Morbid Angel, Skrape, Static-X, Slayer… and PanFUCKINGtera.
There is nothing quite like walking into a venue the size of the Goodyear blimp and having Morbid Angel greet you when you arrive, you know? If you’ve never experienced anything even close to this type of adrenaline rush, let me do the honors of guiding you through it. First of all, the relief that this show wasn’t being presented to the metal-starved public by those morons at the Palladium or some other dive that pretends to be a large venue was a great feeling. Instead, the Extreme Steel Tour whisked us off to the fresh air and pristine surroundings of the very lovely and accommodating Long Beach Arena. What did we find there? Great parking at a fair price, smooth-running concessions complete with the lemonade guys that visit you in the seats, comfortable temperatures, plenty of space in the restrooms, swiftly moving lines, and none of those overzealous security thugs who take their jobs far too seriously. Just a well rounded bunch of trained personnel that didn’t treat you like a criminal while they peered into your bags and checked your pockets. They even used those cute, little, blue flashlights while pointing out your designated seat. Nothing against L.A, but I vote for more metal in Long Beach!
And then there were the bands. Oh yes. The metal-beyond-metal experience of the Summer came in the form of a dream line-up that served up large portions of head banging, hair flying, eardrum shredding, explosions of volume. And who were our beloved hosts? Please. Allow me to describe them to you.
The highly respected and often imitated Morbid Angel opened the set with nothing but speed, thrash and ass kicking death metal madness. They were brilliant. Not only was one of Morbid Angel’s biggest fans, Phil Anselmo, banging his hairy head right along with the rest of us throughout their set, but he made a very nice guest appearance when he joined Morbid Angel during one of their songs (the title escapes me). Talk about a metal fan’s wet dream! This was only my second live Morbid Angel show, but believe me when I say that I will be seeing them again and again. They were … well.. Awesome!
Newcomers Skrape, appeared next in the line-up, and although they didn’t have the seniority that other bands on the bill had earned, Skrape held steady, and put on a surprisingly impressive performance. Front man Billy Keeton possesses an excellent live singing voice and stage presence. However, the crowd wasn’t with me on this. This was an audience full of hardcore metal fiends with an obvious hunger for the heavy shit.
You see, towards the end of Skrape’s set, some genius decided to start tossing strips of live firecrackers at security who were in the photo pit in front of the stage – but it was obvious that his targets were the members of Skrape. Eventually, some of them did land on the stage, and during the end of the very last song, a package of them snapped, smoked and flashed under the drummer’s foot lying there like a tiny, smoking strobe light until they finally died out a few moments after the lights went down, ending the set with a literal bang. Nevertheless, Skrape’s material was intriguing enough to encourage me to make a CD purchase after the concert.
Next up were UnEarthed favorites, and evil disco masters Static-X. The crowd reacted more favorably than ever to Static’s bold, brash new sound, which incorporates everything from straightforward deathy thrash to the electric metal dance beats that have given Static-X their own slot in the category of all that is heavy. The concrete floor of the Long Beach Are na became a swarming mass of black and red, as mosh pits opened up in all directions – frenzied and furious – as Static-X pounded their way through a full metal jacket of killer songs from their latest release, and all the way back to their early days. The audience loved them. But, after Static-X did a fine job of warming the place up, it was time to tear it down in a whole new way.
After much anticipation, the members of Slayer appeared on the stage. This is what everyone in the house was there to witness, and take part in. Chants of the “Slay-ER! SLay-ER! SLay-ER!” could be heard throughout the arena (probably out into the street, as well!) for most of the night anyway, so there was no mistaking why everyone was there. Slayer fans are not well known for being shy about what they want, and Slayer were there to give it to them.
The band took the stage with more power and passion than any other band on the bill and, with that, they absolutely stole the show. Brutally smashing their way through what seemed like an endless barrage of songs that dated back to day one, and every song that followed, right up to current material from the upcoming “God Hates Us All” release, the sound barriers were tested over and over again. In appreciation for what was taking place, the audience gave back to Slayer by making the gigantic floor of the arena into one massive mosh pit, unlike anything I have ever seen before – even at larger shows with three times as many bands on the bill! This was what true metal was supposed to be like.
The air of the arena literally felt dangerous. You could smell the adrenaline, the blood coursing through the veins of the band members and their loyal followers who were busy tearing themselves apart while Slayer did what they do best. This was the real deal. And then, as if it weren’t enough, out came the fireworks again. Between set warnings against the use of the fireworks from an announcement over the venue sound system proved futile, because the Roman candles and firecrackers continued to be secretly lit and fired in all directions, landing frighteningly close to the bare skin and unsuspecting faces of the concertgoers, and disappearing under the feverish stomping in the pits below.
Nothing was stopping the mayhem that continued. Nothing was stopping Slayer from belting it out. Finally, the culprit was caught and removed from the show by a few sharp-eyed security people. Too bad for him. I’d hate to be the dumb ass that missed most of Slayer who completely obliterated the arena. And how lame would you feel sitting outside with your head in your hands while Pantera blasted through the walls inside? Hah. L-O-S-E-R.
After Slayer’s knock down, drag out set, it was time to bear witness to another one of Pantera’s megawatt performances. Slayer’s set was a hard act to follow (literally), and Pantera comparatively came out a bit on the slow side, but never fear; just two songs into the set and they were right back on top again. Phil and the boys came at us like madmen, rocking their way through that tried and true Southern-style metal groove that has made Pantera one of the biggest, hardest hitting, most admired, heavy metal bands on the planet.
The set was filled with high voltage Pantera classics that thrashed and scorched and sped their way through you then brought you up to date with flawlessly performed tracks from their latest “Reinventing the Steel“. They were amazing, as always. True metal fans love Pantera, and god dammit, they love their fans.
This, my friends, was a REAL heavy metal show. If you love heavy music, and for whatever reason you weren’t there, I send you my regrets. But please remind me to properly kick you in the ass for missing it if you see me out in the clubs.
Very special thanks to Carey at AGM for pulling the proper strings, and for injecting the m/etal into our Summer.