Genre: Thrash Metal
Origin: United States
Slayer was one of the most distinctive, influential, and extreme thrash metal bands of the 1980s. Their graphic lyrics deal with everything from death and dismemberment to war and the horrors of hell. Their full-throttle velocity, wildly chaotic guitar solos, and powerful musical chops paint an effectively chilling sonic background for their obsessive chronicling of the dark side; this correspondence has helped Slayer's music hold up arguably better than the remaining big three '80s thrash outfits (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax). Naturally, Slayer has stirred up quite a bit of controversy over the years, with rumors flying about satanism and nazism that have only added to their mystique.
Over the years, Slayer put out some high-quality albums, one undisputed classic (Reign In Blood), and saw the numbers of naysayers and detractors shrinking as their impact on the growing death metal movement was gradually and respectfully acknowledged. Slayer survived into the 1990s with arguably the most vitality and the least compromise of any pre-Nirvana metal band, and their intensity still inspires similar responses from their devoted fans.
Slayer was formed in 1982 in Huntington Beach, CA, by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, also recruited were bassist/vocalist Tom Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo. The band started out playing covers of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden songs, but quickly discovered that they could get attention by exploiting threatening, satanic imagery. The band was invited by Metal Blade's Brian Slagel to contribute a track to the Metal Massacre Vol. III compilation (a series that also saw the vinyl debuts of Metallica and Voivod) a contract and debut album, Show No Mercy, followed shortly thereafter.
While Slayer's early approach was rather cartoonish, their breakneck speed and instrumental prowess were still highly evident. Two EPs, Haunting The Chapel and Live Undead, were released in 1984, but 1985's Hell Awaits refined their lyrical obsessions into a sort of concept album about damnation and torture and made an immediate sensation in heavy metal circles, winning Slayer a rabid cult following.
Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin took a liking to the band, signed them to his label, and contributed the first clear-sounding production heard on any Slayer album for the stripped-down Reign In Blood. Due to the graphic nature of the material, CBS refused to distribute the album, which garnered a great deal of publicity for the band; eventually, Geffen Records stepped in. Combining Slayer's trademark speed metal with the tempos and song lengths (if not structures) of hardcore, along with the band's most disturbing lyrics yet, Reign In Blood was an instant classic, breaking the band through to a wider audience, and was hailed by some as the greatest speed metal album of all time (some give the nod to Metallica's Master Of Puppets).
South Of Heaven disappointed some of the band's hardcore followers, as Slayer successfully broke out of the potential stylistic straitjacket of their reputation as the world's fastest, most extreme band. Drummer Lombardo took some time off and was briefly replaced by Whiplash drummer Tony Scaglione, but soon returned to the fold.
1990's Seasons In The Abyss was well received in all respects, incorporating more of the classic Slayer intensity into a more commercial, but no less uncompromising sound. "War Ensemble" and the title track became favorites on MTV's Headbanger's Ball, and Slayer consolidated their position at the forefront of thrash, along with Metallica. Following the release of the double live album Decade Of Aggression, Lombardo left the band for good due to personality conflicts with the other members and formed Grip Inc.
Slayer remained quiet for a few years; the only new material released after 1990 was a duet with Ice-T recorded for the Judgment Night soundtrack on a medley of songs by The Exploited.
After leaving the Forbidden, Paul Bostaph signed on as the new drummer for 1994's Divine Intervention, which was released to glowing reviews; thanks to the new death metal movement, which drew upon Slayer and particularly Reign In Blood for its inspiration, Slayer was hailed as a metal innovator. The album was a massive success, debuting at number eight on the Billboard album charts.
Bostaph left the band to concentrate on a side project, the Truth About Seafood, and was replaced by ex-Testament drummer Jon Dette for Undisputed Attitude, an album consisting mostly of punk and hardcore covers. Bostaph rejoined Slayer in time to record 1998's Diabolus In Musica. The band reunited with Def Jam for 2001's God Hates Us All.
In 2002 Bostaph dropped out and was replaced by Dave Lombardo, completing the original lineup of 1982. In 2004, they unleashed the four-disc anthology Soundtrack To The Apocalypse, followed by an album of all-new material, Christ Illusion, in 2006. After a relentless tour and festival schedule in 2007 and 2008, Slayer emerged from the studio with World Painted Blood in 2009.
In 2010 Slayer appeared with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax, on Big 4: Live From Sofia, Bulgaria.
Nine studio albums, thousands of live shows and nearly three decades into a career that's made them one of the biggest and most important metal bands in the world, the members of Slayer know exactly what kind of music they make - brutal but beautiful, punishing yet precise. A fresh Slayer record is a thing of terror but also one of trust: You can depend on what you're getting - even if you're unprepared for it.
As guitarist Jeff Hanneman says with a sly little chuckle, "At this point I think a Slayer album pretty much speaks for itself."
And yet there are some interesting things you should be made aware of regarding World Painted Blood, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2006's Christ Illusion, which debuted inside the Top 5 of Billboard's album chart, a career best for Slayer. Let's start with the fact that its fury, believe it or not, was born out of fun.
"The interaction between all of us on this record was really something special," says Hanneman of his work with the band's three other founding members: singer-bassist Tom Araya, guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. "Rather than trying to get something done," Hanneman continues, "it felt like we were just having a good time. We were discussing things, giving things a go. The prevailing attitude was, 'Let's try it!' It wasn't even work, really - it was play."
For the first time ever, Slayer entered the studio - in this case, The Pass, in Los Angeles - without an entire album's worth of material already written and rehearsed. They'd booked a preliminary chunk of studio time in October 2008 to see how they liked working with producer Greg Fidelman, who'd been recommended to the band by their longtime pal Rick Rubin after the two worked together on Metallica's Death Magnetic. "While we were in there recording the couple of songs we had, things were just really clicking with Greg," says Araya. "So we thought, 'Why don't we try to write the rest of the record in the studio?' We weren't sure what was gonna happen; we just kind of did it, and the music kept on coming."
Not only did it keep on coming - first during that initial session, then in a second period of work stretching from January to March 2009 - but it came in a way it hadn't before, driven by a new degree of collaboration. For Slayer's last several albums, Hanneman would write his songs, King would write his, then the two guitarists would bring their separate material into the studio, where the band would put it to tape. "This time," says King, "everyone was talking about what we were doing. Everyone had a say and was involved - like, 'Maybe we should go faster here or stop there or whatever.' It was cool."
Hanneman is succinct when asked how or why this cooperative spirit took root. "I have no fucking idea," he admits. "The chemistry was just good." The guitarist does note that Slayer "weren't rushed, and that makes a lot of difference with the music. I don't like being rushed, and on this record we had plenty of time."
You can hear the effects of that creative freedom throughout World Painted Blood, which Lombardo says fits in with such classic Slayer slabs as Reign In Blood and Seasons In The Abyss. "The rhythm riffs on this one make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up," says the drummer, who describes his determination to make his parts sound human and natural, rather than like the product of a machine. "It does it for me the same way those older records did." King agrees: "I think it has kind of a retro vibe to it," he says. "It sounds like the stuff we wrote in the '80s."
Did this renewed enthusiasm brighten Slayer's worldview? Not exactly. "We have a tendency to follow a theme, and I think on this record the theme is more apocalyptic than usual," says Araya, pointing to songs like the title track, a meditation on what the year 2012 has in store for humanity, and "Public Display Of Dismemberment," which King says is about whether or not certain "vulgar but effective" law-enforcement measures might work as well in America as they have elsewhere. "That's kind of the running concept here," Araya adds, "but aside from that it's the usual Slayer topics of death, murder and serial killers."
Usual, perhaps, but far from ordinary, World Painted Blood is one of Slayer's most impressive efforts yet - a vicious, uncompromising look at what's broken in our society and how frighteningly powerless we are to fix it. King says World Painted Blood is "more well-rounded than the last couple of albums." Lombardo calls it "a speed metal record with emotion." Anyone with ears will think it's an accomplishment of a major kind.
- Show No Mercy (1983)
- Hell Awaits (1985)
- Reign in Blood (1986)
- South of Heaven (1988)
- Seasons in the Abyss (1990)
- Divine Intervention (1994)
- Undisputed Attitude (1996)
- Diabolus in Musica (1998)
- God Hates Us All (2001)
- Christ Illusion (2006)
- World Painted Blood (2009)
- Repentless (2015)
- Haunting the Chapel (1984)
- Serenity in Murder (1995)
- Stain of Mind (1998)
- Postmortem (1986)
- Raining Blood (1986)
- Criminally Insane (1987)
- Seasons in the Abyss (1990)
- Live Intrusion (1995)
- I Hate You (1996)
- God Send Death (2001)
- Eternal Pyre (2006)
- Cult (2006)
- Eyes of the Insane (2006)
- Psychopathy Red (2009)
- Hate Worldwide (2009)
- World Painted Blood (2009)
- World Painted Blood / Atrocity Vendor (2010)
- Implode (2014)
- When the Stillness Comes (2015)
- Repentless (2015)
- You Against You (2015)
- The Tour '95 (1994)
- Abolish Government (1996)
- Live Intrusion (1995)
- War at the Warfield (2003)
- Still Reigning (2004)
- Exclusive Members Only DVD (2010)
- Combat Tour Live: The Ultimate Revenge (19850
- The Unholy Alliance (2007)
- The Big 4: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria (2010)
- Übernoise (1998)
- Soundtrack to the Apocalypse (2003)
- The Vinyl Conflict (2010)
- Live Undead (1984)
- Decade of Aggression (1991)
Kerry King - Guitars (1981-present)
Tom Araya - Vocals, Bass (1982-present)
Paul Bostaph - Drums (1992-1996, 1997-2001, 2013-present)
Jeff Hanneman - Guitars (1981-2013)
Dave Lombardo - Drums (1982-1986, 1987-1992, 2001-2013)