A Devil’s Dozen – Slayer

Some bands need no introduction, and Slayer is definitely one of them. The scope of the band’s influence is nigh-on incalculable. Sufiice it to say that everyone that plays and/or listens to extreme metal owes a huge debt to Slayer, whether they know it or not. While presently tragedy and controversy threaten to overshadow the band’s music, we at Last Rites would like to remind you that Slayer is one of the greatest metal bands of all time, and here are thirteen reasons why:



[Seasons In the Abyss, 1990]

“South of Heaven” will always be the most famous of Slayer’s “slow” songs, but “Seasons in the Abyss” is a masterpiece in its own right, and perhaps the most sophisticated guitar arrangement Jeff Hanneman ever committed to tape. With clear inspiration from “Black Sabbath”, the track’s multi-layered intro exploits the elemental evil of the tri-tone to haunting effect. The trudging riff that follows is one of the best the band ever wrote, and Araya and King both contribute with some of their most memorable work in the chorus and solo respectively. Slayer will forever by synonymous with speed, but “Seasons” proves the band is far from one dimensional. [Jeremy Morse]



[South of Heaven, 1988]

Where the hell is a band supposed to go after Reign in Blood? Further South, that’s where. “Silent Scream” is a perfect follow-up to the slow-burner that is South of Heaven’s title-track, and holy shit does Dave Lombardo pound the fuck out of his skins in this song. The track actually sounds like it could have easily been a part of Reign in Blood, but the band was noticeably tighter with the release of South of Heaven, in particular the infamous back-and-forth soloing of Hanneman and King. If there was ever a song made to induce a category-5 circle pit, “Silent Scream” is it… and if the initial blast off isn’t enough, how about the fuck you from Dave as he just decides to double-bass throughout the entire second verse? The riffs here are phenomenal in every aspect, and “Silent Scream” is one of many that went on to comprise what would be the last truly classic Slayer album. [Konrad Kantor]



[Hell Awaits, 1985]

Beginning with one of the more purely malevolent harmonies on an album crammed full of them, “At Dawn They Sleep” shows Slayer at their sub-200-bpm best. The mid-paced verse and chorus provided just enough forward motion to keep the threatening aura up, while Tom Araya delivered an articulate and utterly horrifying vocal performance. The speed of the solo section is therefore that much more effective after the song’s gradual build (and the “KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL” moment doesn’t hurt either). The whole thing is also a reminder that vampires are damned creatures of the darkness that exist to prey on the blood on the weak, not glittery rejects from late-90s boy bands. [Zach Duval]



[Show No Mercy, 1983]

Although Show No Mercy doesn’t contain all of the musical qualities that went on to give Slayer its trademark sound, the monumental debut has many of its own traits that no other Slayer album has. “The Antichrist” is one of the best examples of a song that is classic Slayer… without even needing to be classic Slayer. The solos are actually congruent with the rest of the music, the song’s pacing is fast without being heart attack-inducing, and Tom’s vocal cords are actually in-tact. For some, songs like “The Antichrist” were great starter tracks from an exciting debut from what would go on to be their favorite band. For others, Show No Mercy would go down as the greatest Slayer album of all time, because of all the things that made it different. [Konrad Kantor]



[South of Heaven, 1988]

One of the best loved tracks from South of Heaven, and one that exemplifyies Slayer‘s drastic change in pace post-Reign in Blood, “Mandatory Suicide” deploys very little in the way of outright aggression. Instead, it paints a rather grisly portrait of innocent victims of war via a very simple mid-tempo beat, rarely wavering yet never diminishing. One solo, and not a very flashy one- the horrors of war don’t often come with fireworks, and this one drives the point home perfectly. And the spoken word bit as a conclusion rings very true these days- war is here, whether you like it or not. BUUUUURN. [Chris Redar]



[Show No Mercy, 1983]

“They say the pen is mightier, but fuck the pen, ‘cause you can die by the sword…” Slayer’s debut remains its most underrated effort – its hints of traditional metal influence would be left out of the band’s future thrash mastery. Still, songs like this one show clearly the blistering fury to come, with a classic speed metal intro riff that leads into a cyclical chorus riff beneath the shout-along song title, all followed by a truly mosh-worthy mid-section guaranteed to get the pits moving. “Die By The Sword” is an early classic from a band with many more to come. [Andrew Edmunds]



[Reign in Blood, 1986]

Seemingly attached as an afterthought to the more baroque “Altar Of Sacrifice”, Jesus Saves emerges as probably Jeff Hanneman’s and Kerry King’s most well thought out and direct critique of religion. Lyrically, the song is uncluttered by faux Satanic trappings, and acts as an intelligent, direct takedown of christianity. But, what makes this song really click for me is that it is one of those songs that give me that most electric feeling that we all crave when listening to heavy metal. That moment occurs at the 2:18 mark, when the main riff explodes once more as Lombardo hits his snare with rapid fire precision. The hairs on the back of my neck still stand on end every time I hear it, even after 25 years. [Dave Schalek]



[Seasons in the Abyss, 1990]

“The final swing is a not a drill / It’s how many people I can kill!” Try to listen to this track and not shout along to that line. Try to listen to this track and not move, not bang your head, not put your fist in the air with first and fourth fingers extended in the timeless display of metal joy… This is Slayer’s power, their perfected aggression, their explosive war-sport where victory is total metallic massacre. The opening number from Slayer’s last classic album, “War Ensemble” is the strafing air blood raid delivered via guitars, voice, and drums.  [Andrew Edmunds]



[Hell Awaits, 1985]

Earlier material by Bathory and Venom certainly laid the framework for what the more evil and extreme side of metal would sound like, but it wasn’t until fans laid down the needle on the opening title track of Slayer’s second album that heavy metal had truly found its terror. The long intro to “Hell Awaits” literally hits home like a descent into Satan’s neighborhood, while giving the band one of their most iconic moments. The violent and unrelenting thrashing that follows likewise plays like the endless torment that the damned would experience. In comparison to how deathly fucking serious this was, Welcome to Hell seemed almost silly. [Zach Duvall]



Haunting the Chapel, 1984

Only six months removed from Show No Mercy, the Haunting the Chapel EP found Slayer rapidly shaking off the Priest and NWOBHM influences, and well on its way toward crafting its own brand of iconic brutality. The best example of the group’s burgeoning sound is “Chemical Warfare”. Though Satan makes an appearance, “Chemical Warfare” is the first of many Slayer tracks to deal with the real-world horrors of war. Dark and starved for melody, the track is a focused and relentless onslaught of low-end thrashing. The two-word title-as chorus provides a brief but brilliant catharsis in this otherwise suffocating six minute assault. [Jeremy Morse]



[Reign in Blood, 1986]

The idea of trying to qualify the closing track of Slayer’s arguably greatest album is at the same time ridiculous and pretentious.  You’re either going to be pointing out the obvious (the ominous intro/outro, the immortal opening riff, the insanely fast instrumentation, and the ultimate spiral into complete musical chaos), or waxing intellectual about how the chord progressions, methodical picking, and thundering drums splatter the musical canvas to create a perfect picture of the apocalypse.  Whichever path you choose, you’re going to be faced with hordes of fans yelling “SLAYER!” in your face the whole time as they are absolutely enraptured by what is, for all the reasons stated above, one of metal’s signature moments. [Dave Pirtle]



[South of Heaven, 1988]

“South of Heaven,” the song, immediately announces that South of Heaven, the album, is going to be a remarkably different affair than Reign in Blood. Rather than try to out-fast some of the fastest shit ever, “South of Heaven” picks a devious groove and burrows deep, melting through soft tissue, boring through bone and marrow, slithering through soil and mantle and all the way to the center of the blighted earth and then some. Reign in Blood has already battered you senseless, so “South of Heaven” doesn’t need to impress; instead, it exults. “This is where you live now, motherfucker.” And it just goes — *all together now* — ON AND ON SOUTH OF HEAVEN! [Danhammer Obstkrieg]



[Reign in Blood, 1986]

YEEEEAAAAAHHH! You never forget the first time you hear it. Everyone knows this song. That’s the best part. A 210bpm thrash metal song about Nazi concentration camps, and it’s possibly the most well-known extreme metal song ever. Never mind that it opens up an all-time ripper of an album that destroys as much in 2013 as it did in 1986. Hanneman and King’s wild fretboard flailing sounds like torture that you want to try for yourself, while Lombardo pushes thrash drumming right to the brink. This is the sound of a band at its peak. The ultimate metal recruiting song. [Keith Ross]

Posted by Last Rites


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