Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The American Carnage Tour August 20, 2010 - Chicago

After months of setbacks and delays the traveling Metal killing machine dubbed ‘The American Carnage Tour’ finally rolled through Chicago on a humid August Friday night. A nod to the 1990/91 ‘Clash of the Titans’ tours of Europe and North America featuring the biggest Thrash Metal bands of the golden era. The first leg of the American Carnage run features Slayer, Megadeth and openers Testament, all participants in the original Euro version.

The current trend and yes that’s what it is these days, to perform full albums either sinks or swims a show. I mean there’s a reason some of those songs were never played live, right? So this bill would feature the two headliners performing their 1990 released albums in their entirety. For some this is a selling point to get their ass in the building and for others it might be something that seals the deal on other plans for the night.

Openers Testament hit the stage promptly at 6:55 and kicked the evening off with “More Than Meets the Eye” from their latest album, ‘The Formation of Damnation .’ Sporting a nifty backdrop/riser deal Chuck Billy and Co. played 30+ minutes of heads down Thrashing Metal with little talk or time wasting. I wish I had photos of the band but was delayed in shooting due to some will call snafu’s. However I was able to check out a good portion of their set and definitely felt they were up to par as far as performances go. 

Testament was once a natural on the arena stages across the globe. Back in the hey day of the ‘Clash of the Titans’ era, the band was blowing up and album by album, tour by tour they were nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Arena support slots with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden as well as underground swelling tours with Slayer had set them up for a metallic ascent. The band seemingly self-imploded when after years of solid releases and forward momentum, it all fell apart amiss member changes  and business climate in the mid 1990’s. Their climb back has been a slow but steady one and once again things are definitely looking up for the band. With a catalog of classic cuts as deep as the ocean Testament definitely contributed to the Chicago Carnage tonight.

Megadeth have been on a surge like never before. Seriously has there been a time in recent memory that all the fucking cards are falling Dave’s way? His autobiography is a New York Times Bestseller. His partner and closest thing to a brother he has ever known, David Ellefson is back in the band. His “baby” Megadeth has the finest guitarist it’s ever known in Chris Broderick and most important? The world wide reaction and adulation for their most recent album, 2009’s ‘Endgame .’ For many a Mega-Head a truer return to form you won’t find and the ensuing tours were also more than well received. 

The 2010, year long celebration of their watermark album ‘Rust In Peace ’s’ 20th anniversary has been just that, a celebration. A soon to be released DVD of the album’s performance before a sold-out Los Angeles theater is just another way of cementing the ongoing party. 

Nothing about Dave Mustaine is subtle so when the band launches in to “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” as their opening number, it’s so typical Mustaine. No subtlety necessary as Megadeth are off and running. The sound is good upfront, hard to tell if it’s mostly monitor mix, but so far so good. Vocally it was way better than the ‘Big 4’ Bulgaria broadcast, almost too good?

The added presence of Dave Ellefson shouldn’t be underestimated. I commented on his return in my review of the Bulgaria show and that was on screen! Live there he was, back at home and I will admit between the classic ‘Rust In Peace’ backdrop and seeing “Junior” back in his rightful home gave this graying rattle-head a smile. His return has been about as natural as they come and not for one second do you look over and get the heebie-jeebies because the guy from White Lion was playing bass in Mega-Fucking-Deth! “Hangar 18,” “Take No Prisoners,” and “Five Magics” twist, turn and thrash with the best of them. 

What can be said about Chris Broderick?  IMO best guitarist the band has ever had.  A player bred for Metal doing what comes naturally.  I think both Chris Poland and Marty Friedman had to be almost coerced into playing Megadeth music. Broderick just rocks it.

Once the album had concluded, Dave and crew returned to the stage for a few more songs. “Trust” probably my favorite “radio era” Megadeth song sounded excellent, those vocals were like magic! “A Tout Le Monde,” “Headcrusher,” “Symphony of Destruction” and closed the show with “Peace Sells.” A killer set, executed with precision and delivered with the intensity it deserved, Megadeth took the Carnage in Chicago up a few notches for sure.

Before Slayer took the stage I was in awe. Here we were in the 8,000+ capacity UIC Pavilion and looking out at the crowd I think it’s safe to say there were at least 7,000+ maniacs gathered. It was impressive and just another notch in the Metal belt of Chicago. Not only was it a near full house but the intensity level kept climbing and climbing until it peaked.

Slayer playing along with the theme of the tour also joined in on the full album action. No stranger to doing such a thing, it was only a few years ago they rolled through their own landmark release, ‘Reign In Blood ,’ to ravenous audiences around the globe. Matching Megadeth with the ‘Clash of the Titans’ vibe, Slayer are featuring their 1990 release ‘Seasons in the Abyss.’

Life’s a bit strange and like music everything revolves around time and the timing of certain events. On one hand, 20th anniversary of ‘Seasons…’ definitely deserves some recognition but then again the ‘World Painted Blood ’ campaign has stuttered and stopped since it’s launch in November of 2009. In speaking with Kerry King before the show he definitely feels the same way, like all systems go for the new album and here they are performing a 20 year old album while playing only two brand new cuts.

That being said, once the lights went out and the curtain dropped, Slayer were back and it was about time. Back in my review of the ‘Big 4’ broadcast I made mention of the anti-climactic vibe of a Slayer show starting with a brand new song. Where the build up and anticipation during the intro music rises and falls sharp when the show begins. This may or may not have been true on Friday night; actually it was hard to tell. I was positioning myself for some camera work during the first few songs so it was tough to judge the audience’s reaction. I do know for a fact after “World Painted Blood” and “Hate Worldwide” started things off the band launched into the ‘Seasons…’ part of the set with “War Ensemble” and seemingly all hell broke loose.

That’s when the chaos seemed to start and the bodies started flying over the barriers forcing the UIC security to earn every cent promised. The middle section of ‘Seasons…’ is one of my least favorite clumps in the Slayer catalog. Trumping even the middle of ‘Diabolus In Musica ,’ I waited patiently for those songs to pass. Not that they’re bad songs, but I don’t even listen to those tracks at home. The band was in excellent form, seriously tight and loose at the same time; their ability to ride a groove was definitely apparent as well as necessary when revisiting this album. Tom Araya sounded as pumped as he did on the film broadcast and his inability to headbang hasn’t diminished his attack whatsoever. He’s still able to command the attention of the crowd and does so with ease.

Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were money. I hate that term, but what else applies to one of the most consistent Heavy Metal guitar duo’s ever? Each riff, each lead and each chug was as demonic as the last and when all players locked in together there was nothing heavier. Trading leads and rhythms for close to thirty years has almost made King and Hanneman perform like a single player. So in tune with one another their fretboard furies almost seem effortless.

Dave Lombardo was Dave Lombardo. A true artist who is a pleasure to watch as well as listen to. I won’t go into the same adjectives I used in my ‘Big 4’ review, but live Lombardo continues to find new ways to interject new blood into his recorded work with amazing results. On the ‘Seasons..’ album the middle of the record up until the end is some of Lombardo’s best moments and delivering it live was no problem. “Dead Skin Mask,” “Hallowed Point,” and the stone groove of “Skeletons of Society” gave way to the song I would’ve gladly paid to hear live, “Temptation.”

One of my favorite cuts off the album and one the band had rarely ever played  in the two decades since the record was released. The album concluded on the high note known as “Seasons In the Abyss.”  The anchor of the album as well as a very popular standout track, it's staying power 20 years proves  it.  Slayer always knew the song was key.

A short break was stopped dead in its tracks with the pre-recorded “South of Heaven” intro. A brutal version of “Raining Blood” followed and it was just intense, the deepest cut you can possibly imagine Slayer to play was played. “Aggressive Perfector,” the song that started it all on the Metal Massacre III release way back when, was a treat and a half to hear live. The evening and the show was ushered out by the one and only “Angel of Death.” The Chicago Carnage was rampant and in full effect on Friday August 20th and now had come to a close.

Slaytanic Wehrmacht thanks to Marc Paschke for doing the devil's work!