Megadeth and Slayer remain driving forces

By Scott McLennan
Globe Correspondent / August 16, 2010

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LOWELL — For a couple of bands that aren’t big on friendly gestures, Slayer and Megadeth did an exceptional job escorting fans down memory lane Saturday at the Tsongas Center.

Slayer played all of its “Seasons in the Abyss’’ album and Megadeth unfurled “Rust in Peace’’ in its entirety, making the “American Carnage’’ tour a headbanger’s history lesson.

Not to mention good business, as it was recently announced that 20 dates have been added to the tour, a sharp contrast to the spate of cancellations and cutbacks other road shows are experiencing.

It was obvious in Lowell why “Carnage’’ is flourishing during a time when others are wilting. Slayer and Megadeth (plus openers Testament) can still play with conviction and not seem cartoonish; both bands have enough new material to avoid sounding dated; and with nothing more than uncompromising songs and requisite attitudes to carry them off, Slayer and Megadeth stir passions in the fan base that keep old timers and younger devotees coming back for more. In music, there are too few real deals left, and any tour with two together is bound to succeed.

“American Carnage’’ also has a whiff of triumph to it. “Seasons’’ and “Rust’’ both came out in 1990 and were metal’s last bastions before serious landscape changes courtesy of Nirvana’s “Nevermind.’’

Slayer and Megadeth lost their footing during the 1990s, yet their fortitude has paid off, especially for Slayer, which is making new music on par with anything from its back catalog.

Before diving into the “Abyss,’’ Slayer launched its set with two of those new tunes, “World Painted Blood’’ and “Hate Worldwide.’’ Slayer never let up for 90 minutes, as bassist and singer Tom Araya — whose back surgery earlier this year prompted a rescheduling of these shows — barked out lyrics with a speed and flow that would seem dizzying if not for the guitar work by Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman that actually was dizzying. Drummer Dave Lombardo set the manic pace and added plenty of flourish to the raw brawn necessary to power the Slayer catalog.

The “Seasons’’ signature tunes — “War Ensemble,’’ “Dead Skin Mask,’’ and the title track — are concert staples. Yet Slayer reveled in the deeper cuts; Araya looked like he was chuckling as King throttled his guitar into submission during “Expendable Youth.’’

After “Seasons,’’ Slayer charged into profanity, gore, and evil with “South of Heaven,’’ “Raining Blood,’’ and “Angel of Death.’’ A quick goodbye, a few waves, and Slayer was gone, encore not necessary.

Megadeth was similarly taciturn, hitting the stage with a no-banter blast through “Rust.’’ Leader Dave Mustaine still has dazzling guitar chops, and his current incarnation of Megadeth sounds tighter than any other edition he’s had on the road in recent years (no doubt due in part to the return of bassist Dave Ellefson).

Highlights of the “Rust’’ run included “Five Magics’’ and “Dawn Patrol,’’ songs that never became as well-known as “Holy Wars’’ or “Hangar 18’’ yet underscore how the album really was incendiary front-to-back.

Scott McLennan can be reached at

SLAYER and MEGADETH With Testament

At: Tsongas Center at UMass-Lowell, Saturday