The fifth annual Revolver Golden Gods Awards ceremony in Los Angeles carried an extra heavy load of brightness and dark last night, with real excitement over Metallica's headlining set counterbalanced by news of the death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Fittingly, host Chris Jericho called the night "the Antichrist of awards shows," then roared out a "Crazy Train" cackle.
The night opened in the 2,300-capacity Club Nokia with a quick, stirring set from Anthrax, including "Fight 'Em Until You Can't," with guitarist Scott Ian shouting harmony vocals alongside Joey Belladonna. They were soon joined by two former members of Pantera, singer Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown, for a version of that band's "This Love," which ended with the players ripping into the opening riff of Slayer's "Raining Blood."
"Rest in peace, Jeff Hanneman," Anselmo said as the song wound down. "We love you, man."
At the far end of the downstairs bar stood a framed photo of Hanneman, who died yesterday at 49 after a two-year struggle with flesh-eating necrotizing fasciitis. In the VIP bar lounge, Slayer's Kerry King declined to comment on the passing of his longtime thrash partner, but told Rolling Stone that he likely would in the near future.
Corey Taylor wore a Slayer T-shirt during his set with Stone Sour. Later, Ghost B.C. frontman Papa Emeritus solemnly removed his pope's headgear and asked for a moment of silence, explaining, "I'm taking my hat off for Jeff."
During the show, Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister commandeered a corner of the VIP smoking lounge as his personal dressing room, sipping Jack and Coke and smoking cigarettes. He noted that Motorhead has toured twice with Slayer. "They were good lads. The first night out, we went to a strip joint and they got into a fight amongst themselves," he said with a grin, then added, "It's a terrible way to go, that terrible disease."
A taped tribute to musicians lost during the last year also included Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and Deftones bassist Chi Cheng. Onstage afterwards, Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham said, "Heavy hearts, but goddamn, let's celebrate. I thank everybody for being happy and positive. Let's go and let's watch some bands play."
The night's first trophy went to John 5 for best guitarist. Kiss' Gene Simmons handed the Golden God statue to Rob Zombie, who noted the timing of Hanneman's death. "Tonight we're trying to have fun because that's what we do, but we're all going to fucking miss Jeff from Slayer," Zombie said. "I toured with them many times. They're all bad-ass fuckin' great guys, and this really sucks."
Tony Iommi was handed the Riff Lord award from his Black Sabbath partners Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler by satellite from Australia.
Taylor got emotional upon winning Best Vocalist, raising the statue high and hugging Disturbed singer David Draiman. "I have dedicated my life to giving you everything I've fucking got," Taylor said to cheers. "This means more to me than anything."
Best Comeback was awarded to Tenacious D in a category filled with big names. "It doesn't mean we're better than Aerosmith," said Jack Black as he and Kyle Gass accepted the statue. "It doesn't mean we're better than Soundgarden. It just means we're better at rockin' right now."
Live performances were the high point of the night, including a set by Five Finger Death Punch that featured appearances by Rob Halford (in a black minister's suit) and Rob Zombie for "Thunderkiss '65." Draiman joined Halestorm were joined for some fiery classic hard rock on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."
Minutes before taking the stage for a muscular but achingly brief four-song set, Metallica were given the Ronnie James Dio Lifetime Achievement Award. Soon the band erupted as always, playing "Disposable Heroes," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Seek and Destroy" and Judas Priest's "Rapid Fire," with Halford on guest vocals.
"It's beautiful, ain't it?" said singer-guitarist James Hetfield. "We're grateful to be a band more than 30 years and waiting for moments like these, man. We very much appreciate being recognized for all of the fun that we've had over our careers."
The three-and-a-half hour show was broadcast and streamed live on AXS TV, Xbox Live and Revolver's Facebook page, reaching metal fans worldwide. Even for some grizzled metal vets, it was a welcome direct line to the metal masses. Before diving into the hooks and muscle of "Mother," Glenn Danzig said half-seriously, "I think the last time we were on TV was in 1994."