SLAYER! Yes, fucking Slayer. They are one of the most controversial, most single-minded and most extreme of the so-called Big Four of thrash. And, when it comes to live performances there are few that can compete with them when they're on form.

When the fearsome four-piece landed for the first of a two-date stand at Belfast's Limelight1 on Sunday (June 29th) their sheer intensity blew a dark metal wind across the venue.

After last year's two dates in June and August at the Limelight1 could the audience become a little jaded by seeing Slayer again? Nope, because Slayer are uncompromising when they hit the stage.

Tom Arya was grinning almost as soon as each song ended; banter kept to a minimum but obviously enjoying each moment and interaction with the crowd, alike cohort Gary Holt.

The opening trio of Hell Awaits, The Antichrist and Necrophiliac set the tone for the night. Yes, it was a veritable 'greatest hits' set as they prepare for their first album release with Nuclear Blast, but when songs are this great and even greater live, Slayer can be forgiven.

Mandatory Suicide, Chemical Warfare and Jesus Saves were proportionally terrifying, while Kerry King prowled stage left like a predatory presence, atonal soloing and at times almost hypnotising the audience with fierce riffing.

Bostaph has served almost 10 years in three stints in the band and despite the Lombardo controversy naysayers have been silenced by the quality of Bostaph live sets, adding minimal personal flourishes to drum lines that are iconic. Done in a less subtle manner critics would swoop, and done slavishly he would not have stayed the course.

The intro to Seasons of the Abyss brought the crowd to a peak, before Araya spoke the chorus calling the audience to witness Dead Skin Mask. How can a mid-paced song, still sound so menacing in a packed room? There is no answer other than to say all four members cast an evil alchemy of metal joy.

Raining Blood, South of Heaven and, of course, Angel of Death rounded proceedings up on a night when Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph managed to re-ignite the flames of extreme metal.

Despite slippery floors in the pit area causing more falls than usual, those partaking found if to be a joyous experience in the main, complemented  by sensible management of the crowd activity from the security staff: many other venues could learn from such a well-managed venue for metal performances.

And, Slayer produced a memorable performance in Limelight1, with horns and fists raised high by many and towards the back of the room much knowing nods of appreciation.

What it did prove is that while Slayer have had their fair share of knockbacks they still can rise to the very highest heights of metallic live shows. Now, all we have to do is wait for the new album, and we'll see you next year. Same place, same time? We'll be there.

Authors: Jonny

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