Slayer

Apocalypse Now: Behind the Scenes of Slayer’s Explosive Final Tour

We embedded with the iconic thrash metal band as their last tour swung through Texas.

Slayer is not the kind of band to go gently into that good night. Not after nearly 40 years of unrepentantly provocative and aggressive music-making, a span in which the thrashers introduced the world to death metal and spawned an army of pentagram-worshipping fans that have left an indelible dark mark on popular culture. Slayer may be officially retiring after their current tour, but they are bringing the fire and rage one last time before hanging up their flying-V guitars and patched-covered black denim vests. We couldn’t miss it. So when Slayer rolled in to Houston, Dallas and Austin with enough pyrotechnics to raze a small city, we had photographer BeS

Ben describes the experience in his own words:

“I set out to photograph Slayer’s final tour to catch a tiny glimpse of the influence they’ve had and legendary status they’ve created in the last several decades. Since Slayer’s inception in the ’80s, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt have pushed the limits of music and culture while building a huge community of fans that are bonded like family and who appear in the regimented attire of a militia—black being the color of choice, of course.

The fans I met were proud to have their portrait made at each show, though they were consistently confused why GQ Style was interested in Slayer. But the fact is whether you’re a banker, a ballerina or even a faithful church-goer, you’ve heard some Slayer—and you’ve definitely seen their iconic logo emblazoned on a local metalhead’s tattered tour tee. Across the three shows I saw fathers, sons, brothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins and friends come together every night to bang their heads and thrash in a mosh pit together.

A long-running band like Slayer can never live in the present without the shadow of their past. But though the current lineup may be aged (Araya’s grandchild was at the Houston show), their spirits and desire to bring maximum adrenaline to each show is unchanged. Before the show, the dressing room was like a solemn enclave of musical precision, with King sitting in a red-lit room moving his fingers across scales faster than most people can type. As pre-show joints were passed around, friends from Slayer’s past like former Pantera bodyguard Chris the Krusher rolled through to catch up. One former tour manager/security guard/driver/make-things-happen-guy came by to share photos from Slayers touring in the ’80s and ’90s, like of super scene character Toby Rage diving off a speaker stack. After the band closed with massive tracks like “Raining Blood” or “Angel of Death,” it was nearly-frozen Jägermeister shots all around.

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Dallas, TX 6/19/18: Slayer started in the mid ’80s in Southern California, and the uncut speed and intensity of their guitar and drums instantly set them apart from the pop music that was in vogue at the time.
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18: Though fans were smashed in the front during anthems like “Repentless” and “Jihad,” the most dedicated kept begging for more—and only kept getting louder as the set went on.
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: Though many attendees were about as old as the band, plenty of fathers brought their kids along.
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: The scene in the pit. Slayer mosh pits have long been proving grounds for metal fans.
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18: Fans hang out near Slayer’s tour bus.
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18: A full Slayer back tattoo. Slayer’s music has long been controversial, whether planned or not. Other bands like Twisted Sister, Pantera, Metallica and Megadeth also reached mainstream status as Slayer came up in the music world, but none were as fast, angry, anti-consumerist and in as direct opposition to popular culture as Slayer.
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Kerry King gets ready to power shred.
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18: A fan in an Anthrax tour tee and incredible punk kilt.
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The Slayer fan uniform is heavy on the camo cargo shorts.
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: drummer Paul Bostaph, guitarist Kerry King, guitarist Gary Holt, singer/bassist Tom Araya (from left)
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: Kerry King warms up backstage.
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18. Tipper Gore, who founded the Parents Music Resource Center, attacked the band in testimony to the Senate—doing them a favor by cementing them in public discourse as the most controversial band of their time.
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: Fans show off their gear before the show.
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Austin, TX 6/20/18: Spooky dressing room decor.
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Kerry King’s Dr. Martens.
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Austin, TX 6/20/18: Kerry King’s head piece
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Houston, TX 6/17/18
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18
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Austin, TX 6/20/18. Former members Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo were key in elevating the band to its current status, but Slayers has maintained its heart: Tom Araya’s signature vocal style and Kerry King’s meticulous shredding.
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: Kerry King backstage.
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Dallas, TX 6/19/18.
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Austin, TX 6/20/18: Tom Araya hangs out backstage.
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Houston, TX 6/17/18
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Austin, TX 6/20/18: Slayer’s fan club calls themselves the “Slaytanic Wehrmacht.”
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: Prost!
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Houston, TX 6/17/18: Kerry King exits stage right after taking a bow.

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