Later the next year Slayer's masterful 'Reign in Blood' came out and underground metal was never the same. They raised the bar and anyone who wanted to be taken seriously had to up their game. I loved that record, and I think of it as underground metal's 'Back in Black'. You just can't make a case for any other band having a more influential album in the genre. Metallica were about to get much bigger than Slayer, but theirs was a different path that took them well out of the ranks of 'underground'. By virtue of pulling underground up into the mainstream, Metallica were about to relinquish any claim they may have had to underground's throne as they had become the leaders of heavy pop. 'Ride the Lightning' and 'Master of Puppets' set the stage for them before Cliff Burton's death. By the time they had two more albums out there was no turning back for Metallica. Slayer were poised to make sure that dark metal's throne never left the realm of underground. 'Reign in Blood' had as much to do with cementing underground metal's dark side as anything else. Metal fans are predisposed to exploring darkness, and that was one thing Metallica never embraced as fully as Slayer. I like plenty of bands who are not remotely satanic. It's always been music first for me. But when a band incorporate dark imagery in effective ways it adds another layer that sticks with me like a great horror movie. At the time, Slayer's 'Reign in Blood' was perfectly dark, focused, and fierce. 'Reign' was to be the record that shook things up.
In December of 1986 Slayer played in Washington, D.C.'s Warner Theater, where I had just seen Motorhead on their 'Orgasmatron' tour the previous weekend. Two huge shows. Two very, very different shows, to be sure. Both bands were fantastic, but this particular Slayer show was the best show I had ever seen until Mr. Bungle blew my mind in 2000 on their 'California' tour. Slayer were brutal that night. The crowd ended up getting almost completely out of control. You could feel it building all night long. Slayer felt it as well. At one point Tom Araya even admonished the crowd for turning a night that could have gone down as one of the most amazing shows in a long, long career into a near disaster. I've never figured out what started it. The road crew were vicious that night, but everyone had seen people being hit as they were drug from the stage before. That wasn't new. There were always two or three fans who would happily test the waters once a few adult beverages had loosened them up, and this particular crew were not having it. For whatever reason though, the people never stopped jumping onto the stage. I have no doubt there were guys whose arms and hands were sore from trying to keep a 'World War Z' style onslaught of stage divers from overtaking the stage.
To say that the area between the first row of seats and the stage found hundreds of us packed like sardines doesn't really begin to describe the experience. Nor does it really address the smells in a scene like that. Rim shot, please... yes, on the drums. It was nuts man, nuts! If your arm somehow ended up over your head it may stay there for three or four minutes. If the pack shifted suddenly and pulled you off your feet you might not touch the ground again until the next verse, and even then you may only have had one foot on the ground. I think anyone with claustrophobia would have had a complete meltdown. People were using anyone's hair they could grab to pull themselves on top of you like someone scaling a wall, then they walked on our heads like stepping stones to get onto the stage. That's how packed it was, you couldn't stop anyone from doing anything because you couldn't move, twist or even lower you head. Once they got to the stage they either jumped back into the pit, landing on top of defenseless headbangers who couldn't move to catch anyone or to protect themselves, or they were dragged off by two or three dudes who started wailing on them. Spit was flying everywhere, and dripping off of all the mics and every one of the uniformed security crew who were forced into action by all of the insanity pouring onto the stage. I began to worry about what all of that energy, and all of those amped up people would do when let back out onto the street. It was intense to say the least, and more than a little scary. I did manage to get some pretty good shots when I could actually control my arms. I should have taken some shots of the place after Slayer's set. The first three rows of seats were flattened. Only the metal frames bolted to the floor remained, some blood, hair, probably a nose ring or two, and these pictures...
This last shot is from that long adventure in New York to L'Amour where I got to watch the set form the stage. Slayer played 'Hardening of the Arteries' and let it bleed into 'Hell Awaits'. The outro of 'Hardening' is the intro to 'Hell Awaits', and I took this shot as Dave Lombardo began those big tom flams before the double bass kicked in. I can't believe that show was thirty years ago! Time keeps rolling along, doesn't it? If that show really was thirty years ago, I must be around twenty seven or twenty eight. Yeesh! Marcus wasn't even born yet! I wasn't in Confessor. My drum set was brand spanking new and I was just weeks away from moving out of the house. All I was concerned about was being able to see shows like these.
Well, I just wanted to share these photos with you all. Surely, someone will find them interesting. Tell me about some of the shows that floored you way back when. Slayer, or Perry Como... whoever floats your boat.