD KENNEDYS cover of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" were all played with purpose. Truth be told, you'd expect nothing less from a what is basically a Hardcore Punk band. Their set though brief, was entertaining.

Next on the bill was a fabulous set from TESTAMENT. Chuck Billy is the quintessential Thrash vocalist, commanding the stage and utilizing his shortened mike stand like a war hatchet. Opening with "Brotherhood of the Snake", Billy and long time guitarist Eric Peterson led the remainder of the band through Thrash staples such as "Dog Faced Gods", and the "Preacher". TESTAMENT is such a fun band to watch, each member rocks out to the extreme.  I really enjoyed their set. Before playing their classic, "Practice What You Preach", Billy took a moment to dedicate the song to Jill Janus of Huntress, who had sadly taken her own life two days previously. Yet another example of the bond of the Metal community. "The New Order" and "Into the Pit" followed before the band closed out with "Disciples of the Watch". This was the first time I'd seen TESTAMENT in many years, and definitely left me wanting to see them again soon, and with a longer time to play.

ANTHRAX has played alongside SLAYER many times over the years. Of the BIG FOUR, the bond between these two bands has remained surprisingly constant. The fact that they still tour together after all these years is a gift really. Especially to those that were too young to seen them together way back when. ANTHRAX remains and exceptionally exciting band to witness live. Vocalist Charlie Benante owns the stage during their set, and is as commanding of the stage as Chuck Billy. Perhaps even more so. Opening their set with PANTERA'S "Cowboys From Hell" intro, the band quickly segued into the seminal Thrash anthem "Caught in a Mosh". While not the most mobile guitarist on stage Scott Ian is ever steady, holding down stage left. With his signature goatee, and V guitar, Ian plays with can be best described as a burning, focused fury. Blistering solo after solo, Ian and Benante led the band through "Got the Time", "Madhouse", and "Be All, End All". Commenting that the band had played Oklahoma City just a few months previously, Benante showered the audience with appreciation for supporting the band. The band closed out their superb set with a powerhouse trio of , "Evil Twin", "Anti-Social" and the anthem "Indians". It was the best set of the day so far.

Somehow, Lamb of God has flown under my radar all these years. I know. I'm embarrassed by it. I don't know how, but they have. That is no longer the case. Their set was the absolute highlight of the day for me, and from talking with dozens of others scattered about the spacious lawn, I wasn't alone in my assessment. Their set of nine songs was the longest of the support acts, as well as the most consistent start to finish. Simply put, LAMB OF GOD could have headlined this show. Perhaps, they should have, and I could easily see them taking an ensemble of their own out on the road sooner than later. Vocalist Randy Blythe was by far the star front man of the day. With unbelievable stamina, Blythe climbed, leap and covered every single inch of the stage while doing so. His between song banter was highly entertaining as well. Joking about the venue's "no swearing" rule, he stated "F-bombs" make the elephants sad and encouraged the enthusiastic crowd to step up and be his voice when needed. Indeed they did. Sad elephants be damned. Opening with "Omerta", the band immediately seemed to be having a blast. Bassist John Campbell, guitarists Mark Morton, Willie Adler and drummer Chris Adler plowed through "Ruin", "Walk With Me In Hell", "…Something to Die For" and "512". The aforementioned prudish elephants were rendered inconsequential thanks to the set highlight "Engage the Fear Machine". It was at this moment that it became obvious that LAMB of GOD owned that stage on that night. Rarely have I seen such a domineering performance. "Blacken The Sun", "Laid to Rest" and the frantic "Redneck" closed out their memorable set, and certainly left smoking craters among the now exhausted and exhilarated audience.

To be honest, one of the best parts of attending a SLAYER show is the exceptional quality of people watching. From the scantily clad people, both beautiful and otherwise, to the guy trying to get back to his friends balancing eight $9 beers. SLAYER draws a diverse and uniquely wonderful audience wherever they go. And the majority of that crowd is devoted to the band beyond all else. Throughout the afternoon, when ever there was a lull in the bumper music playing over the PA system, One devoted soul would let out the war cry of SLAYER!!!! This would quickly be answered by the tribe in force, and usually became an ongoing chant. It's special, and brought a smile to my face on multiple occasions.

Following that fascinating set by LAMB OF GOD, a banner was dropped across stage front as the dedicated road crew franticly and skillfully set SLAYER's stage for the headliner. Metal and fire. Fire and metal. That's what SLAYER brought this evening. Both the stage itself, and in what they presented to the crowd. Playing what was basically the standard set throughout the tour, the band gifted us a sonic assault. Fire leapt from the risers, and fireballs detonated in the air above the band. Visually it's mesmerizing. Being fortunate to shoot photos from the pit for the first three songs, I was shocked at the amount of heat the pyrotechnics added. The heat each time these would go off would just wash over you. The fact that these continued throughout the show, and the band seemed impervious, was impressive. It was as if the band was indeed playing in front of the gates of Hell, which would open from time to time to admit a new wretched soul. Musically, SLAYER was well, SLAYER. If you're expecting anything otherwise, you've attended the wrong show. The band did what they've done and done well for decades, and the audience loved every minute of it. The setlist branched out over their entire career, dropping those mandatory anthems in strategic spots. Kerry King was his usual stoic and imposing self, chugging away at the signature riffs and solos, chains a'swaying. Tom Araya showered the audience with appreciation on multiple occasions, thanking them for all the years of support. Paul Bostaph is simply a monster behind the kit, thundering out the pace as consistent as anyone. Guitarist Gary Holt deserves the highest praise for skillfully anchoring down stage right. In the world of SLAYER, none was as loved as departed guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Holt stepped into some large shoes, and has bravely taken on the role likely better than anyone could have.
Closing out the night with "Angel of Death" the band themselves paid tribute to Hanneman, with the screens behind the band emblazoned with his signature "Heineken" bootleg logo. It was fitting if not somewhat anti-climatic. I mean, it was fully expected, but the majority of the crowd relished in it. Following the conclusion of the song, Araya continued to thank the crowd. Many were hoping for another song, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. The nearly twenty song setlist would have to suffice. And if it truly was the last go-around for SLAYER, they did so in a memorable and well done manner.

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