Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Slayer / Rob Zombie / Exodus
WaMu Theater, Seattle, Washington

August 6, 2011

Because of my decision to travel to Seattle for this weekend of Metal, I missed not one but two Yob / Dark Castle shows and also the return to San Francisco of my kindred Metal friends Landmine Marathon, but my plans had been made in advance of those shows being announced. Metal guilt was eating me up inside as I arrived at SFO for the flight North and although part of me was really bummed about what I was missing at home, the Metal F-U-N in Seattle proved to be worth the sacrifice. Ironically a mob of Bay Area people also made the trip North of Heaven for the Portland and Seattle shows since they were the only West Coast dates on this 12-city tour (a shout out to Paschke, Cable Car, and Lisa P..).

Upon landing I picked up the rental car and the first song that came on the radio was Soundgarden as I drove out of the airport; I'm not kidding. For the rest of my stay, Seattle Rock radio KISW displayed a blatant narcissistic trait of playing Seattle bands way too often (Soundgarden, Heart, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains.. etc.). Okay, I get it, those bands are from here. Prior to the show we did a Yelp search of the area looking for food and the very first place that came up was called… Araya’s Place! I shit you not. The Metal Godz work in mysterious ways… but we didn’t eat there.

After parking the rental car a block from the venue, the echos of people shouting "SLAAAYEER!" could already be heard in the streets and alleys. I can't think of another band that causes such primal behavior so randomly... and it makes me laugh out loud every time. On another note, it's always nice when a show is this easy:

The inside of this venue had the weird hybrid vibe of a nightclub, a sports bar, and a warehouse; a soulless multipurpose space if there ever was one. However, I didn't have to suffer the details of the space for very long since the houselights went down and Exodus arrived onstage to give Seattle a proper Bay Area-style ass kicking. We quickly made our way past the security barrier and watched the mayhem from stage right. With only 30 minutes and 6 songs to work with the Bay Area heroes wasted no time in getting things going with 3 newer songs... 'The Ballad Of Leonard & Charles' into 'War Is My Shepard' into 'Blacklist'. For the kill shot, Exodus finished off with 3 old songs... 'Bonded By Blood' into 'Toxic Waltz' and then an amazing set-closing 'Strike Of The Beast' that featured a guest appearance by Kerry Fucking King!!

Photo courtesy of Cable Car

While 'Strike' was the obvious highlight of the set, my Inner Teenage Metalhead couldn't stop smiling as I watched a kid against the barrier singing along to 'Bonded By Blood'. That kid is gonna be alright! There's only one other band who I have as more history with than Exodus... and it was pretty fucking cool that Slayer put them on this tour as pay back for "borrowing" Gary during Hanneman's recovery over the past 10 months. That kind of Old School loyalty doesn't happen very often these days.

During the changeover before Rob Zombie we walked back out amongst the civilians to check out the merch table in the lobby. At one point during our trek through the drunk Saturday night masses I heard someone behind me cough followed by the unmistakable sound of vomit hitting a concrete floor. I didn't turn around and just kept walking.

As we found a spot at the soundboard to watch Zombie's set I was prepared to be as underwhelmed by him as I've been in the past. While I love his aesthetic and I like John 5 on guitar, Zombie's dance music disguised as Metal (with its electro beat under everything) has never really done it for me. Tonight was the last show of Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe 2 Tour and I have to admit tonight's final show was... really great! The show I saw early in the tour in San Jose quickly became a distant bad memory as Zombie ripped through a tight 70-minute set filled with his usual theatrics of horror video, pyro, and no less than 7 mechanical beasts that wheeled or marched onto the stage at various times. Maybe it was because it was the last night of the long tour, but the band seemed to be in overdrive as they worked the stage effectively and Zombie seemed to be way more engaged than the last time I saw him.

An odd end of the tour moment came when Zombie introduced Rob of Exodus onstage to help him with a pretty lame crowd participation segment followed by Rob contributing back up vocals to 'Sick Bubblegum'. It was odd. Anyway, the final song of the set and the tour was a spirited version of 'Dragula' that featured fire and confetti cannons... and then Rob Zombie slipped into the night to return to making horror movies featuring his wife.

Photo courtesy of Cable Car

During the 40 minute changeover break between Zombie and Slayer we wandered backstage to find the usual distractions that civilians expect backstage (use your imaginations...). We also got a glimpse behind the scenes of Zombie's cabaret act as his stage props were brought offstage:

Photo courtesy of Cable Car

Having a bill of Slayer and Rob Zombie gave the audience two different versions of Hell: Zombie's is a comic book version of Hell filled with hot chicks, hot rods, and monsters. Slayer's version of Hell is a bleak blood-soaked reality. Whereas Zombie relied heavily on theatrics to communicate his version of Satan's playground, Slayer only needed a wall of Marshall cabinets, a pair of huge metal Slayer Eagles above the stage, and their unrelenting and brutal music. During the opening song 'World Painted Blood' there was something going on in the crowd down front but because of the lighting I couldn't figure out what it was... Then it hit me: It was a guy in a fucking WHEELCHAIR crowd surfing:

Photo by Umlaut's iPhone

Fucking insane!! According to the Umlaut Archives, tonight was around my 23rd time seeing Slayer and I've NEVER seen anything like that! I know it sucked for those underneath him, but kudos to that guy and to his buddies for lifting him up. You do not see someone enjoying life that hardcore and to the fullest very often! That guy was the definition of handi-capable! HAIL!

In recent years it's become cathartic and even a spiritual thing for me to witness Slayer onstage. Seriously. Their brutality through volume serves as a mantra straight to those dark places where normal people won't go... Their dark and violent Metal vision gives me perspective to balance out the lighter Classic Rock side of life. At different times during the set I knew I wasn't the only one who felt that way as I saw fans raise their hands to the sky, palms open, as if they were testifying to an unseen "something". God had nothing to do with it. Nothing.

The most profound difference in Slayer's approach to Metal compared to Zombie's came during 'South Of Heaven'. While Zombie put on a pop culture and effects fueled extravaganza to get the crowd going, Slayer's approach was so minimalist it was brilliant. As 'South Of Heaven' slowly built up from its intro to its full speed fury, the plain black backdrop fell to reveal a massive SLAYER logo. The effect of this happening half way through the song, and well into the set, was awesome and the crowd went apeshit. Brilliant... AND cost effective.

[Photo courtesy of Cable Car

This was the final indoor show of Slayer's World Painted Blood Tour which started in 2009 and was plagued by events that would have derailed a lesser band. First there was Araya needing neck surgery and then Hanneman being stricken by the very Metal disease Necrotizing fasciitis (the most Metal disease ever..), the latter requiring the band to enlist the help of Gary Holt to complete the tour. This was the 2nd time I'd seen the band with Gary and, while it will be the best day when Hanneman is back onstage, I have to say it's been a revelation watching Slayer be energized by Gary's presence. Given the uncertain future of the original lineup the band has looked hungry and filled with bloodlust in their recent performances, especially Kerry.

Gary 'n Kerry
[Photo courtesy of Cable Car]

The night's final assault of 'Raining Blood' into 'Black Magic'(!) into 'Angel Of Death' was completely obliterating as Slayer finished this final indoor show of the tour. I also liked how Lombardo's playing during the final minute of 'Angel Of Death' alone blew away the drumming during Zombie's entire 70 minute set... and I couldn't help but smile when I noticed the kid in the middle of the pit holding up the national flag of Chile for Tom towards the end of the set. For the White Power Slayer fans: Tom is Chilean (aka a brown person) and his last name is Araya and not "Aryan"... Oh and Lombardo is Cuban (aka also a brown person).

White Power tees = 1. If you bought one of every Slayer merch item you would have paid over $400. On the way back to the hotel, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.

The next day I had all day to kill before my flight home so I checked out the Nirvana exhibition at the Experience Music Project. It was interesting... but to be honest it's completely weird when I see something that I was into when it was happening be presented in such a portentous way years later.

The exhibit featured such Nirvana artifacts as old cassette demos, show flyers, articles of Cobain's clothes, Cobain's guitars, and candid photos from Nirvana's pre-fame DIY tours. Unlike most "Metal fans", Umlaut is of the opinion that it was not Grunge that killed 80's Metal. It was the bullshit Hair Metal bands that destroyed it! Once those bullshit bands became legitimized then anything associated with "Metal" became tainted by their cancer of mediocrity. Seriously. I think it's funny that you've never heard Slayer complain about Grunge but you STILL hear a bullshit "Metal" band like Ratt complaining how Grunge ruined their career. That being said, while the Nirvana exhibition was interesting in a surreal way I completely geeked out when I stumbled upon the Battlestar Galactica exhibition that was upstairs!! HOLY FRAK!

The exhibit had such show artifacts as full-size Vipers and Cylon fighters (!), Number Six's iconic red dress (!), as well as other costumes, models, and props. Sorry Grunge... BSG at its best was better than your flannel. I also had time to visit the sculpture that inspired the Soundgarden song 'Black Hole Sun':

I like the song more now knowing it was inspired by a piece of public art; Grunge lives in our (he)arts. Anyway, a few hours after all of this my Slaycation was over as I sat on a jet airliner heading back to Casa de Umlaut.

Slaycation all I ever wanna do... Slaycation had to get away.