By Chris Johnston
For two nights, three bands brought brutality back to the Bay. The Fox theatre in Oakland was transformed into a melee of old school punk and metal with both shows selling out quickly. The crowd outside the show was enormous and easily identifiable--wearing band shirts, Raiders jerseys, battle vests, and filled with anticipation for the oncoming aural chaos. I had the good fortune (thanks to Gerardo of Nuclear Blast) of acquiring passes to the show along with a photo pass allowing me access to the photo pit in front of the stage for the first three songs of each set. The show opened with a fantastic set played by Bay Area thrash legends Exodus. They’re on tour to promote their new album Blood In Blood Out which was released on Oct. 14th. They played some songs from the new album to a roaring reception by the audience, as well as some classics like “The Toxic Waltz”, and “Bonded By Blood”. It was a relatively short set but brutal nonetheless, and left the audience anticipating guitarist Gary Holt’s second set with Slayer later that evening.
The second act of the night was Suicidal Tendencies, a southern California thrash-punk classic. Fronted as always by the legendary Mike Muir, they came out swinging with “You Can’t Bring Me Down”, and managed to keep up that energy throughout the set. The show was somewhat melancholy with the death of their late bass player Tim “RAWBIZ” Williams fresh in fans’ minds, but their newest member Michael Morgan ripped it up and had an awesome stage presence that left no doubters of his abilities. The mix coming out of the front of stage monitors was deafening from the photo pit, but sounded stellar from the house. Suicidal Tendencies ended their high energy set on a strong note with “Pledge Your Allegiance”. As they finished and the house lights came up, you could cut the anticipation in the room with a knife, Slayer was about to take the stage and people were ready.
After about half an hour while the stage was set up for Slayer, the lights finally went down for the final time that night and a giant white curtain cloaked the stage. Slowly music began and familiar silhouettes appeared on the curtain. Without seeing the faces of these shadows, the audience erupted into madness. The three silhouettes belonged to Tom Araya, Gary Holt, and Kerry King, and as soon as the thin white curtain dropped, they moved to the front of the stage and gave everybody exactly what they’d come for. Opening with “World Painted Blood”, they set the Fox Theater sonically ablaze and the flame didn’t go out until the last note of the night. From the photo pit, the three front men looked like giants towering over the audience. Gary and Kerry traded off ripping solos and thunderous rhythm riffs, while Tom laid waste with his bass and famous maniacal vocals. Still going strong after 33 years as a band, their performance was nothing short of extremely impressive. Like Suicidal Tendencies, their band lost a member recently, Jeff Hanneman in May of 2013. They paid a great tribute to him during the last song by flying an enormous backdrop during the song “Angel of Death”, which had the Heineken beer logo emblazoned on it, but instead of Heineken, it said Hanneman, encircled by the words, “The true angel of death”. This logo had been on Jeff’s guitar and was now adapted into a fitting tribute during one of their most well-known songs. With fans singing along until the bitter end, they played an absolutely brutal set and left no one dissatisfied. The night was a success; bleary eyed with ringing ears, the audience filtered out slowly into the streets of Oakland celebrating and discussing their favorite moments of the night. The Bay Area is and always will be the home of thrash-metal.