NEW HAVEN, Connecticut Oh, if the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society only knew.
As Pantera, Slayer, Static-X, Morbid Angel and Skrape laid siege to the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night at the launch of the Extreme Steel tour, the mind boggled at the thought of the Jehovah's Witness event staged at the same venue two nights earlier.
Would they approve of the thin trails of smoke of dubious origin wafting across the arena? What would they think of Slayer vocalist Tom Araya's lyrics about shooting sprees, madness and hell? And what would they make of the fan gleefully toting a hand-drawn "Show us your t--s" sign?
Chances are most normal folks wouldn't much care for the shenanigans that played out at the coliseum Wednesday night. (Click here for photos from the tour launch.) Fortunately, "normal folks" aren't a big part of Pantera's target audience. With Ozzfest exploring the various shades of hard rock (from pimp rock to goth rock to metal and everything in between), the Extreme Steel trek is a fairly straightforward lesson in brutality, courtesy of the uncompromising metal of Pantera and Slayer.
Any experimentation was left to Static-X, who served up their industrial-flavored rock only after death-metal vets Morbid Angel had sufficiently bludgeoned the crowd. Despite the recent top-10 debut of Static-X's Machine, the band battled to a split decision Wednesday night.
Backed by a wall of amps capped by thick 6-foot-tall bolts, Static-X (including injured bassist Tony Campos, who provided backing vocals while wearing a sling) drew heavily on their 1999 debut, Wisconsin Death Trip. Familiar tracks like "Push It," "I'm With Stupid" and "Love Dump," along with new offerings like "Black and White" and "This Is Not," had most of the general admission floor bouncing, but the less-impressed angrily awaited the arrival of more brutal sounds.
Fortunately for them, Slayer weren't too far behind. Poised before an image of a ghostly demon and an imposing wall of Marshall amps, guitarist Kerry King clad in a black sleeveless T-shirt (what, you were expecting Tommy Hilfiger?) rocked his head back and forth as the band thrashed through its set. As bassist/vocalist Araya bellowed from underneath a mess of hair, the crowd activity intensified, including one sprawling wrestling match near the back of the arena floor.
The trek finds Slayer ramping up for the July 10 arrival of God Hates Us All, but the band offered a hefty chunk of familiar songs, including "Stain of Mind," "Mandatory Suicide" and "South of Heaven." Through it all, Slayer's rabid following grinded and churned until sweat-soaked bodies emerged from the venue floor at the close of the band's set.
It didn't take long after Slayer's set for chants of "Pan-ter-a" to rise from the crowd. It's been over a year since the headliners unleashed Reinventing the Steel, and after tours on Ozzfest and with Soulfly, this looks to be the band's last go 'round in support of it.
"This is the last time you're going to see Pantera for a very long time," frontman Phil Anselmo warned audience members, urging them to get all they could out of the show.
Anselmo and his bandmates held up their end of the deal, shedding any trace of road wear and taking the stage with the fury of an animal freed from its cage. Pantera set the pace for the rest of the show by kicking open the door with "Hell Bound," accompanied by a 12-foot wall of flames that shot from atop their amps. Anselmo worked the crowd like the lost child of Charles Manson a tangle of hair and scruffy beard conspiring to hide his face as the band worked through a set thick with newer tracks, including "Goddamn Electric," "Revolution Is My Name," "I'll Cast a Shadow" and the aforementioned "Hell Bound."
Despite the Steel-heavy set, the band worked in time-tested gems like "F---ing Hostile," "This Love," "I'm Broken" and "Walk" as well as live rarities like "War Nerve," "Mouth for War" and "Strength Beyond Strength" (dedicated to Slayer).
"Now this is what I call a true crowd, not a bunch of f---ing followers," Anselmo said. The trademark Anselmo displays of love were there as well, including the chest pound, the big nod, the point and the full-extension handclap.
Hopefully fans in New Haven picked up on them, because it might be a while before they see them again.