MORE: DOWNLOAD AUSTRALIA: Open The Gates Of Hell In Its Sydney Debut // MORE: The Amity Affliction: Bringing Misery Home REVIEWS: CHILDREN OF BODOM: Hexed // IN FLAMES: I, The Mask

This was the Coliseum that would host thrash juggernaut Slayer‘s Final World Tour. Let that sink in: Final World Tour. Though nothing is truly over in the mad world of music, it did feel like closure. However with a line-up this stacked, who has time for feeling sad? With a constellation of punk, metal, and ‘core stars that eclipsed the scale and status of the inaugural turn at an Australian Download, this festival was surely one to savour.

Red Stage: 12:00 – 12:30Hey, being first isn’t so bad. You play, soak in some rays, and sleep the rest of the festival off. Perth prog wunderkinds Voyager brought the festival spirit early, taking command of the Red Stage like seasoned pros. Belting through Hyperventilating, Breaking Down, and half-crowd pleaser, half-Winamp visualisation test Broken, Mr. Danny Estrin was clear as bell; Simone Dow’s guitar theatrics seems to get better every time we see her. Longer set next time, please. // Tom Valcanis

Avalanche Stage: 12:05 – 12:35“They said that a woman couldn’t do this song,” proclaimed vocalist Ash Costello, “… So I told them t …” and then proceeded to blast out Pantera‘s Fucking Hostile. Essentially acing the song and giving it a melodic twist we didn’t know it needed, it really set up the whole half an hour set to a high-octane level. Costello continued to impress with her voice and, along with her rhythm guitarist, their noticeable stage antics. Eventually ending on a high note with Skeletons, New Years Day was an impressive and loud start to a very big day. // Rhys McKenzie

Dogtooth Stage: 12:20 – 12:50Even the midday heat couldn’t detract from the captivating live set levelled by Tasmanian black metallers Ruins. This live sound is terminally cold yet aggressively igniting, due perhaps to the theatrical stage antics of their charismatic frontman Alex Pope, the tight complexities of the guitars, and the thundering powerhouse that is drummer David Haley. Hearing Faust from their latest album live in a festival setting was really an experience, for it epitomises the perfect blend of fire and mist and philosophy that makes Ruins such a profound black metal act. This band is incredible on the record and phenomenal live, at any time of day. // Audrey Gerrard

Black Stage: 12:30 – 1:10Luca Brasi’s opening melodies welcome us into Flemington Showgrounds. As the early afternoon hangs clouds above us, we stamp our feet along to the choruses of our favourite Tassie boys, patiently awaiting what’s yet to come. As we sing along to the choruses, we look around and see our smiles stretching from the Black Stage to the entrance gates. // Mikaelie Evans

Ascension Stage: 12:45 – 1:15Metalcore outfit Windwaker were quick to ask for a circle pit and just as quick to produce their massive breakdowns. Their contact with their audience was noticeable considering the unleashing of beach balls towards the end of their set. For a young band, their set was pretty on point but like with most metalcore bands, their lead vocalist Will King felt lost in the mix and needed to be turned up above the band. They were intent on pleasing their fans and new ones alike which earns them everyones respect. // Rhys McKenzie

Avalanche Stage: 1:05 – 1:35Slaves is a hectic Kentish hardcore two-piece comprising of drummer/vocalist Isaac Holman and guitarist-sometimes-bassist Laurie Vincent. Holman drums with almost primal energy matched only by Vincent’s stage-covering movement. While there’s never a boring moment with Slaves onstage–most of their songs are short and sharp—the most gripping aspect has to be Holman’s biting social critique delivered over suggestively enticing lead-ins from Vincent. Luring us in, Slaves’ message hit home and the audience was fired up with fists in the air. Yeah, fuck the high hats! // Audrey Gerrard

Dogtooth Stage: 1:20 – 1:50Without ever hearing about this US based punk band before, War On Women provided quite the experience for first time listeners. Their hardcore sound is matched with vocalist Shawna Potter’s unpredictable but memorable spoken word poetry/singing. Although it can be jarring and weird for listeners, they were quick to win over the crowd with old fashioned ‘Fuck Trump’ chant, even a “Sorry about Trump” and a fist raising liberal speech. The half an hour set did fit them as their songs were blistering fast, and their rhythm section were on point to prove it.

Red Stage: 1:10 – 1:50Unclean singer Eric Vanlerberghe, who kinda looks like Shia LaBeouf if he was a metalhead rabbi, is beetroot red half way through their first track—you know this shit was going to be heavy. Hued red from their three-storey tall backdrop, barnstorming the pit with newie Bow Down, along with two new ones: Paranoid (an odd choice to name a metal song, but whatever), a drum-heavy Twenty-One Pilots jam, and Gasoline, the “heaviest song we’ve written” sort of like Linkin Park meets Pantera. Eric catches his breath before long, cupping his ear. “Shoey?” He shakes his head. “Oh, god damn it. Fine, get me a clean shoe.” A volley of shoes land on the stage. Just as he pours some local swill into a local’s shoe, holding it to his lips, he says “I love this country, god damn.” Also, where was the bass player? We got an ultra-annoying pink-haired photographer interrupting the visuals, but no bass player. Weird. // Tom Valcanis

Ascension Stage: 1:45 – 2:15Hailing from various Australian locales, majority-female alt-rockers The Beautiful Monument fronted an energetic set with their catchy melodic strains and bouncy alternative riffs. In Liberated guitarists Andy and Alex held steady pace while vocalist Lizi delivered a memorable melody, but the next song Manic really nailed it. This song had a bit more bite to it; Lizi’s vocals more savage, the riffs heavier and the backing vocals from bassist Amy were tough. The Beautiful Monument had engaging stage presence as Lizi worked the crowd and they looked like they were having fun up there jumping and spinning along with one of the most cheerful audiences of the day. // Audrey Gerrard

Black Stage: 1:50 – 2:25They were late to join the line-up but they were accepted as more than an Ozzy Osbourne replacement among most of us, so “why weren’t Airbourne already on the bill?” With their aesthetic reminiscing an earlier era, Airbourne howl through their set with a performance that takes us back to the ‘80s, which is more than suited to the overall line-up. As they lob beers towards those of us who are thirsty and confident, tinnies are caught with eager hands; throughout their set, we throw back more than the cans as we bang our hands along. // Mikaelie Evans

Avalanche Stage: 2:05 – 2:40A good ten minutes before the Fever 333 hit the stage, a man clad in a black hood stood front and centre and silent. Quotes from Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Great Dictator, Modern Times, KKK grand wizards; heroes and demons all, blared out. As the band rushes the stage, the man is revealed: Jason Aalon Butler. He rips off the hood off in an act of defiance and fury. Guitarist Stephen Harrison slashes across Burn It in one fluid motion. This is getting dangerous. It’s just getting started. In a blink of an eye, Jason is riding a wave of hands. He climbs out of this human sea, still seething with rage. He runs out of mic cord as he scrambles up the mixing scaffolding, everyone’s back turned to where the music is. I don’t think I could handle the emotions Jason feels on a daily basis. I’d go mad. Returning home, he pays tribute to the dispossessed. He starts freestyle beatboxing, as all lights focus in on the drumkit. Electro beats disappear within a fog for One of Us, a perfect mix of Linkin Park and Rage Against The Machine. The RATM comparisons are inevitable, because they capture that high-on-justice spirit RATM pioneered almost 30 years ago. Catch this Fever, because they are a sight to behold. // Tom Valcanis

Dogtooth Stage: 2:20 – 2:50 High Tension’s terrifying screams and potent mix of shoegaze, punk, and death metal had the crowd eating out of frontwoman Karina Utomo’s hand. The Dogtooth stage a pulpit for tight riffs and layers upon layers of heaviness. Two Downloads in a row can’t be wrong. // Tom Valcanis

Ascension Stage: 2:24 – 3:15Eat Your Heart Out serve us a moreish taste of their brand new, unreleased song titled Closer To The Sun. Coincidentally, the sun begins to reappear as we nestle around the Newcastle five piece. Their performance lures in a crowd and between the trees, we sway into the mid-afternoon. // Mikaelie Evans

Red Stage: 2:35 – 3:20To the eerie sound of a children’s choir, notorious Polish black metal band Behemoth took the stage amidst a fiery display. As the masks unveiled the iconic stage face of vocalist/guitarist Nergal, the audience was entranced chanting with Daimonos. Although renowned for their theatrics, seeing Behemoth live in a festival setting reminds one to not overlook the technical merit of this band. Inferno is force of a drummer, whose robust sound emanating over the thick crowd keen to witness Behemoth. The dense, brooding riffs of Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer had the moshpit grinding to some impressive soloing as an edgy outro between Orion and Seth closed the song. In a perfect storm of theatrics and technical showcase, however, the next song Bartzabel was heralded by foreboding rhythmic patterns and Nergal’s infamous ornate mitre headpiece. Again the crowd chanting along, this song was dark as sin and it was spectacular to see Nergal in all his satanic majesty ascend the foldbacks and transform into an anti-prophet. After exploding circle pits the set closed with a cheeky cry of ‘Hail Satan!’ that set felt way too short. // Audrey Gerrard

Avalanche Stage: 3:10 – 4:00Me First & the Gimme Gimmes parade the stage in golden suits matching the Avalanche Stage’s backdrop. During their cover of Uptown Girl, our crowd expands as we sing along with newcomers through cheering roars of excitement that they’re finally back down under. Spike Slawson seems to reciprocate with us Melburnians as he tells us that “Every time I’m in this city, I get such a warm fuzzy feeling.” Somewhere Over The Rainbow and The Gimme’s wanna know; “is that my imagination or is that the ketamine talking?” “Choo choooo! All aboard!” and off we ride into Elton John’s Rocket Man. Towards the front of our crowd is a punter in a wheelchair who is lifted up among outstretched arms to share a similar experience of crowd surfing with us. As they ride us through the waves of their diverse covers, we cheer. What a bloody performance! // Mikaelie Evans

Dogtooth Stage: 3:20 – 4:00Taking award for the least rock star looking band on the line-up, Converge walked out in simple after-work clothes, their unpretentious appearance a misdirect for just how massive their sound is, even at three in the arvo. Mesmerising through cuts like Eagles Become Vultures, A Single Tear, and Eye of the Quarrel, it felt physical, crushing. Vocalist Jacob Bannon knelt down, screaming Can I Tell You About Pain as if he was staring into the abyss itself. Converge are a wild experience. Part devastation, part psychedelia, all worth it. // Tom Valcanis

Black Stage: 3:20 – 4:05Joey Belladonna is hewn together from leather and excitement—wearing a painted on smile as well as one of his own band shirts. Is that even allowed? Appropriating Cowboys From Hell first up, I suppose membership in the American Big 4 entitles them to do whatever the hell they like. Caught In A Mosh served hot and first, Belladonna inquiring “do you want your ass kicked?” Sure Joe, go ahead. Asses they most certainly did kick. Slayer might be calling it a day, but Anthrax could go on for another two decades at least. Last year around this time, the end of the crowd was around the mixing tent – it’s now swelled to double that. Download is here to stay, ladies and gentlemen. I Am The Law was a crowd favourite, edging out deeper cut Evil Twin. Adding their cover of Antisocial was an odd choice, but the energy was undeniable. By this point, a pissed old mate exclaimed “Holy shit, it’s the original singer! Fuck yeah!” Did he not know? Anyway, Scotty Ian was spitting chips off his cherry red flying-V, and all was right in the thrash world. For now. // Tom Valcanis

Ascension Stage: 3:45 – 4:15I couldn’t help but feel like the Ascension stage was the “also ran” stage, considering its compact size. Two guitarists felt compact enough, but the trio in Xenocidal metalcore act Aversions Crown was definitely a crowd. Punishing us with alien twin leads had the kids under their otherworldly spell; though a few old hands joined in the festivities too. Visuals were muted, but the definitely highlight was the crowd playing hot potato with a dildo. It whizzed up and down and across the pit as the boys ground out stadium-sized riffs. I suppose you had to be there. // Tom Valcanis

Red Stage: 4:05 – 4:50As the standing area of the main stages clear out following Anthrax, we catch but a glimpse of polluted turf as The Amity Affliction begin their set. Exploding their performance during Ivory, The Amity Affliction parade the stage with a sense of triumph as their songs have us moving towards a mosh pit. Obviously stoked to be back at home, The Amity Affliction bellow through their return performance, attempting to engage punters who are running from A to B in an attempt to catch it all. // Mikaelie Evans

Avalanche Stage: 4:30 – 5:10Pennsylvanian hardcore band Code Orange brought a invigorating set with their eclectic brand of hardcore infused with multiple influences. The vocals spread of out over three members between the screams of the drummer, the intense cleans of the guitarist and the gutturals of the guitarist. The result of their diverse assemblage of sounds was a chaotic moshpit fired up by the drummer/vocalist to inflict wild circle pits to the rage-laden songs. Their use of edgy synths was effective to deepen and darken the erratic mood and the overall set was lively with the crowd lapping it up. // Audrey Gerrard

Dogtooth Stage: 4:30 – 5:10 Guitarist Lindsey McDougall saunters on out in hi-vis, playing the chords to Crazy Train. Then starts singing it. Jay joins him before long, “shit, you’re doing alright. Maybe you should be the fucken singer.” Oh Frenzal, never change. “This first song is about attacks from birds, it’s called Bird Attack.” Thirty seconds of “BIRD ATTACK! BIRD ATTACK!” and a laundry list of different birds. That’s the song. “That’s as tough as we get. We’re not Behemoth!” Frenzal Rhomb is so much fun (Never Had So Much Fun they play later) its damn hard to go see anyone else. Frenzal Rhomb is our greatest punk rock export—what other country could produce a belter like Cunt Act or Russell Crowe’s Band? 5,000 Cigarettes? Forget it. Genius saw another bit of Ozzy action, the opening riff to War Pigs. Followed up by chants of “Genius! Genius!” of course. The back end of the set reached into their pre-2001 stuff (“Fuck, why did we write more than one verse back then?” Jay wondered) with You Can’t Move Into My House and Punch In The Face. Half an hour felt like half a minute. Go Frenzal Go. // Tom Valcanis

Black Stage: 4:50 – 5:50Rise Against reclaimed the attention of the main stages and pull us in through the choruses of their memorable tracks. Recharging us with Drones, we’re able to transition through the afternoon into evening as we jump along. The lyrics for I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore hardly resonate within the moment as we all so visibility wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. And then, towards their closing song, Satellite sends us spinning through the flurry of their crowd, dispatching into the evening. // Mikaelie Evans

Dogtooth Stage: 5:40 – 6:20Sydney outfit Polaris blasted on the stage with lead vocalist Jamie Hails demanding a circle pit, of course the metalcore crazed crowd obeyed. Throughout their set, both clean vocalist Jake Steinhauser and Hails did a great job at harmonising their vocals and the guitar work was there. However, it felt at times that the band itself were louder than the vocals, which was a shame considering when you could here the vocals, they were on point. The growing crowd didn’t seem to mind though and the circle pits were uninterrupted as Polaris were still giving energy. // Rhys McKenzie

Ascension Stage: 4:45 – 5:15The crowd gathered at the smallest stage at the Festival for an aspiring band from New Zealand. My god, the three-piece metal outfit conquered. Attacking the audience with massive songs such as Kai Tangata and Raupatu, Alien Weaponry have definitely proved that they have the skill and professionalism that should get them to a bigger audience, and a bigger stage! I mean people were chanting the lyrics so well, I don’t know why they were given the Ascension Stage. Lewis de Jong’s vocals were incredibly powerful and visceral, as was the entire band. Up should be their only direction.  // Rhys McKenzie

Avalanche Stage: 5:40 – 6:40 Pennywise have our horns up pretty quickly but they’re “waiting for Rise Against to stop playing!” Within their opening chords, there’s mayhem.  “This song goes out to Los Angeles, it’s called Homesick”. The bros demand that our circle pit widens and widens… and widens. They want our pit expanding around the poles, and so our bodies going flying; the walls of bodies ricocheting us from left to right. “It’s rum and coke do you want some?!” None of us want to taste Fletcher Dragge’s concoction, so he drinks the beverage from a Pringles can … and we opt to keep our energy alive with Fuck Authority. Society leads us into a frenzy shortly before Pennywise close with a traditional Bro Hymn, which has this reviewer amongst half of the crowd being flown over the barrier, through the ocean of crowd surfers. // Mikaelie Evans

Ascension Stage: 5:45 – 6:15Halloween Hysteria alumni Outright in their civilian clothes felt a bit startling (considering their perfect Wizard of Oz get-up) but hey, you get used to it. Strident and stripping enamel from teeth, Outright hit all the right hardcore beats; old school yet fresh as ever. Frontwoman Jelena Goluza kicked and stormed through a high-octane set, a tight yet loyal crowd throwing down in solidarity. One of the best bits was a bloke piggybacking on Karina Utomo as she made a bee-line for the pit. That’s how wild an Outright show gets, ladies and gentlemen. // Tom Valcanis

Red Stage: 5:50 – 7:05Bathed in the enchanting light of the sunset timeslot, the enormous crowd gathered for Seattle legends Alice in Chains were treated to a mesmerising set. Undoubtedly William Duvall has the kind of voice that reaches into your soul, which manifested in some of AIC’s newer songs as well as long standing hits such as Dam The River that serenaded the lowering sun. The silky magic of Jerry Cantrell’s guitars through this song and Hollow immersed the crowd into a dreamy state as the set culminated in the timeless classics Would? and Rooster with the crowd singing their hearts out as the festival entered the twilight zone. // Audrey Gerrard

Ascension Stage: 6:45 – 7:15Alt-metallers Devilskin took the stage to an excited and surprisingly large crowd. Vocalist Jennie Skulander powered through the set clearer than most vocalists, as she hit her notes loud and succinct. Her bandmates matched her vocals with their enthusiasm. It was a shame that their bassist experienced technical difficulties during the set, especially as it was during a guitar solo. Overall, it was an entertaining set as the band interacted well with their audience. // Rhys McKenzie

Dogtooth Stage: 6:50 – 7:20Despite a critical overlap with Judas Priest, Sydney deathcore band Thy Art Is Murder levelled an impressively ferocious set for a generously sized crowd. Lapping up the unrelenting onslaught of Thy Art’s heavy drilling, the moshpit raged bodies flying and horns raised. Vocalist CJ McMahon’s lower range gutturals were strong and the set was tight. After the profound experience of Alice In Chains, TAIM was a refreshing shot of pure fire to kick in the darker half of the Festival. // Audrey Gerrard

Avalanche Stage: 7:10 – 8:10With a demanding roar from the crowd, Sum 41 falsely open their set with AC/DC’s Dynamite and with a euphoric light show, Bossa Nova Baby takes us into a real time, welcoming applause for Sum 41. “Now this looks good, are we ready?!” screams Deryck Whibley, and off we go into a stampede opening with The Hell Song. “This is an old song, Motivation!” “We’ve got some fuckin’ metalheads here hey, let’s keep it going!” Which leads us into some responsibility as they strum into We’re All To Blame. Their chorus’ hold our crowd together, each of us ecstatic with their return to Australia. // Mikaelie Evans

Black Stage: 7:05 – 8:20As the sun dips behind trees and marquees, Judas Priest rises. The Metal God, Rob Halford appears in silver metal regalia, tassled leathers trimmed with rivets. The first of many costumes. Ian Hill and Richie Faulkner join him, the latter in rhinestone vest and reflecto-aviators. This dude is a total rock star. Halford spreads his arms wide and asks “Is everybody ready?” Their cloth banner drops as flames flash across the stage, the devil’s tuning fork taking pride of place. Firepower is their first salvo in the barrel, thrilling as much as if they busted out something from their greatest hits. Halford doesn’t move with ease any more, but his voice is still on point despite his age. Though Halford is slow on his feet, there’s something charming about giving it his all; plus those rapid-fire costume changes. He’s silver. Then he’s in black. Then silver again. How? Faulkner as lead guitarist is faultless, he really has revitalised the band in so many ways. Definite highlight: his vanity platform to stage left. Ye olde Sinner and most recent cut No Surrender sit side by side without betraying a decades-long gap, building intensity as the set wore on. Reaching for the sky with guitar and gloved hand, Halford and Faulkner are in lock step. Packing the tail end with classics You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, Hell Bent For Leather (amid the most metal display of metaldom ever—Halford saddled on his trademark silver Harley-Davidson), and the vaunted Painkiller, it’s everything a Judas Priest fan, scratch that, metal fan, could have ever wanted.

Oh, and if you can believe it, JP and Frenzal share something in common—they both sort of covered War Pigs. Mental. // Tom Valcanis

Dogtooth Stage: 7:50-8:30 The stage lights repelling the cover of evening illuminate Twelve Foot Ninja as the band captivate us with pulsating melodies. While the moshpit seems to be fading into the hour, our enthusiasm persists into the evening. As the bands thunderous grooves move us through their usage of various genres, they keep our heads banging along throughout their set. “All these smiling fucking faces, fan-fucking-tastic!” We’re then gifted the gifts of all gifts, a preview of what the band have been busy working on. Their enchanting set leaves us in awe as the line-up progresses into the headliners of Download Festival. // Mikaelie Evans

Ascension Stage: 7:45-8:15 Sydney deathcore band Justice for the Damned brought some heavy hitting to one of the most energetic crowds of the night. A thriving game of beach-ball soccer/volleyball ensued to the tough breakdowns and excellent vocal delivery. These guys were full on, getting the crowd moving with a very in-your-face confidence and tangible aggression. This was a pumping set that competed with a few serious clashes but they nailed it and their audience got a straight-up ripper of an experience. // Audrey Gerrard

Dogtooth Stage: 9:00-10:00 Lzzy Hale is hands down one of the most intense and captivating frontwomen to witness live. Her voice just radiates with depth, passion, rage, and impressive range. Taking the stage in an epic black leather tassel jacket in the atmospheric darkness of the Dogtooth stage, Lzzy unleashed a hard rocking set to an adoring crowd. Mz Hyde is an all-time awesome jam and it was wild to see the lady herself rock this one live. The sultry grooves and smooth solos of Joe Hottinger made for one seductive song after another Amen transitioned into the fuller, moodier sound of Black Vultures. Closing with I Miss The Misery, Halestorm were fantastic, an impeccably entertaining band with anthems that stay with you all the way home. // Rhys McKenzie

Red Stage: 8:20-9:50 A stage-wide black curtain drops, and it’s already the beginning of the end. Slayer’s final festival show on Australian soil. Accelerating to breakneck speed in Repentless, we feel an electricity passed through us. A lot of people say dudes shouting “SLAYERRRRR!” are just base-level meatheads. Not true. Slayer, for better or for worse, draw out a visceral, intense sort of adoration. It’s a collective unconscious expression of something so untamed, it can’t even be vocalised. It’s acted out in circle pits, rebel yells, and well, shouting “SLAYER!” all the time. Kerry King stands a whole band apart from Exodus’ Gary Holt—the man merely filling in for the dearly departed Jeff Hanneman; never to truly replace him. His “Officer Holt” special axe with neon-red trim lit up the big screen as he dived through Hate Worldwide and War Ensemble. The Slaytanic Wehrmacht had no beginning and no end where moshing was concerned. No breathers allowed. Tom Araya, on the other hand, looked forlorn. Not weary, not dissatisfied, just melancholy. He braved a wan expression, a dull sheen draping over his eyes. We were all excited beyond belief bearing witness to Slayer again, but his face was a reflection of our own bittersweet feelings. This would be the last time we’d ever see Slayer. When the battle cries of Jihad cracked like whips across the field, some of our phones were buzzing—Ghost was about to start. One more song turned into another. There was nothing that could draw us away from Stage Red. Nothing. // Tom Valcanis

Avalanche Stage: 8:55-9:55 Serenading more than their fair share of Slayer fans, Ghost have us lingering through the darkness as we eagerly await their set. Opening with Rats, we’re quick to raise our horns and bang ourselves along to their drummers symbols. The enchanting outfit have us filling the Avalanche Stage with our sweaty bodies that sway along with whimsical guitar licks, banging firecrackers and choruses which are god almighty. During Ritual, we manage to amp ourselves back up to follow along to their melodies, closing the song with an outstanding applause. While we’re driven through their well calculated bass riffs and guitar licks, we progress into the evening, the smell of pot burning through any empty spaces within the tent. As they eventually close their set with an impressive finale, we linger back onto the open Showgrounds for the end of Slayer. // Mikaelie Evans

“This is the second half,” Tom Araya announces, coming back from a half-minute breather. Oh fuck, shit’s getting real. Now, the mask of Araya’s performance has dropped to the floor. He looks out of sorts. When he smiles—if he smiles, it flashes across his face. “This is Payback,” he says. “And Payback’s a bitch, motherfucker!!!” As they rushed into the song, furious as ever, pyro in the form of metal horns (was I imagining that?) burst behind them like hell itself. Blue light bathed Kerry King and Gary Holt amid South of Heaven, held with another surge of savagery from the pit. For what felt like eternity, the band stood in red. Bostaph hammered out beats with quartz precision. Dum-dum-dum. Hairs on our neck stand on end. Raining Blood. If we as metalheads could reach out and hold these fleeting notes to keep them close, we would have. When Araya cried out for the last time, Raining blood! From a lacerated sky … it was if time stood still. I checked my watch, the dial reflecting blues and reds and fire from the stage. Ten minutes until the end.

We fly into Chemical Warfare, followed up by Angel of Death. A massive tribute to Jeff Hanneman spread across the back. 1964-2013: Still Reigning. As the cacophonous war machine spun down, a handler took Araya’s bass from him. He stood there. Motionless. The crowd below still chanting, whooping, whistling. Horns raised until our arms ached. He walked left toward the big screen, standing under a giant version of himself, like a king surveying his charges. He stands a while more, and smiles. Then it fades. It hits him, as if he knows it before we do. This is goodbye.

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With his hands in his pockets, humble like a teenager at his first gig, he really does not want to go. This afterglow feeding him and us; it was breathtaking. Standing at the lip of the stage, basking in a love for something he helped create, an adoration forged in steel. He nods. Kerry King at stage right is throwing picks into the crowd, snapped up by ravenous fans. He departs with a wave. The cheering hasn’t let up, not even for a second. He’s delaying the inevitable now.

He paces toward the right, stopping, staring, frozen. He lingers as we keep chanting Slayer. Slayer. Slayer. Fists pump in futile abandon. He knows he has to go. But he’s holding on to the moment so tight, we almost feel his mighty grip around it. What’s going through his mind? Memories of gigs past? The feeling this may never happen again? This melancholy has consumed him, as much as the gig has devoured us. He waves. We raise the pitch in response. He chuckles. His broken smile shatters. Before long, the big screen goes black. Time to go, Tom. He approaches the mic. With a crack in his voice, he says, sotto voce, “Thank you very much. I’m gonna miss you guys. Goodnight.” He wipes a tear from his eye. Before we know it, he’s gone.

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