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Still Evil After All These Years: Bidding Farewell With 10 Of The Best From Thrash Idols Slayer

Wednesday, 07 November 2018 Written by Jon Stickler

Photo: Gene Ambo

When it was announced back in January that Slayer would pack it in after one final world tour, metalheads across the globe lost the plot for a little while as anticipation swelled ahead of a historic send off. The most evil band of all time are currently packing out arenas in the UK and Ireland, providing a thrash metal experience like no other group can thanks to their ferocious reputation, a stack of crushing guitar riffs, breakneck tempo changes and Tom Araya’s grizzled vocals.

The LA quartet recently oversaw five hours of ferocity in Cardiff on Guy Fawkes Night, bringing death metal pioneers Obituary, fellow Big Four thrashers Anthrax and Virginia groove-metal heavyweights Lamb of God out on the road with them. In reality, though, it was all about Slayer bowing out.

Opening with Delusions of Saviour, complete with spinning inverted crosses and pentagram projections, the stage curtain dropped as the legendary band fired into Repentless, the title track of their 12th, and possibly final album, before hammering home a barrage of classics that left no doubt about their continued potency. Mandatory Suicide, War Ensemble, Black Magic and Dead Skin Mask contributed to one of the most brutally aggressive evenings you’d ever hope to experience.

All the tunes. All the riffs. All the fire. Without a hint of exaggeration, Slayer used more pyro during Hell Awaits than most other metal bands could hope to spew forth in the course of a few years. Bonfire night, indeed.

Before their next assault comes around, we got to thinking about a near impossible task: whittling a list of the most vicious, vein-bursting songs that have kept Slayer’s unfuckwithable thrash flag flying high for over 35 years. So, without further ado...SLAAYYYEERRRRRR!

10. Jesus Saves - ‘Reign In Blood’ (1986)

Written by Slayer co-founders Kerry King and the late Jeff Hanneman, authors of many of the band’s ungodly odes, Jesus Saves is one of the fastest tracks (an achievement in itself) on their seminal third record and lyrically is fuelled by King’s contempt for Christianity. Clocking in at just under three minutes of neck-snapping savagery, the track roars into life without any break following Altar of Sacrifice. A big nasty fuck you to righteousness. 

9. Disciple - ‘God Hates Us All’ (2001)

Do you sometimes feel like your allegiance with Satan is wavering? A quick blast of Disciple should sort that out. The song’s “God hates us all” refrain inspired their ninth LP’s title, while its fusion of speed and aggression quickly made it a modern favourite, opening the band’s live show for a period around the release.  

8. Black Magic - ‘Show No Mercy’ (1983)

This first full length features Slayer at their most raw. It’s an early look at how they evolved into the world’s heaviest band, shifting from influences drawn from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal into a more dark and disturbing beast. The track introduces the tandem riffing between Hanneman and King and boasts an equally unbridled display from drummer Dave Lombardo. Sure, there was double bass drumming before 1983 but this guy pretty much wrote the handbook.

7. Dead Skin Mask - ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ (1990)

Although known for their lightning fast sound, Slayer loosened up the reins slightly in this unsettling tale about Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, the guy who inspired the Leatherface character from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, Psycho’s Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill, the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs. Hinging on a truly haunting riff, down-tempo chords and a double-kick fed chorus, Araya puts us inside the disturbed mind of the killer.

6. Hell Awaits - ‘Hell Awaits’ (1985)

Slayer’s second album is a prime example of how they’re able to conjure up some really sinister shit. More gritty and hellish than ‘Show No Mercy’ and regarded by many as a less offensive little brother of the following year’s game-changing ‘Reign In Blood’, the chaotic riffing on its title track, paired with Araya’s feral bark, is the blueprint for death metal. After 30 years of playing this song, it’s surprising they still have fingers.

5. War Ensemble - ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ (1990) 

They know how to open a record well, right? The third Slayer LP produced by Rick Rubin stands as almost a hybrid of the speed and barbarity on ‘Reign In Blood’ and the slower, more atmospheric songs on ‘South of Heaven’. Written at the end of the Cold War, when the world was facing changes within its political and social climates, metal was also undergoing a radical shift. Terming war as a machine of death, the punishing double-bass and twin attack of King and Hanneman’s riffing is a volatile, take-no-prisoners tirade. Still a staple of their live show decades after the release.

4. South of Heaven - ‘South of Heaven’ (1988)

It’s ridiculous that Slayer were able to cram so many iconic riffs into three of their most sinister, hook-laden and timeless releases. The band’s fourth LP arrived as something of a shock to those who were waiting for another 30 minutes of the sonic equivalent to having your skull caved in. While many were expecting the band to pick up where ‘Reign In Blood’ left off, Slayer oozed evil at a crawling, doomy pace on ‘South of Heaven’. Its title track’s Sabbathesque plod set a haunting, atmospheric tone that hangs over the album like a mist off a horror paperback’s cover. There are, of course, plenty of warp-speed thrashers to be heard but by now Slayer had recognised that pure pace wasn’t required to make their songs cutting edge.  

3. Seasons in the Abyss - ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ (1990) 

Again, as is with much of Slayer’s discography, the title track of their fifth full length is a pretty good indicator for the rest of its runtime. As mentioned above, the album saw the SoCal quartet explore a middle ground between their thrashy sound they’re synonymous with and mid-tempo chugging. Not so much of a one-trick act, after all. 

2. Raining Blood - ‘Reign In Blood’ (1986) 

Over 30 years later, the greatest thrash riff of all time still remains a benchmark in menacing guitar work. The climax of the band’s breakthrough album, it remains the pinnacle of atmospherically evil thrash and a track that generations of metalheads have discovered and are still blown away by.

1. Angel of Death - ‘Reign In Blood’ (1986) 

The dark and disturbing lyrics make the opening track of ‘Reign in Blood’ the subject of controversy, even 30 years after its release, because Hanneman wrote them about Nazi physician Josef Mengele. By the time Araya let out his last scream, the face of heavy music had changed forever: Slayer had essentially helped create extreme metal in one fell swoop. The song propelled them into the big time and it has ended their live set since 1988, the same year hip-hop legends Public Enemy used the track’s iconic riff as the base for She Watch Channel Zero?!, from their classic LP ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’.

Slayer Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed November 07 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Arena Birmingham
Fri November 09 2018 - MANCHESTER Arena
Sat November 10 2018 - NEWCASTLE Metro Radio Arena
Mon November 12 2018 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro

Click here to compare & buy Slayer Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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