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Slayer and Avenged Sevenfold provide solid hard-rock alternatives to the Downtown fest

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Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows lights up the stage at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Photo: Bryan Haraway

Three stars

Slayer October 25, the Joint.

Three stars

Avenged Sevenfold October 26, Mandalay Bay Events Center.

While indie rock fans flooded Downtown over the weekend for Life Is Beautiful, anyone looking for heavier sounds also had some pretty good options. On Friday, thrash legends Slayer played the Joint with Gojira and 4ARM, and on Saturday, Avenged Sevenfold headlined the Mandalay Bay Events Center with openers Deftones and Ghost B.C. Although neither show sold out, they proved that the market for heavy music in Vegas is strong, even with serious competition.

For fans who showed up, both of the weekend’s headliners delivered, although not in unexpected or surprising ways. After more than 30 years, success for the members of Slayer means playing the same songs in the same fashion, and the band’s sound has evolved the least out of the “big four” groups of the thrash movement (the other three are Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax). Despite posted warnings around the Joint, fans moshed and crowd-surfed with enthusiasm to metal classics like “Seasons in the Abyss” and “South of Heaven,” and the band offered up a lean, straightforward 85-minute set with no encore. Frontman Tom Araya looks like he’s evolving into the heavy metal version of Jerry Garcia with his big gray beard, and he doesn’t move around a whole lot, but guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt (who replaced the late Jeff Hanneman) made up for Araya’s inert presence by bounding around the stage and headbanging with gusto.

Slayer's Kerry King shreds away at the Joint.

Slayer's Kerry King shreds away at the Joint.

Gone are the days when “Raining Blood” would be accompanied by fake blood pouring down on the stage, and Slayer’s stage show was limited to some inverted crosses descending from the ceiling. Avenged Sevenfold, on the other hand, seem determined to resurrect the over-the-top spirit of ’80s arena rock. The band’s set featured more pyro than a Kiss concert; a lengthy, self-indulgent guitar solo; and a stage setup that resembled a crumbling, ancient castle, complete with a giant skeleton king sitting on a throne of skulls. It was no coincidence that singer M. Shadows was wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt, but the problem with Avenged Sevenfold is that the band’s mediocre music generally doesn’t match up to its grandiose stage presence. Shadows remains a subpar singer, but the sheer exuberance of the stage show (matched by the audience), along with a few catchy tunes, made for a worthwhile experience. Indie music might have had the weekend’s spotlight, but metal made a nice showing.

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