The American Carnage tour, featuring thrash metal icons Slayer, Megadeth and Testament hit the Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Chula Vista Aug. 29 to the delight of several thousand thrash metal fanatics and their adrenal glands.
Initially, one might have thought this was going to be a subdued event just prior to Testament hitting the stage. The amphitheater was just more than half full and the mood among the metal denizens was downright tame compared to the unruly images one typically associates with this type of event.
As Testament began playing tracks from its 2008 release “Formation of Damnation ” the crowd showed comparatively modest approval while appreciating the blistering guitar leads and ear-ringing decibel level from these thrash metal journeymen who have been churning out speed-laden licks since 1983.
Following Testament’s 50-minute set was Megadeth, the brainchild of thrash metal pioneer Dave Mustaine who originally played for Metallica before being kicked out for one too many chemicalLY induced episodes. (This and many other sordid events are covered in Mustaine’s recently released autobiography “Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir.”) It became clear to the now full amphitheater why Megadeth and the soon to follow Slayer are considered two of thrash metal’s “big four” along with Anthrax and the eponymous Metallica.
Megadeth, aided by a light show worthy of the amphitheater’s larger venue, played with a purpose and virtuosity rarely seen by aging veterans in any genre of rock music. In fact, upon completion of the final track from the band’s 1990 release “Rust in Peace ” which the band played in its entirety and is considered by most to be the musical acme of its 14 album catalog, one of the crowd’s more youthful would-be rock stars commented that Megadeth lead guitarist Chris Broderick had to be God’s first cousin.
High level musicianship and technical prowess were certainly on display by this ever present thrash quartet.
After another short break, the final act of the night, Slayer, hit the stage. Even though Testament, and more so Megadeth, were well received, there was a steady increase in the energy level brewing in the amphitheater.
Chants of “Slayer, Slayer, Slayer” grew louder as the evening wore on. The crescendo hit maximum when Slayer began with a track from its classic 1986 thrash release “Reign in Blood.” The unrelenting aural assault continued unabated for almost two hours.
A first-time Slayer concert-goer commented to a nearby metal show veteran in amazement at Slayer’s intensity to which the grizzled metalhead simply replied: “They (Slayer) don’t (bleep) around!” That first-time Slayer concert-goer concurred and knew at that moment he was attending a real heavy metal show.