Fear us!: Slayers, from left, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Paul Bostaph and Jeff Hannemann.

Slayer sizzles DVD

The heavy metal band's
pummeling music propels
'War at the Warfield'

God bless Slayer. Or maybe it should be God hates Slayer. After all, the mighty metal band's latest album is "God Hates Us All" -- proof positive being it was released on Sept. 11, 2001. But their music is pure primal therapy for those who crave only the heaviest of heavy metal.

In fact, if the band's rabid fans had their way, anyone outside of their exclusive circle (with a pentagram in it) would be greeted with a hearty expletive and extended middle finger. But after viewing the veteran band's recently released debut DVD, "War at the Warfield," would you let a meek and mild music writer like myself into your ee-vill sanctuary?

The DVD cover depicts the aftermath of one of Slayer's San Francisco concerts.

I already knew of the band's skullcrushing reputation beforehand, responsible for a trio of recordings that represent the pinnacle of all that is good and glorious in thrash-speed-death metal: "Reign In Blood" (1985), "South of Heaven" (1988) and "Seasons In the Abyss" (1990). A year later after the release of "Abyss," the live "Decade of Aggression" came out. But while a fair representation of the band's power in concert, I think it doesn't hold a blood-red Satanic candle to seeing Slayer work their hellish mojo on this home video, complete in stereo or, awright!, Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Yeah, let the neighbors know you care by cranking this baby up on your home entertainment system!

This being a DVD, there's a bunch of extras on this: A merely serviceable photo gallery, the music video for "Bloodline," the featured track on "God Hates Us All," that was banned by all major video outlets for its theatrical gore, and a "Fans Rule" documentary filled with both thoughtful and drunken and/or inchoate fans (admittedly more the latter) given the opportunity to express their undying devotion to Slayer by a goading interviewer. That alone almost gives the cult documentary "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" a run for its money.

But it's the near-incessant and pummeling music that sells me on this DVD. The concert recorded on Dec. 7 '01 at the Warfield Theatre in one of the band's favorite tour stops, San Francisco, obviously had some additional drama surrounding it. The events of 9/11 was still fresh on everybody's minds and there are some reminders of that: The small American flag in front of one of Paul Bostaph's double-kick drums and "God Send Death" being dedicated to Osama bin Laden.

There's also congenial frontman Tom Araya's comments to the rabble-rousers to "watch out for each other ... and if there's a stranger near by, kill him!" (Well, he makes it sound congenial!) The concert also represents the first show the band did after the death of Araya's father.

And rock fans haven't lived until they've seen the burly frontline of Araya and guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, bodies bent over their axes, nodding their heads as one to the authoritative metal beat. Better yet is Araya in full-tilt head circular action, his long black hair whipping round and round with a force that could take your eye out if you were nearby.

The bulk of the songs played come from Slayer's golden three-album period and their earlier independent releases. Older songs as "Die By the Sword / Dittohead," a breathtaking and supercharged "Chemical Warfare" and "Captor of Sin" ("for the females," Ayala says, " -- or the harlots of hell!") all get inspired performances.

The lockstep battery precision of Slayer's three-prong attack, with drummer Bostaph pushing them along, can truly reach a frightening intensity sometimes. It can be heard on "War Ensemble," "New Faith," "Postmortem / Raining Blood / Hell Awaits" and the encore "South of Heaven / Angel of Death."

With song titles like these, it isn't any wonder that Slayer has never crossed over into the mainstream -- and it's just as well. There's always room for ferociously played music that totally obliterates whatever youthful angst is still hanging around in your life. After all the hyperventilation, one feels cleansed.

As one fan succinctly puts it, "it's good, friendly, violent fun."

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