SLAYER (1981–PRESENT). Tom Araya (vocals/bass), Kerry King (guitar), Jeff Hanneman (guitar), Dave Lombardo (drums, replaced by Paul Bostaph, John Dette, Lombardo again).
Slayer are one of the key bands of the thrash metal scene and have been considered by some critics to be categorized in either the black or death metal scenes as well. Slayer are certainly one of the more ferocious and dark bands of the eighties and their music’s obsession with death, darkness, the satanic, and evil made them both a lightning rod for controversy and one of the most popular metal bands of the last three decades.
The band started in the early eighties and quickly established themselves as one of the most macabre metal bands around with their first two records, Show No Mercy and the even darker Haunting the Chapel, in which they established new standards for American crossover metal with punk influences and an obsession with the occult. The third record, Hell Awaits, was among the most brutal albums recorded at that time, and the band’s recording of “Necrophiliac,” about sex with the dead, was a bloody proto-death metal song (arguably, Slayer could be classified as both death and black metal).
The original classic Slayer lineup of guitarist Kerry King, bassist and singer Tom Araya, guitarist Jeff Hanneman, and drummer Dave Lombardo were among the fastest and most punk-influenced of all the thrash metal titans. Their records were alternately brutal and uncompromising, especially Haunting the Chapel and Reign in Blood, which may contain the most brutal songs in metal history. Chuck Klosterman, the rock critic and metal expert, recalls watching a Slayer show when the band played “Reign in Blood” and a member of the crowd inexplicably punched someone next to him, overcome by the sheer brutality of the music.
Slayer slowed down slightly in South of Heaven, which was a worthy successor to the first few records, and soon saw mainstream success with the next few albums. Slayer also paid tribute to the punk bands that had inspired their early sound on the Undisputed Attitude album in 1996.
With the record industry declining in sales overall during the past decade, Slayer decided to ally themselves with the enemy (no, not Christianity) in 2006, when they announced a partnership with popular mall-punk and light-metal store Ho Topic. With the release of their Christ Illusion album in 2006, Slayer allowed the store to sell copies of the record, which landed on number 5 on the Billboard charts, largely due to Hot Topic’s promotional pull and the band’s in-store appearances in various malls.
Despite having to work harder to get the younger kids into the raw mayhem that is Slayer, the band also remained constantly on the road, introducing new, younger fans into some of the hardest and heaviest music possible.
Discography: Show No Mercy (Metal Blade, 1983); Haunting the Chapel (Metal Blade, 1984); Hell Awaits (Metal Blade, 1985); Live Undead (Metal Blade, 1985); Reign in Blood (Def Jam, 1986); South of Heaven (Def Jam, 1988); Seasons in the Abyss (Def American, 1990); Live: Decade of Aggression (Def American, 1991); Divine Intervention (American, 1994); Undisputed Attitude (American, 1996); Diabolus in Musica (American/Columbia, 1998); God Hates Us All (American, 2001); Christ Illusion (American, 2006); World Painted Blood (American/Sony Music, 2009).