Metal giant Slayer has called upon worthy openers for its Final Campaign

Slayer headlines MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 27.
Photo: Troy Fisher / Courtesy
Annie Zaleski

By numbers alone, Slayer's latest tour, the Final Campaign, feels impressive. According to a press release, the thrash-metal titans employ three bus drivers, four truck drivers and a crew of 32—not to mention one pyrotechnics expert, who apparently sets off around 160 pounds of propane per show.

The openers joining Slayer for its final tour—Ministry, Primus and Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals—are just as formidable as that stage setup. Here's a breakdown of the Vegas stop of the Final Campaign—and why the lineup works so well.

SLAYER Slayer should need no introduction. One of thrash metal's "Big Four" (along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax), the Southern California band reinvented the scope and impact of the genre with 1986 album Reign in Blood, and has continued to be an aggressive heavy pace-setter since. Neither the 2013 death of original guitarist Jeff Hanneman nor the departure of drummer Dave Lombardo that same year has derailed Slayer, whose latest lineup features founding members Tom Araya (vocals/bass) and Kerry King (guitar), along with Paul Bostaph (drums) and Gary Holt (guitar).

The band has stated its intention to stop performing after this tour, which could make the November 27 MGM Grand date the second-to-last ever (the tour concludes two nights later in Inglewood, California).

MINISTRY Ministry has never been afraid to evolve with the sonic times. In fact, while the Al Jourgensen-founded band cut its teeth in Chicago, where it spearheaded the industrial movement of the '80s and early '90s, in more recent times Ministry's sound has gravitated toward electronic-saturated hard rock and metal, often with a political bent.

Like Slayer, Ministry has weathered changing heavy music trends—successfully—while remaining true to its rabble-rousing muse and penchant for flouting authority.

PRIMUS Les Claypool balances a staggering number of projects and guest appearances these days in addition to his work with Primus—including The Claypool Lennon Delirium, a collaboration with Sean Lennon—although his bread-and-butter remains Primus' absurdist funk-flecked metal. The band's most recent album, 2017's The Desaturating Seven, was based on a children's book titled The Rainbow Goblins.

Primus might seem like the odd band out on this bill—Claypool has become something of a jam icon thanks to his side projects, and these days the band's live concerts veer toward sprawling space-prog. Still, there's no denying that, like Slayer, Primus comes ready to entertain—and challenge listeners.

PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS Anselmo is best known for fronting Pantera and the recently reactivated Down, but the metal icon released his 2018 album, Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue, under another occasional moniker—Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals. For the Vegas Slayer tour stop, Anselmo & Co. are billed performing "a vulgar display of Pantera," a reference to both a seminal Pantera album (1992's A Vulgar Display of Power) and a nod to the setlist: an all-killer, no-filler bunch of Pantera classics.

Pantera and Slayer ran in the same circuit starting in the late '80s, making Anselmo's inclusion a nice nod to heavy music's roots—and a full-circle moment for Slayer as it nears the finish line.

SLAYER with Primus, Ministry, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals. November 27, 6 p.m., $50-$70. MGM Grand Garden Arena, 702-891-7777.

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