- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When original Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman died in 2013, his temporary replacement, Gary Holt, became the thrash metal band’s axman full-time. Mr. Holt maintains that stepping into Hanneman’s shoes is both a point of honor and a delicate walk to please the fans who have been with the band since they first broke out alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax in the early ‘80s as the so-called “Big Four.”

“Slayer’s always going to be Slayer, and Jeff is always going to be there whether he’s gone or not,” Mr. Holt told The Washington Times. “He’s such a huge part of Slayer, and I try to carry his spirit every time we go on stage and … just bring as much energy to the show as I can.”

Mr. Holt and his bandmates will bring their heavy shredding to The Fillmore Silver Spring Saturday evening as part of their ongoing Repentless tour, named in honor of their most recent record. In keeping with the band’s previous output, the album contains such speedy cuts as “Chasing Death,” “Delusions of Saviour” and “Cast the First Stone.”

Slayer has come under fire from concerned parents for years as their songs deal with such unsavory concepts as mass murder, cults, terrorism, religion and various other eyebrow-raising subjects. The band was even sued in 1996 by the parents of a young woman who was murdered by men allegedly inspired by Slayer’s music, but the suit was eventually dismissed on First Amendment grounds.

Mr. Holt, who counts Angus Young, Ted Nugent and Eddie Van Halen among his idols, played with Exodus before joining Slayer three years ago. While no longer quite a young man, Mr. Holt, 51, says that slowing down just because the years have crept up on he and his bandmates is simply not an option.

“We bring it as well as anybody half our age or better,” he said. “I personally feel like I bang my head harder than anybody in metal. I might have back problems to show for it, which I do.”

Practice, he maintains, is key to a musician’s success at any age.

“When you’re a kid, even as a band, you practice five, six days a week because that’s all you wanted to do in life,” he said. “Now sometimes you have to make yourself pick up that guitar and practice.”

Mr. Holt says his pre-show routine typically involves copious amounts of ibuprofen and the occasional epidural for his back problems.

And beer.

“Before I get up onstage, I have a bite to eat, I drink two beers,” the guitarist said with a laugh.

However, with age has come a more responsible attitude toward alcohol. Mr. Holt says he now eschews shots and sticks to beer.

But despite his age, Mr. Holt says he would tell anyone who says he’s too old to rock that they are simply in the wrong.

“It’s the only thing I know how to do and I love doing it,” Mr. Holt said of guitar-playing. I’m going to go out there and bang as hard as I can.”

In addition to hard rock, Mr. Holt’s personal music catalog entails classic rock as well as all of Prince’s output.

When not thrashing out on the road, Mr. Holt enjoys spending time at home with his family and, somewhat surprising for someone in his genre of music, gardening.

“I have a pepper garden, but that’s just an excuse for me to get outside and drink beer,” he said.

Mr. Holt said he has no plans to stop rocking out anytime soon, saying playing guitar is his one and only viable job skill.

“I’ll hang up my guitar when I feel like I can’t,” he said.

When asked what District fans can expect when the band comes to the Fillmore Sunday evening, Mr. Holt said: “They can expect Slayer in all their satanic glory.”

Slayer plays with Testament and Carcass at The Fillmore Silver Spring Sunday, with doors at 7:30. Tickets are $49.50 by going to LiveNation.com.

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