It’s always been a challenging task opening for Slayer and tonight is no exception for CARCASS .
“Have you got any more shit you want to throw at us?” asks frontman/bassist Jeff Walker, an easy target as a broken ankle forces him to play sitting down. “I’m not scared, I’m from Liverpool!” he goads. Thankfully, however, the rest of the crowd is more receptive and the thunderous eight-song set, mostly taken from Surgical Steel, earns the band rather more raised fists than middle digits and pint glasses.
Remarkably, it’s been well over a decade since TESTAMENT  frontman Chuck Billy kicked cancer’s ass, but the feeling that we’re lucky to have him never seems to fade. He gets a hero’s welcome and by the time the band reach Rise Up, just three songs in, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re watching the headliners. That said, there’s barely time to touch on most of their material, three of the last four songs being title tracks, while entire albums are overlooked. As such, it’s a great set, if not fully satisfying.
SLAYER  have no such problems; they are simply jaw-dropping from the off. That, of course, is standard practice for Tom Araya and co, but tonight there’s some ineffable sense that we’re watching a gig that is special even by Slayer’s high standards. It doesn’t hurt that they’re armed with easily their finest album in 10 years, and a recording of Delusions Of Saviour sets the tone, making way for Repentless’s magnificent title track. In a world with no more Motörhead, where AC/DC are in danger of destroying their legacy, and a new Metallica album seemingly on an indefinite horizon, it’s not just important that Slayer can do this, it’s vital.
Naturally the sold-out venue goes nuts for the likes of War Ensemble, Hell Awaits, South Of Heaven, Raining Blood, and the ever-creepy Dead Skin Mask, but rather than providing a disappointing lull, it’s the new tracks – You Against You, Pride In Prejudice, Take Control, When The Stillness Comes – that makes tonight’s set so intense. Far from being castrated by the tragically premature death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman, Slayer have, with almost bullheaded stubbornness, come back better than ever, and thank fuck for that.