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Blood, Sweat & Beers

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The year was 1990, and a band billed as Angel of Death had overbooked two nights at Brooklyn’s rock capital, L’amour. Of course, this ruse fooled no one—we all knew who was about to perform. The darkened dance floor was turbid with the chants of the adrenalized audience when, suddenly, the sound of pouring rain bellowed out from the speakers, followed by a bass drum’s triple thumping and one of the evilest guitar licks ever unleashed. Instantly, the capacity crowd was transformed into one massive moshpit. A gallon of sweat and a fat lip later, I’d found a new religion. That was the first time I saw Slayer. Slayer.

The band that will never write a ballad, never play “unplugged,” never sell out. The band that incited a riot at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum and rocked the plaster right off the ceiling of Irving Plaza. The band whose fans carve their logo into their arms. The band every parent and priest in America has nightmares about. The fastest, heaviest, most satanic thrash band north of hell—FUCKING SLAYER!

Fast-forward 14 years: I’m standing side stage in the balcony of the Roseland Ballroom, hearing that same rain, that same drum triplet, looking down on that same chaotic energy. It brought back a flood of adolescent memories and got my blood flowing like the old days. But this time, there was a lot more flowing—10 gallons more, to be exact, pumped through a shower mechanism which literally rained “blood” on the band after they played their classic Reign in Blood album in its entirety (a performance which can be seen in the new DVD Still Reigning). Blood was everywhere—it splashed up from the drumskins, the fretboards and the flailing hair of singer/bassist Tom Araya. I first met Araya when I interviewed him for High Times (see “Diabolus Indica” in the BBD Archive section). We talked, smoked a jay and took a photo together. He was totally laid-back and had a great sense of humor. I met guitarist Kerry King and his lovely wife Ayesha five years later at Ozzfest 2003, where we hit it off immediately. They were officially there promoting their clothing-design company KFK Industries, but we spent most of our time at the Jägermeister booth or outside Slipknot’s tour bus, pounding back beers and bullshitting.

At the recent Roseland gig, Mr. and Mrs. King were kind enough to provide my date Jennifer (a belly dancer I met while in LA) and I with VIP passes and take us backstage, where I finally got to meet the rest of the blood-soaked band—guitarist Jeff Hanneman and drum virtuoso Dave Lombardo. Afterwards, my brother and I drove Kerry and Ayesha downtown to the rock bar/art gallery Lit to see an exhibit by a surrealist sculptor and blood-painter named Axel—though for me, having one of metal’s greatest guitarists in the backseat of my car was about as surreal as it could get.

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