I was in Indianapolis at the HorrorHound show back in 2008, when I came across a guy selling bootleg concerts of various metal acts. Not surprisingly, two Slayer DVD’s caught my eye. The vendor and I started up a conversation, he let me see a minute or so of each disc, and I purchased them. Content, I headed out to my rental car to drop the discs and a few other things off. As I had almost reached my ride, the vendor came huffing out after me (this was no small feat, as he was a rotund man). In his hand he had another DVD case. “I knew I had this one with me packed in there somewhere,” he said as he handed me the case. I held another Slayer bootleg. “This one’s on me,” the guy continued. “This is the one where the fans destroyed the Felt Forum.” I held in my hand not just another concert recording, but an infamous moment in the brutal history of Slayer on the road.
To put it plainly, Slayer fans are insane. They think nothing of obliterating one another at the shows, to the point where Slayer became the first band to hire pit bosses to stop fans from getting splintered and shattered. Of the four shows I’ve been to, twice I was on the floor; I know to stay away from the pit, because I don’t want to get broken. But had I been in Forum that night, I don’t think I could’ve avoided it, because from what I can tell from the bootleg, the whole floor was a pit. When Tom Araya has to ask the crowd to step back a few paces from the stage so he and the boys can continue, that’s mind blowing.
So there’s that, which makes the disc a curio among filmed Slayer performances. But there’s also a show to discuss, and this one was mostly solid. The show is from August 31, 1988, so there’s no “War Ensemble,” “Dead Skin Mask” or “Disciple,” because those tunes didn’t yet exist. In their stead, Slayer inserts some I can’t ever imagine them playing today. Standards such as “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven” and brutal closer “Angel of Death” shred right alongside oddities such as “Read Between the Lies” and “Behind the Crooked Cross” (which I once read Kerry King stated is the only song Slayer would never again play live, because Jeff Hanneman didn’t like it). The performance itself is exactly what you would expect had you ever seen Slayer live: fast, loud, brutal and intense. Araya’s voice isn’t as sharp as usual, and he’s a bit more chatty between songs, but he growls appropriately. Hanneman and King’s guitar work is blazing as usual, and Dave Lombardo’s drum work sets the insane speed. Despite the choice of some inferior songs from the earlier catalogue, I’d have enjoyed the show if I’d been there in person.
Well, maybe I wouldn’t have. When this concert took place, I was 16, and deathly afraid of Slayer. My friend Rodriguez would play them for me, and I’d cower in fear. Oh, and they blew up his sister’s Teddy Ruxpin.
As for the sound and video quality, it’s exactly what one should expect from a video camera circa 1988: single-shot, poorly lit, a bit grainy and rough sounding. Amazing that now Slayer fans can do worlds better with their cell phones. That is, if the phones don’t blow up in their hands. The guy recording it zooms in and pans out, so there’s a decent amount of shot selections, given the limitations. And then there’s the packaging. It doesn’t list 3 of the songs from the set list, it has the wrong date of the show, and there are errors in the titles of some tunes. This DVD is not a thing of beauty, but it’s passable given my expectations. And it’s the only cover sleeve I’ve seen with the bold statement, “Contains rare riot and security fight footage from Felt Forum. Stated to be one of the craziest shows by SLAYER themselves.” I’ve just got to love that.
In three days, Slayer returns to the Felt Forum, now called the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and I’ll be there, right on the floor. I don’t know if the security guards will have as rough a time 25 years later, and I can guarantee the band won’t play “Behind the Crooked Cross.” But I know I’ll walk out with bruises, soreness and ringing in my ears. And the whole time, in the back of my mind, I’ll hear that vendor’s voice proclaiming, “This is the one where the fans destroyed the Felt Forum.”