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Live Review: Slayer At Riot Fest

| September 15, 2019


Slayer at Riot Fest

Douglas Park, Chicago,

Sept. 14, 2019

Slayer killed during a 90-minute headlining set that seemed to be cut short on a perfect late-summer evening in Douglas Park. At 9:56 p.m., minutes before the 10 p.m. curfew for music, singer-bassist Tom Araya told the crowd: “They are making us cut it short. Thanks for sharing your time with us.”

The massive crowd registered its disapproval with boos, but the band–who is in the midst of a “final campaign” of band retirement announcements can be believed –probably wouldn’t want it any other way: leaving the crowd wanting more.

The set ended with the seminal thrash metal classic “Angel Of Death,” making it hard to imagine a more fitting closer to perhaps the last ever Slayer show in Chicago (the band will play the appropriately named TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Nov. 14, for the last scheduled stop in Illinois). “Repentless,” one of the band’s most recent songs from the 2015 album of the same name, opened the set as a literal example of how the band hasn’t changed its death-obsessed brand of heavy music since forming in 1981–becoming one of the most ground-breaking and controversial bands along the way.

Guitarist Gary Holt – taking over for Jeff Hanneman who was an integral part of the band’s sound until his death in 2013 – was possessed on stage. The big screen featured his tortured facial expressions and string-bending guitar solos during “World Painted Blood” and “Hate Worldwide.” His shirt read “No Lives Matter,” with the “O” a pentagram and “kill the Kardashians” stitched on his wrist-bands. On “Raining Blood” and other songs later in the set, Holt played a guitar covered in what seemed to be the Heineken beer logo but instead read “Hanneman.”

Hulking guitarist Kerry King–his pony-tailed goatee ever threatening to get tangled in his riffage–hunched over for his solo on “War Ensemble,” shredding the strings on his flying-V guitar with twisted horns. King’s frantic and discordant solo style is as iconic as his look: bald head and thick, tattooed arms like a villain from DC comics.

Even the heavens cooperated: a near-full moon rose just to the right of the stage with ephemeral clouds slightly obscuring its glow. Onstage, bursts of fireballs added to the pummeling beat and helped illuminate the anti-religious imagery in the background curtains.

A fire burned on stage for nearly the entirety of “Hell Awaits,” a song from the band’s 1985 second album. The song featured rapid-fire lyrics, and the big screen may have caught Araya fumbling the last verse. “Seasons In The Abyss” and “South Of Heaven”–perhaps two of the most evil-sounding songs in the band’s discography–had the crowd singing along, especially the heretical wail “before you see the light, you must die!”

Testament and Anthrax, contemporaries of Slayer since the 1980s, played inspired sets on the same stage leading up to the headlining performance, further showing that Slayer is indeed going out on top.

Set List:


Evil Has No Boundaries

World Painted Blood


Hate Worldwide

War Ensemble



Mandatory Suicide

Chemical Warfare



Born Of Fire

Seasons In The Abyss

Hell Awaits

South of Heaven

Raining Blood

Black Magic

Dead Skin Mask

Angel of Death


— Jason Scales

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Category: Live Reviews

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