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By Jon Wiederhorn
There was no way the Fifth Annual Revolver Golden Gods Awards, which were held last night at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, weren't going to wind up being a tribute to Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died the afternoon of the event. Many of the speakers and performers tipped their hat to the fallen metal hero, and Slayer guitarist Kerry King made a speech about his bandmate of over 30 years. But there was no way King or anyone else at the event was going to allow the show to become morose or maudlin.
"You may notice I got two shot cups up here," King said as he took the stage with Black Label Society frontman Zakk Wylde. "My friend Zakk doesn't drink anymore, so obviously this is for me and my fallen friend Jeff."
With everyone in the crowd, and those watching at home on Xbox and Revolver's Facebook staring intently, King continued. "I've thought about this, I thought should I do a moment of silence. And I thought, 'F***, no! This is the Golden Gods, man. Jeff f***in' Hanneman, he played in Slayer. He does not want a moment of f***in' silence. Jeff wants a moment of f***in' noise. You got a drink, raise it up, you got a fist, raise it up, and tip one back to our fallen brother."
King's words reflected the spirit of the evening, which was headlined by Metallica and featured a stunning batch of performance collaborations in addition to the 11 award presentations. The event, which was hosted for the fourth time by WWE wrestler and Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho, began with a burning set by Anthrax. After playing two songs, "Caught in a Mosh" and "Fight Them 'Til You Can't," the band was joined by Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown for a pain-stricken, rage-filled version of the band's song "This Love."
The pairing was surprising, since Brown quit Anselmo's Southern doom band Down in 2011 and included critical commentary about his former singer in his recently released memoir, Official Truth 101 Proof The Inside Story of Pantera. But that was all vodka under the bridge, and with Anthrax and Shadow's Fall guitarist Jonathan Donais emulating the late Dimebag Darrell's playing note for note, including every impressive guitar squeal, it was hard not to imagine how great it would be for the metal titans to reunite with original drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott (which Abbott claims will never happen because of an ongoing feud with Anselmo; Abbott currently plays in Hellyeah). At the end of the song, the band burst into the beginning of Slayer's "Raining Blood," but stopped after a few bars, Anselmo remarking, "Rest in peace, Jeff Hanneman. We love you, man."
The next band performing, Dillinger Escape Plan, encapsulated the anger and frustration of the crowd at Hanneman's death. The performance was a display of unhinged chaos, with the band playing disjointed rhythms and what sounded like free-jazz improvisation while vocalist Greg Puciato roared with rage and occasional crooned like Faith No More's Mike Patton. By the end of the first song, Puciato had ascended a 15-foot-tall stack of amps, leapt to the ground, and lacerated his forehead. For the rest of the set, he bled profusely as he sang and spread the blood across his face on several occasions. When the car-crash turbulence ended, Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno joined the band for a cover of Depeche Mode's "Behind the Wheel," which was melodic, but filled with musical tension and release as Moreno and Puciato traded vocal parts. The set ended with Puciato picking up a torch, lighting it, and blowing flames into the sky of the 2,500-seater club before smashing a guitar on an amp, trashing the drum kit, and stabbing the bass drum with a drumstick. Maybe Metallica can refer this dude to a good anger management specialist.
This year's Grammy-winner for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance, Halestorm, took the stage and proved why they've become critical and commercial darlings in just a few years, straddling both genres and delivering a captivating performance. After ripping through the commercial but headbanging "Love Bites (But So Do I)" and "I Miss the Misery," the band was joined onstage by Disturbed/Device singer David Draiman. Those who expected the band to perform a version of the Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford duet "Close My Eyes Forever," which Hale and Draiman sing on Device's debut new self-titled album, were surprised when the band broke into a soulful take on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love"--with drummer Arejay Hale playing a hair behind the beat, just as Zep drummer John Bonham used to do. Occasionally the vocals were slightly off the mark, but the chemistry between the two performers was striking.
Five Finger Death Punch roused the crowd with the groove-and-lunge propulsion of "Burn It Down" before being joined by Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford, dressed in black and sporting a walking cane, for "Lift Me Up," a song from the first of the two new Five Finger albums that will hit this year. "How do you top that?!?" screamed vocalist Ivan Moody. "I'll tell you how you do it. There are two Robs in this industry that I look up to. And fortunately for me, I get to tour with one of them this f***in' summer." Rob Zombie and his guitarist John5 (ex-Marilyn Manson) then took the stage with Five Finger Death Punch to perform a storming version of White Zombie's "Thunder Kiss '65.
With the event only half done, there were many more highlights. And they included a well-needed moment of levity provided by Jack Black And Kyle Gass, whose Tenacious D won the Comeback of the Year Award, defeating Aerosmith, the Darkness, Quicksand, Refused, and Soundgarden.
"F***in' Aersosmith is backstage crying right now," said Black (a.k.a. "The D") "Suck it, dude. We did it. I just want to say this does not mean we're a better band than Aerosmith. It doesn't mean we're a better band than Soundgarden. It just means we're better at rocking right now. Maybe next year [guys]. Take that."
Speaking of crying, Slipknot and Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor choked up onstage when he was presented the award for Best Vocalist. "Thank you, guys. This is, um. I didn't know this was happening and…um." As un-metal as weeping may be, the crowd cheered in appreciation for Taylor. "I just want to say I have dedicated my life to giving you everything I've f***ing got. This means more to mean than anything. Thank you so f***ing much," he gasped out before leaving the stage.
Taylor, dressed in a gray Slayer shirt, had completely recomposed himself when Stone Sour took the stage for "Gone Sovereign" and "Absolute Zero," singing with multi-octave, vibrato-laden passion that illustrated why fans voted him the Best Vocalist of the Year. For the kicker, Taylor exclaimed, "This is dedicated to the band who, without them none of these bands would have a career [or] would have a f***in' life. This is dedicated to Black Sabbath. For Sabbath, for Metallica, for Hanneman, and f***in' Slayer, let's keep that s*** alive. Boys, let's get it on."
Without a pause, Stone Sour launched into Black Sabbath's hit "Children of the Grave," accompanied by costumed Slipknot percussionists Shawn Crahan (a.k.a. Clown) and Chris Fehn.
Ghost vocalist Papa Emeritus II adorned his trademark Pope outfit and skeleton facepaint, took his hat off, and said in a Swedish accent, "Hush, will you please. Can you please keep it down. I'm taking my hat off for Jeff. Also, I'm here tonight to introduce one of the pioneers of evil, a man of true darkness who is here tonight to celebrate his 35-year legacy of brutality. I give you…Danzig."
The band then bashed out "Hammer of the Gods," Danzig doing his best Jim Morrison as guitarist Tommy Victor (Prong) chugged along to the pulsing beat of by ex-Type O Negative's Johnny Kelly. "The last time we were on TV was 1994, 'cause most of these shows suck big d***," Danzig said, then played his biggest commercial song, "Mother."
Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, who has had a hot-and-cold relationship with Danzig since the breakup of the Misfits, joined his former frontman onstage for several songs, including "Skulls." "[Late Metallica bassist] Cliff Burton called me drunk out of his head at one in the morning one night and asked for the lyrics to this song," Danzig said before the band launched into the song, which Metallica had turned into a hit both in concert and on album.
Finally, it was time for Metallica, who were given the Ronnie James Dio Lifetime Achievement Award by former winner Rob Halford. "We are grateful to be a band more than 30 years, and waiting for moments like these," they said. "We very much appreciate being recognized for all of the fun we've had over our career and to get an award for it is all the more beautiful."
"I would like to thank heavy metal for being created, goddammit!" elaborated guitarist Kirk Hammett. "Who haven't we thanked? Did we thank ourselves for stickin' with it for 30 years?" added drummer Lars Ulrich. "How about Rob Halford, for being one of the reasons we're even a band? And how about thanking Ronnie Dio? What an honor to put our name on the award everyone else has received over the year. 32 years, man."
To conclude the night, Metallica took the stage and burst into an unrepentant version of the thrash-metal classic "Disposable Heroes," from their classic 1986 album Master of Puppets. The came slower and ominous "For Whom the Bell Tolls," followed before Halford took the stage again and led the band through the mid-paced motorcycle chug of Judas Priest's "Rapid Fire," a song some credit as being a predecessor to thrash.
In a slightly anticlimactic moment, Metallica closed the evening with "Seek and Destroy" from their 1983 album Kill 'Em All. It was a record created before the band and many other metal artists' lives were plagued with tragedy: Hanneman was rocking hard, Cliff Burton was reaching for the stars, and Ronnie James Dio was still alive. So were Slipknot's Paul Gray and Deftones' Chi Cheng. In that way, maybe the song was an inadvertent statement about mortality, and a testament to the immortality of metal.
Here's a complete list of the fan-voted 2013 Revolver Golden Gods Award Winners:
• Album of the Year (presented by Orange Amplification): Deftones, Koi No Yokan
• Best Guitarist (presented by Epiphone): John 5, of Rob Zombie
• Best Drummer (presented by Drum Workshop): Arejay Hale, of Halestorm
• Best Bassist (presented by Dean Markley): Lemmy Kilmister, of Motörhead
• Best Vocalist (presented by Rockstar Energy Drink): Corey Taylor, of Slipknot and Stone Sour
• Song of the Year (presented by Affliction): Black Veil Brides, "In the End"
• Best Live Band (presented by Samson): Slipknot
• Best New Talent (presented by Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival): Device
• Most Metal Athlete (presented by Roadrunner Records): Triple H
• Comeback of the Year (presented by Eagle Rock): Tenacious D
• Most Dedicated Fans (presented by Xbox LIVE): HIM