Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament brought the American Carnage Tour to Camden, NJ in what some would consider an epic show. The American Carnage Tour features three thrash metal legends touring together for the first time in decades. Age hasn’t slowed down any of these speed metal demons and it appears that these metal legends have swapped beer for the fountain of youth.
As an old metal head in his late 30s, it really takes a lot to get me to leave my house for a metal concert. I have not only seen all of my metal and thrash heroes in my youth, I saw them in their primes at the top of their games. Between high ticket prices, terrible bills, and the fear of seeing age catch up to my favorite bands, I usually prefer to let memories live and save my money. Yet the American Carnage Tour was screaming my name.
Everything just lined up right to peak my interest for the American Carnage Tour. Whenever I hear about three of my favorite bands; Testament, Slayer, and Megadeth coming to town I always think about buying a ticket. But it usually turns out that they come on a bill of bands that I have no interest in seeing such as Slayer and Marilyn Manson touring for two consecutive summers. Endgame is the first album Megadeth has put out since Rust that I had any interest in hearing live, and Testament usually winds up on a bill with 10 bands, nine of which I could care less about. The idea of seeing a concert with just Testament, Slayer, and Megadeth definitely got my attention but that wasn’t enough.
I saw Iron Maiden two years ago at Madison Square Garden and the one thing I noticed was that the metal audience really hasn’t changed, literally. The crowd for Maiden and the American Carnage Tour were mostly metal fans my age, a lot of them who brought their kids. Could you imagine bringing a 12-year old kid to a Slayer concert in 1985? There really wasn’t much of a teenage audience at all which is kind of surprising since metal seems to be having a resurgence thanks to digital downloads, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. The American Carnage crowd was a rowdy bunch, but nothing close to the prototypical thrash crowd of teenagers that you hung around with in 1987.
Testament opened the show. The building was only about half full which slightly hurt the intensity of the performance. It is amazing to me that even after beating Cancer, Chuck Billy is still a monster on vocals. I saw Testament with Megadeth open for Judas Priest on the Painkiller tour and headline on the Ritual tour at a local club. These guys haven’t lost a thing. Testament still has the same intensity and punch that they had 20 years ago. Testament had a great mix of songs in their lineup, who unlike Slayer and Megadeth weren’t binding themselves to one specific album.
Testament opened their set with More than Meets the Eye from the Testament – Formation of Damnation
album. It was a great opener that really set the pace for the entire show. I almost didn’t feel worthy at times seeing Alex Skolnick playing some of the greatest metal solos in music history just a few feet from me. I was a little disappointed that Testament didn’t play The Preacher, but you can’t have everything. Testament was great and I will definitely make it a point to catch them the next time they come back around on a headline tour. 30 minutes was just not enough.
The 23rd edition of Megadeth took the stage about 30 minutes later and wasted no time jumping into Rust in Peace. The entire place went crazy when Megadeth opened with Holy Wars…The Punishment Due. There was very little talking for about 45 minutes as Megadeth blazed through the entire Rust in Peace. I think some people overuse the word “epic” but it was truly epic. Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick performing these complex guitar solos exactly as they sound on the album was truly magic. I saw Megadeth quite a bit twenty years ago and these guys sounded just as tight with the new lineup as the Rust in Peace lineup I watched in their prime.
If there was anything at all disappointing about this night of thrash, it was Megadeth’s set list after they finished Rust in Peace. I think on something like the American Carnage Tour where the entire night is supposed to be a tribute to classic thrash, Megadeth could have dug a little deeper into their catalog for songs. Other than Peace Sells, Megadeth didn’t play any songs from their first three albums. Megadeth played only one song off their latest album. Ironically, Headcrusher was the best song of the entire post-Rust set. In my opinion, Headcrusher is the best song Megadeth has put out since the Rust in Peace album. Megadeth played about 75 minutes in total, but I really could have done without most of the last 30.
By the time Seasons in the Abyss was finished, Slayer only had about 15 minutes left and they made sure to drive the nail home. Slayer finished the set with classics; South of Heaven, Raining Blood, and Angel of Death. Like Megadeth, Slayer clocked in at around 75 minutes for their entire set. Slayer play so fast that most of their headlining sets only last around 75 minutes, which is a little short compared to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica. Slayer ended strong and just blew me away with how tight and fast these guys still are twenty years after the first time I caught them live.
All in all it was one of the greatest shows I have ever seen. Megadeth’s Rust in Peace set may be the greatest set of songs I have ever seen performed live. There was just so much energy and intensity that I can’t imagine ever seeing anything that classic again. It is nice to see three older thrash bands that have been through lineup changes, injuries, Cancer, addiction, and family issues still go out there and show the young metal bands how it is done.
The American Carnage Tour will continue throughout the fall. Testament will be swapped out for the reunited Anthrax on the second leg of the tour as a tribute to the original Clash of the Titans. I love old Anthrax, but there is no way that they can open a show like Testament did. I feel that the different opener completely changes the feel of the show altogether. This isn’t a knock on Anthrax as much as it is a compliment to Testament. Although as someone who saw Anthrax countless times in my youth, they rarely disappointed and Joey Belladonna can still hit the high notes.
Rumors continue of a Big Four Tour next summer with Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Who needs Metallica? Bring back the tour with Testament, some new set lists, and I can almost guarantee that you will see a much better show.
Regardless, if you ever banged your head in your teens to any of these bands you owe it to yourself to go see the American Carnage Tour. Not only was it worth the price of admission, I felt like I got a bargain.
Visit the Slayer Music Store on Amazon.com.
Check out downloads at the Megadeth Download Store on Amazon.com.
Check out the iTunes Store Music for all of these and other great metal tunes.