RELIANT ARENA -- 6/25/2006: A lengthy line of black clothing-clad fans extended out the front entrance to the Reliant Arena on this hot Houston summer day; they ignored the unbearable heat because they were ready for an ear-splitting day of heavy metal. Headlined by the legendary Slayer, the Unholy Alliance Tour also featured a slew of newer groups, so there was a diverse range of ages among the attendees. A few of the bands on the tour have new albums coming out in the very near future, to boot, so this was also a chance for fans to get a sneak peek at some brand new tunes.
THINE EYES BLEED
Canadians Thine Eyes Bleed kicked off the day with their brand of generic modern metal. Lacking melodies, complex instrumentation, or a strong stage presence, they had a difficult time holding the crowd's attention. Their set came to an end, and the show went on.
CHILDREN OF BODOM
The rocking started almost as soon as these Finnish rockers took the stage, and the audience went wild. They had everything the previous act did not: their songs' melodies hooked the fans by the gills, while their onstage antics (headbanging, spinning their guitars around their bodies) showed that they were obviously digging what they were doing. One of Children of Bodom's unique musical aspects was their continual use of the keyboard -- not only did it add a nice piano sound to their songs, but they also used it to emulate other instruments, like strings and harpsichords. Such additions gave their music a more epic feel.
As this Atlanta-based quartet began, the houselights turned low to make way for a multi-colored and multi-shaped lighting show. Then, before anyone knew what was going on, the drums started to pound, the sonic attack of the guitars began, and the screaming vocals of bassist/singer Troy Sanders pervaded the room. One of the most unique metal bands today, Mastodon played an intense brand of music, with influences from all over the subgenre map. They heavily emphasized guitar harmonies, beastly-yet-tasteful screams, jazz-inspired drums, lower-tempo melodic tracks, and songs that tell epic stories. They opened with "Iron Tusk," off of their sophomore effort, the Moby Dick concept album Leviathan, and continued with other classics like "March of the Fire Ants," "Aqua Dementia," "Trampled Under Hoof," "Blood and Thunder," and a track from their upcoming album Blood Mountain, "Circle of Cysquatch." The members kept interaction with the crowd to a minimum, but doing so only added to their titanic presence onstage.
LAMB OF GOD
Mastodon left the stage as the always-righteous Lamb Of God got ready to start their set. The other members appeared first, taking their positions and starting the music, and then out came the newly-bald (but still powerful) frontman Randy Blythe. He greeted the audience with a few profanity-laden sentences of welcome and then got right into the songs. With the band playing classic songs like "11th Hour," "Laid to Rest," "Black Label," and "Now You've Got Something to Die For," there wasn't a light moment at any point in their set. They even threw in a new track, "Redneck," off their new release, Sacrament. The double-whammy onslaught of technical guitars filled the room, along with Blythe's growling vocals. When not singing, Blythe spoke eloquently to the fans, talking about how excited he was to be there, giving praise to Lamb Of God's tourmates, offering gratitude for the support through the years, and encouraging moshing and other such insanity.
The fated hour had arrived. It was time for pioneers of thrash Slayer to take the stage. These guys have been the kings of controversy and the czars of sacrilege since the early '80s, but it hasn't stopped them from holding onto their fans, producing excellent music, and putting on a rockin' show. Donning black shirts, leather, and chains, they went right into their classic brand of rapid, blasphemous heavy metal. In the background, images of skulls, blood, corpses, devils, and demons cycled through on a screen. Bassist/singer Tom Araya held the rhythm and sang in his signature shout with a smile plastered on his face. Colossal guitar god (or devil, in this case) Kerry King played at a deadly pace while periodically wandering to the stage's edge to let his fans grovel beneath him. The band played anthems of violence ("Angel of Death," "Raining Blood"), war ("Mandatory Suicide," "War Ensemble"), serial murder ("Dead Skin Mask"), and sin ("South of Heaven"), and the audience loved every minute of it. Keeping with the night's tradition of playing new unreleased songs, Slayer summarized their stance on the topic of religion with new song "Cult," out this August on new album Christ Illusion.
Great show, and a great lineup in a large indoor venue. While beer prices were insane, the excellent music more than made up for it. The bands had the crowd on the tips of their toes almost the entire time, and the metalhead camaraderie was present, as always. It's recommended that all heavy metal fans catch Slayer at least once in their lifetime; no matter what your specific tastes are or who else they have on tour with them, these godfathers will show you how to rock. END