Dave Lombardo’s second go-around with Slayer has been considerably easier than his first.
In 2001, Slayer’s drummer — whose double-bass pounding and speedy fills inspired a generation of speed and thrash metal bands — rejoined the band he helped found after 10 years away from the group because of personal issues. Since then, he has shifted right back into the Slayer lifestyle, playing on two albums, 2006’s “Christ Illusion” and 2009’s “World Painted Blood,” with a third on the way.
The secret to the notoriously brutal band’s inner harmony these days? Respect.
“Well, obviously we’re more mature, so we know how to respect each other, which matters, you know,” Lombardo said recently from St. Louis, Mo., a stop on the fifth annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, which the band is co-headlining with Slipknot. The multi-band metal show heads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday.
“Things are — they’re just a lot smoother. You understand each other’s ways and you respect them. There’s a really good vibe onstage between band members. We have a great time up there; it’s amazing.”
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
With: Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead, Anthrax, As I Lay Dying, The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria, Whitechapel, High on Fire, Dirtfedd, Upon a Burning Body, I the Breather
When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
How Much: $103.25-$30.50
More Info: 587-3330, www.spac.org, www.livenation.com
Although maturity and age has these benefits, it can also be an issue when it comes to the Slayer live show. Keeping up with the band’s rapid-fire guitar assaults and blast beats live requires some upkeep.
“I don’t know about the other guys — I can only speak for myself — but I have to eat right, I have to take my vitamins,” Lombardo said.
“I have to do a little stretching before I go on, and that really before wasn’t necessary, but as you get older you have to, especially after a day off. Like yesterday, we had the day off; we didn’t have a show yesterday, so I did a lot of relaxing — I laid in bed all day and just chilled. So today I have to just be on top of getting myself prepped up before I go onstage.”
‘It’s a lot of good guys’
This year marks Slayer’s second headlining appearance on the Mayhem Festival — they first co-headlined the tour in 2009 with Marilyn Manson. The all-day festival features acts on three stages, with Motorhead rounding out the main stage acts, and New York City thrashers Anthrax headlining the Jagermeister Stage. As I Lay Dying, The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria, Whitechapel, High on Fire, Dirtfedd, Upon a Burning Body, Slipknot, and I the Breather round out the bill.
“We get there around 3 o’clock, and it does get a little boring because we have to wait three, four hours,” Lombardo said. “But for the most part, when we get onstage, the party starts. And after that, we get together with some of the other bands, whether it’s Motorhead, or we even hang out with some of the Slipknot guys after their show. Some of the second stage acts, The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria — they come around and hang out too. It’s a lot of good guys, and everyone’s having a really good time.”
Anthrax, a contemporary of Slayer’s — together, the two are members of the so called “big four” of thrash bands, along with Metallica and Megadeth — decided to headline the second stage rather than play an opening slot on the main stage. To that end, the band has created a 40-minute set heavy on the its hardest material.
“It’s everything Anthrax is about — high energy, high-impact songs, paced right, not a lot of talking,” said bassist Frank Bello. “And we’re actually executing it really well, and the fan base is growing. . . . This is like summer camp for us. All the bands are our good friends, so there’s a good vibe.”
There’s also a local connection with the band on this tour — Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner, a Capital Region resident, is filling in for Charlie Benante, who suffered a hand injury recently. “He’s a good friend also, so it also helps, and he’s a killer player — he makes it easy, and it’s working out well actually,” Bello said.
Founding Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman will also be a no-show on the tour — since 2011, he’s been sidelined by a flesh-eating bacteria from a spider bite that almost required amputation of his left arm. Exodus lead guitarist Gary Holt, who filled in through most of 2011, is back with the rest of the group — including bassist and vocalist Tom Araya and guitarist Kerry King — for this tour.
“Everything has been really positive,” Lombardo said. “He’s stepped up and done a great job. He’s definitely more than what we expected.”
Hanneman’s condition continues to improve, although the band is uncertain when he will be back for live dates. “You know, nobody knows; nobody knows what the future is gonna bring us,” Lombardo said. “Right now we just want him to get well and recover quickly.”
But he has been contributing to new material in the studio. The band is getting ready to release a two-song EP as a prelude to a new album that probably won’t arrive until next year, although Lombardo didn’t have many details about either. Hanneman is definitely writing for the record, although “it’s taken a little longer.”
Once again, the band is working with Rick Rubin-recommended producer Greg Fidelman, who produced “World Painted Blood.” Lombardo describes the new material as “very typical Slayer.”
“It’s heavy, it’s modern and it’s up to par with all the other recordings out there by other metal bands, if not better,” he said.
Lombardo has found it comfortable slipping back into the Slayer mind-set after a decade away. He’s been able to use his experience with bands in the interim, such as Grip Inc. and Fantomas, to enhance his playing with Slayer.
“When I first came back and started playing with the band, Slayer, again, I had a whole different approach to music from working with various other bands,” Lombardo said. “I learned their method of preparation. Slayer’s approach is very easy — I never forgot how they worked — and when I compared it at the time, I found it simple and good, a good method of operation. Everything was great, and it’s pretty much stayed the same. I’ve learned again from other bands, which has made Slayer’s work easy.”
Anthrax, meanwhile, is supporting its first new album in eight years, 2011’s “Worship Music.” The album is also the band’s first with classic singer Joey Belladonna since 1990’s “Persistence of Time.” It’s been a long time coming — originally, the band completed the album in 2009 with previous vocalist Dan Nelson, who ended up leaving the band soon after completing his vocals.
Back in the fold
“We had this great record, and we thought we had something really special,” Bello said. “Charlie Benante and I started writing a couple years ago in Chicago, and then when Joey came back in the fold he put his vocals on top. You figure, the last Anthrax record was eight years ago, so that’s a long time coming, and for people to be saying — a lot of reviews have been saying it’s our best record ever, so that’s the cream on top right there.”
Despite the band’s numerous lineup changes over the years, Bello is confident that the current lineup — himself, Benante, Belladonna, founding guitarist Scott Ian and lead guitarist Rob Caggiano — will be the final one.
“This is Anthrax; there’s not gonna be another Anthrax,” Bello said. “All of the past business things are in the past. There’s just a really good vibe right now in the band — everybody gets it, we’re older now and we’re all feeling lucky to be in the band.”