|Origin||Huntington Park, California, U.S.|
Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California, formed in 1981 by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. Slayer rose to fame with its 1986 release Reign in Blood, and is credited as one of the "big four" thrash metal bands, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Between 1991 and 2013, the band sold 4.9 million albums in the United States.
Slayer's musical style involves fast tremolo picking, double bass drumming, riffs in irregular scales and shouted vocals. In the original line-up, King, Hanneman, and lead vocalist/bassist Tom Araya contributed to the band's lyrics, and most of the band's music was written by King and Hanneman, with additional help from Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo. The band's lyrics and album art, which cover topics such as serial killers, necrophilia, Satanism, religion, anti-religion, Nazism, and warfare, have generated album bans, delays, lawsuits, and criticism from religious groups and the public. However, its music has been highly influential, often being cited by many bands as an influence musically, visually, and lyrically.
Since its debut album in 1983, the band has released twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six music videos, two extended plays and a cover album. Four of the band's studio albums have received gold certification in the United States. The band has received five Grammy nominations, winning one in 2007 for the song Eyes of the Insane, and one in 2008 for the song "Final Six" (both from 2006's Christ Illusion). Slayer has also played at several music festivals worldwide, including Unholy Alliance, Download and Ozzfest.
- Early years (1981–1983) 1.1
- Show No Mercy, Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits (1983–1986) 1.2
- Reign in Blood (1986–1987) 1.3
- South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss (1988–1993) 1.4
- Divine Intervention and Undisputed Attitude (1994–1997) 1.5
- Diabolus in Musica (1998–2000) 1.6
- God Hates Us All (2001–2005) 1.7
- Christ Illusion (2006–2008) 1.8
- World Painted Blood (2009–2011) 1.9
- Death of Jeff Hanneman and Repentless (2011–present) 1.10
- Writing and style 2
- Legacy 3
- Controversy 4
Band members 5
- Timeline 5.1
- Discography 6
Awards and nominations 7
- Grammy Awards 7.1
- Kerrang! Awards 7.2
- Metal Edge Readers' Choice Awards 7.3
- Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards 7.4
- Bibliography 8
- Footnotes 9
- References 10
- External links 11
Early years (1981–1983)
Slayer was founded in 1981, when guitarist Kerry King met drummer Dave Lombardo. Upon meeting, the two quickly discovered they had similar taste in music and in their aspirations. Kerry soon introduced guitarist Jeff Hanneman and recruited Chilean-born bassist and vocalist Tom Araya, who had played with King before in the band Quits (previously known as Tradewinds). The band played cover versions of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs at clubs and parties in Southern California. Early shows relied on a Satanic image, which featured pentagrams, make-up, spikes, and inverted crosses. Rumors that the band was originally known as Dragonslayer, after the 1981 movie of the same name, were denied by King, as he stated: "We never were; it's a myth to this day."
The band was invited to open for Bitch at the Woodstock Club in Anaheim, California, performing eight songs, six of which were covers. While playing Iron Maiden's "Phantom of the Opera" the band was spotted by Brian Slagel, a former music journalist who had, at the time, recently founded the label Metal Blade Records. Impressed with Slayer, he met with the band backstage and asked them to record an original song, "Aggressive Perfector", for his upcoming Metal Massacre III compilation. The band agreed and the song created underground buzz, which led to Slagel offering the band a recording contract with Metal Blade.
Show No Mercy, Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits (1983–1986)
Without a recording budget, the band was forced to self-finance its debut album. Combining the savings of Araya, who was employed as a respiratory therapist, and money borrowed from King's father, the band entered the studio in November 1983. The album was rushed into release, hitting shelves three weeks after tracks were completed. Show No Mercy, released in December 1983 by Metal Blade Records, generated underground popularity for the band, and the group began its first national club tour in 1984 to promote the album traveling in Tom Araya's Camaro towing a U-Haul trailer. The tour gave the band additional popularity; sales of Show No Mercy reached more than 20,000 in the US and another 20,000 worldwide.
In August 1984, Slayer released a three song EP titled Haunting the Chapel. The EP featured a darker, more thrash-oriented style than its predecessor, and laid the groundwork for the future direction of the band. The opening track, "Chemical Warfare", has become a live staple, played at nearly every show since 1984. After the release of Haunting the Chapel, Slayer made its live European debut at the Heavy Sound Festival in Belgium opening for UFO, returning to the US to begin the Haunting The West Coast tour.
Following the tour, King joined Dave Mustaine's new band Megadeth. Hanneman was worried about King's decision, stating in an interview, "I guess we're gonna get a new guitar player." While Mustaine wanted King to stay on a permanent basis, King left after five shows, stating Mustaine's band was "taking too much of my time". The split caused a rift between King and Mustaine, which evolved into a long running feud between the two bands. Following King's return, the band embarked on the 1984 Combat Tour, with Venom and Exodus, and released a live album titled Live Undead in November.
"Hell Awaits" features a backwards recording of a demonic voice saying "join us" and "welcome back".
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Slayer released its first live home video in 1985, dubbed Combat Tour: The Ultimate Revenge. The video featured live footage filmed at New York's Studio 54 club, on the band's 1984 tour with Venom and Exodus. By early 1985, Show No Mercy had sold over 40,000 copies, which led to the band returning to the studio to record a second full-length album. Metal Blade financed a recording budget, which allowed the band to hire producer Ron Fair.
Released in September 1985, Slayer's second full-length release Hell Awaits expanded on the darkness of Haunting the Chapel, with hell and Satan as common song subjects. The album was the band's most progressive offering, featuring longer and more complex song structures. The intro of the title track is a backwards recording of a demonic-sounding voice repeating "Join us", ending with "Welcome back" before the track begins. The album was a hit, with fans choosing Slayer for best band, best live band, Hell Awaits as 1985's best album, and Dave Lombardo as best drummer in the British magazine Metal Forces' 1985 Readers Poll.
Reign in Blood (1986–1987)
Following the success of Hell Awaits, Slayer was offered a recording contract with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin's newly founded Def Jam Records, a largely hip hop-based label. The band accepted and with an experienced producer and major label recording budget, the band underwent a sonic makeover resulting in shorter, faster songs with clearer production. Gone were the complex arrangements and long songs featured on Hell Awaits, ditched in favor of stripped down, hardcore punk influenced song structures.
Def Jam's distributor, Columbia Records, refused to release the album Reign in Blood due to its graphic cover art and themes. For example, "Angel of Death" detailed Holocaust concentration camps and the human experiments conducted by Nazi physician Josef Mengele. The album was distributed by Geffen Records on October 7, 1986. However, due to the controversy, Reign in Blood did not appear on Geffen Records' release schedule. Although the album received virtually no radio airplay, it became the band's first to enter the Billboard 200, debuting at number 94, and the band's first album certified gold in the United States.
In October 1986, Slayer embarked on the Reign in Pain world tour, with Overkill in the US, and Malice in Europe. The band was added as the opening act on W.A.S.P.'s US tour, but just one month in, drummer Lombardo left the band: "I wasn't making any money. I figured if we were gonna be doing this professionally, on a major label, I wanted my rent and utilities paid." To continue with the tour, Slayer enlisted Tony Scaglione of Whiplash. However, Lombardo was convinced by his wife to return in 1987. At the insistence of Rubin, Slayer recorded a cover version of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" for the film Less Than Zero. Although the band was not happy with the final product, Hanneman deeming it "a poor representation of Slayer" and King labeling it "a hunk of shit", it was one of their first songs to garner radio airplay.
South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss (1988–1993)
Slayer returned to the studio to record their fourth studio album. To contrast the speed of Reign in Blood, the band consciously decided to slow down the tempos, and incorporate more melodic singing. According to Hanneman, "We knew we couldn't top Reign in Blood, so we had to slow down. We knew whatever we did was gonna be compared to that album, and I remember we actually discussed slowing down. It was weird—we've never done that on an album, before or since."
1988's South of Heaven received mixed responses from both fans and critics, although it was Slayer's most commercially successful release at the time, debuting at number 57 on the Billboard 200, and the second album to receive gold certification in the United States. Press response to the album was mixed, with AllMusic citing the album as "disturbing and powerful", and Kim Nelly of Rolling Stone calling it "genuinely offensive satanic drivel". King said "that album was my most lackluster performance", although Araya called it a "late bloomer" which eventually grew on people.
Slayer returned to the studio with co-producer Andy Wallace in 1989, to record its fifth studio album. Following the backlash created by South of Heaven, Slayer returned to the "pounding speed of Reign in Blood, while retaining their newfound melodic sense". Seasons in the Abyss, released on October 25, 1990, was the first Slayer album to be released under Rubin's new Def American label, as he parted ways with Def Jam owner Russell Simmons over creative differences. The album debuted at number 44 on the Billboard 200, and was certified gold in 1992. The album spawned Slayer's first music video, which was filmed in front of the Giza pyramids in Egypt.
Slayer returned as a live act in September 1990 to co-headline the European Clash of the Titans tour with Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, and Testament. During the sold out European leg of this tour tickets fetched up to 1,000 Deutschmark ($680 USD) on the black market. With the popularity of American thrash at its peak, the tour was extended to the US beginning in May 1991, with Megadeth, Anthrax and opening act Alice in Chains. The band released a double live album, Decade of Aggression in 1991, to celebrate ten years. The compilation debuted at number 55 on the Billboard 200.
In May 1992, Lombardo quit the band due to conflicts with other members, as well as his desire to be off tour for the birth of his first child. Lombardo formed his own band Grip Inc, with Voodoocult guitarist Waldemar Sorychta, and Slayer recruited former Forbidden drummer Paul Bostaph to take his place. Slayer made its debut appearance with Bostaph at the 1992 Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington. Bostaph's first studio effort was a medley of three Exploited songs, "War", "UK '82", and "Disorder", with rapper Ice-T, for the Judgment Night movie soundtrack in 1993.
Divine Intervention and Undisputed Attitude (1994–1997)
"SS-3" is about Reinhard Heydrich, an architect of the Holocaust. SS-3 refers to the license plate number of the car in which he was killed.
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In 1994, Slayer released Divine Intervention, the band's first record with drummer Bostaph. The record became the band's highest charting at that time, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard 200, and was eventually certified gold. The album featured songs about Reinhard Heydrich, an architect of the Holocaust, and Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer and sex offender. Other themes included murder, the evils of church, and the lengths to which governments will go to wield power, Araya's interest in serial killers inspired much of the content of the lyrics.
Slayer geared up for a world tour in 1995, with openers Biohazard and Machine Head. A video of concert footage, Live Intrusion was released, featuring a joint cover of Venom's "Witching Hour" with Machine Head. Following the tour, Slayer were billed third at the 1995 Monsters of Rock festival, headlined by Metallica. In 1996, Undisputed Attitude, an album of punk covers, was released. The band covered songs by Minor Threat, T.S.O.L., D.R.I., D.I., Verbal Abuse, Dr. Know and The Stooges. The album featured three original tracks, "Gemini", "Can't Stand You", "Ddamm"; the latter two were written by Hanneman in 1984–1985 for a side project entitled Pap Smear. Bostaph left Slayer shortly after the album's recording to work on his own project, Truth About Seafood. With Bostaph's departure, Slayer recruited Testament drummer Jon Dette, and headlined the 1996 Ozzfest alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Danzig, Biohazard, Sepultura, and Fear Factory. Dette was fired after a year, due to a fallout with band members; Bostaph returned to continue the tour.
Diabolus in Musica (1998–2000)
Diabolus in Musica (Latin for "The Devil in Music") was released in 1998, and debuted at number 31 on the Billboard 200, selling over 46,000 copies in its first week. The album received a mixed critical reception and was criticized for adopting characteristics of nu metal music such as tuned down guitars, murky chord structures, and churning beats. Blabbermouth.net reviewer Borijov Krgin described the album as "a feeble attempt at incorporating updated elements into the group's sound, the presence of which elevated the band's efforts somewhat and offered hope that Slayer could refrain from endlessly rehashing their previous material for their future output", while Ben Ratliff of The New York Times had similar sentiments, writing on June 22, 1998 that: "Eight of the 11 songs on Diabolus in Musica, a few of which were played at the show, are in the same gray key, and the band's rhythmic ideas have a wearying sameness too."
The album was the band's first to primarily feature dropped tuning, as featured on the lead track, "Bitter Peace", making use of the tritone interval referred to in the Middle Ages as the Devil's interval. Slayer teamed up with digital hardcore group Atari Teenage Riot to record a song for the Spawn soundtrack titled "No Remorse (I Wanna Die)". The band paid tribute to Black Sabbath by recording a cover of "Hand of Doom" for the second of two tribute albums, titled Nativity in Black II. A world tour followed to support the new album, with Slayer making an appearance at the United Kingdom Ozzfest 1998 alongside Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Foo Fighters, Pantera, Soulfly, Fear Factory, and Therapy?.
God Hates Us All (2001–2005)
After delays regarding remixing and artwork, including slip covers created to cover the original artwork as it was deemed "too graphic", God Hates Us All was released on September 11, 2001. The band received its first Grammy nomination for the lead track "Disciple", although the Grammy was awarded to Tool, for "Schism". The September 11 attacks on America jeopardized the 2001 European tour Tattoo the Planet originally set to feature Pantera, Static-X, Biohazard and Vision of Disorder. Dates were canceled or postponed due to flight restrictions, with a majority of bands deciding to withdraw, leaving Slayer and Static X remaining for the European leg of the tour.
Pantera, Vision of Disorder and Biohazard were replaced by Cradle of Filth and other bands dependent on location; Amorphis, In Flames, Moonspell, Children of Bodom, and Necrodeath. The Birmingham, England date on the tour only featured Slayer, Biohazard, Cradle of Filth and Raging Speedhorn due to Static X pulling out over previous commitments, instead playing their scheduled dates in Germany. Drummer Bostaph left Slayer before Christmas in 2001, due to a chronic elbow injury which would hinder his ability to play. Slayer's "God Hates Us All" tour was unfinished so King contacted original drummer Lombardo, and asked if he would like to finish the remainder of the tour. Lombardo accepted the offer, and stayed as a permanent member.
Slayer toured playing Reign in Blood in its entirety throughout the fall of 2003, under the tour banner "Still Reigning". Their playing of the final song "Raining Blood" culminated with the band drenched in a rain of stage blood. Live footage of this was recorded at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine, on July 11, 2004 and released on the 2004 DVD Still Reigning. The band also released War at the Warfield and a box set, Soundtrack to the Apocalypse featuring rarities, live CD and DVD performances and various Slayer merchandise. From 2002 to 2004 the band performed over 250 tour dates, headlining major music festivals including H82k2, Summer tour, Ozzfest 2004 and a European tour with Slipknot. While preparing for the Download Festival in England, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich was rushed to hospital with a mysterious illness, and was unable to perform. Metallica vocalist James Hetfield searched for volunteers at the last minute to replace Ulrich; Lombardo and Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison volunteered, with Lombardo performing the songs "Battery" and "The Four Horsemen".
Christ Illusion (2006–2008)
The album Christ Illusion was originally scheduled for release on June 6, 2006, and would be the first album with original drummer Lombardo since 1990's Seasons in the Abyss. However, the band decided to delay the release of the record as they did not want to be among the many, according to King, "half-ass, stupid fucking loser bands" releasing records on June 6, although USA Today reported the idea was thwarted because the band failed to secure sufficient studio recording time. Slayer released Eternal Pyre on June 6 as a limited-edition EP. Eternal Pyre featured the song "Cult", a live performance of "War Ensemble" in Germany and video footage of the band recording "Cult". Five thousand copies were released and sold exclusively through Hot Topic chain stores, and sold out within hours of release. On June 30, Nuclear Blast Records released a 7" vinyl picture disc version limited to a thousand copies.
Christ Illusion was released on August 8, 2006, and debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200, selling over 62,000 copies in its first week. The album became Slayer's highest charting, improving on its previous highest charting album, Divine Intervention, which had debuted at number 8. However, despite its high positioning, the album dropped to number 44 in the following week. Three weeks after the album's release Slayer were inducted into the Kerrang! Hall of Fame for their influence to the heavy metal scene.
A worldwide tour dubbed The Unholy Alliance Tour, was undertaken to support the new record. The tour was originally set to launch on June 6, but was postponed to June 10, as Araya had to undergo gall bladder surgery. In Flames, Mastodon, Children of Bodom, Lamb of God, and Thine Eyes Bleed (featuring Araya's brother, Johnny) and Ted Maul (London Hammersmith Apollo) were supporting Slayer. The tour made its way through America and Europe and the bands who participated, apart from Thine Eyes Bleed, reunited to perform at Japan's Loudpark Festival on October 15, 2006.
The video for the album's first single, "Eyes of the Insane", was released on October 30, 2006. The track was featured on the Saw III soundtrack, and won a Grammy-award for "Best Metal Performance" at the 49th Grammy Awards, although the band were unable to attend due to touring obligations. A week later, the band visited the 52nd Services Squadron located on the Spangdahlem U.S. Air Force Base in Germany to meet and play a show. This was the first visit ever to a military base for the band. The band made its first network TV appearance on the show Jimmy Kimmel Live! on January 19, playing the song "Eyes of the Insane", and four additional songs for fans after the show (although footage from "Jihad" was cut due to its controversial lyrical themes).
Slayer toured Australia and New Zealand in April with Mastodon, and appeared at the Download Festival, Rock Am Ring, and a Summer tour with Marilyn Manson and Bleeding Through. The band released a special edition of Christ Illusion, which featured new cover art and bonus track, "Final Six", which was given a Grammy Award for "Best Metal Performance". This is the band's second consecutive award in that category.
World Painted Blood (2009–2011)
In 2008, Araya stated uncertainty about the future of the band, and that he could not see himself continuing the career at a later age. He said once the band finished its upcoming album, which was the final record in their contract, the band would sit down and discuss its future. King was optimistic that the band would produce at least another two albums before considering a split: "We're talking of going in the studio next February  and getting the next record out so if we do things in a timely manner I don't see there's any reason why we can't have more than one album out." Slayer, along with Trivium, Mastodon, and Amon Amarth teamed up for a European tour titled 'The Unholy Alliance: Chapter III', throughout October and November 2008. Slayer headlined the second Mayhem Festival in the summer of 2009. Slayer along with Megadeth also co-headlined Canadian Carnage, the first time they performed together in more than 15 years when they co-headlined four shows in Canada in late June 2009 with openers Machine Head and Suicide Silence.
The band's tenth studio album, World Painted Blood, was released through American Recordings. It was available on November 3 in North America and November 2 for the rest of the world. The band stated that the album takes elements of all their previous works including Seasons in the Abyss, South of Heaven, and Reign in Blood. Slayer, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax performed on the same bill for the first time on June 16, 2010 at Bemowo Airport, near Warsaw, Poland. One of the following Big 4 performances in (Sofia, Bulgaria, June 22, 2010) was sent via satellite in HD to cinemas. They also went on to play several other dates as part of the Sonisphere Festival. Megadeth and Slayer joined forces once again for European Carnage Tour in March and April. The "Big Four" played more dates at Sonisphere in England and France for the first time ever. Slayer returned to Australia in February and March 2011 as part of the Soundwave Festival and also played in California with the other members of the "Big Four".
In early 2011, Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis. According to the band, doctors say that it likely originated from a spider bite. Araya said of Hanneman's condition: "Jeff was seriously ill. Jeff ended up contracting a bacteria that ate away his flesh on his arm, so they cut open his arm, from his wrist to his shoulder, and they did a skin graft on him, they cleaned up ... It was a flesh-eating virus, so he was really, really bad. So we'll wait for him to get better, and when he's a hundred percent, he's gonna come out and join us." The band decided to play their upcoming tour dates without Hanneman. Gary Holt of Exodus was announced as Hanneman's temporary replacement. Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O'Brien filled in for Holt during a tour in Europe. On April 23, 2011, at the American Big 4 show, Hanneman rejoined his bandmates to play the final two songs of their set, "South of Heaven" and "Angel of Death". This was Hanneman's final live performance with the band.
Death of Jeff Hanneman and Repentless (2011–present)
When asked if Slayer would make another album, Lombardo replied "Yes absolutely; Although there's nothing written, there are definitely plans." However, Araya said Slayer would not begin writing a new album until Hanneman's condition improved. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Reign In Blood, the band performed the album at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival at Alexandra Palace, London.
In November 2011, Lombardo posted a tweet that the band had started to write new music. This presumably meant that Hanneman's condition improved and was ready to enter the studio. King had worked with Lombardo that year and they completed three songs. The band planned on entering the studio in either March or April 2012 and were hoping to have the album recorded before the group's US tour in late May and release it by the summer of that year. However, King said the upcoming album would not be finished until September and October of that year, making a 2013 release likely. In July 2012, Kerry King revealed two song titles for the upcoming album, "Chasing Death" and "Implode".
In February 2013, Lombardo was fired right before Slayer was to play at Australia's Soundwave festival due to an argument with band members over a pay dispute. Slayer and American Records released a statement, saying "Mr. Lombardo came to the band less than a week before their scheduled departure for Australia to present an entirely new set of terms for his engagement that were contrary to those that had been previously agreed upon", although Lombardo claimed there was a gag order in place. John Dette returned to fill in for Lombardo for the Soundwave dates. It was confirmed that Lombardo was officially out of Slayer for the third time when in May Bostaph rejoined the band.
On May 2, 2013, guitarist Jeff Hanneman died of liver failure in a local hospital near his home in Southern California's Inland Empire; the cause of death was later determined to be alcohol-related cirrhosis. King confirmed the band will continue, saying "Jeff is going to be in everybody's thoughts for a long time. It's unfortunate you can't keep unfortunate things from happening. But we're going to carry on – and he'll be there in spirit." However, Araya has been more uncertain about the band's future, expressing his belief that "After 30 years [with Hanneman active in the band], it would literally be like starting over", and doubting that Slayer's fanbase would approve such a change. Despite the uncertainty regarding the band's future, Slayer still worked on a followup to World Painted Blood. Additionally, it was reported that the new album would still feature material written by Hanneman.
At the 2014 Revolver 's Golden Gods Awards ceremony, Slayer debuted "Implode", its first new song in five years. The group announced that they have signed to Nuclear Blast, and will release a new album in 2015. It was reported that Holt would take over Hanneman's guitar duties, although Holt did not participate in the song-writing. In February, Slayer announced a seventeen date American tour to start in June featuring Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus. In 2015, Slayer headlined the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival for the second time. Repentless, the band's eleventh studio album, was released on September 11, 2015.
Writing and style
Slayer's early works were praised for their "breakneck speed and instrumental prowess," combining the structure of hardcore punk tempos and speed metal. The band released fast, aggressive material. The album Reign in Blood is the band's fastest, performed at an average of 220 beats per minute; the album Diabolus in Musica was the band's first to feature C♯ tuning; God Hates Us All was the first to feature drop B tuning and seven-string guitars tuned to B♭. AllMusic cited the album as "abandoning the extravagances and accessibility of their late-'80s/early-'90s work and returning to perfect the raw approach," with some fans labeling it as nu metal.
Hanneman and King's dual guitar solos have been referred to as "wildly chaotic," and "twisted genius." Original drummer Lombardo would use two bass drums (instead of a double pedal, which is used on a single bass drum). Lombardo's speed and aggression earned him the title of the "godfather of double bass" by Drummerworld. Lombardo stated his reasons for using two bass drums: "When you hit the bass drum, the head is still resonating. When you hit it in the same place right after that, you kinda get a 'slapback' from the bass drum head hitting the other pedal. You're not letting them breathe." When playing the two bass drums, Lombardo would use the "heel-up" technique.
In the original line-up, Hanneman, King and Araya contributed to the band's lyrics, and King and Hanneman wrote the music with additional arrangement from Lombardo, and sometimes Araya. Lombardo has never received any writing credits in Slayer's history. Araya formed a lyric writing partnership with Hanneman, which sometimes overshadowed the creative input of King. Hanneman stated that writing lyrics and music was a "free-for-all": "It's all just whoever comes up with what. Sometimes I'll be more on a roll and I'll have more stuff, same with Kerry – it's whoever's hot, really. Anybody can write anything; if it's good, we use it; if not, we don't."
When writing material, the band would write the music first before incorporating lyrics. King or Hanneman used a 24-track and drum machine to show band members the riff that they created, and to get their opinion. Either King, Hanneman or Lombardo would mention if any alterations could be made. The band played the riff to get the basic song structure, and figured out where the lyrics and solos would be placed. Hanneman, King and Araya tended to have different lyrical influences. Hanneman's lyrics dealt with Nazis, religion, warfare and similar topics; King's lyrics are generally anti-religious; Araya's lyrics usually dealt with topics that could be considered less controversial than Hanneman's and King's, such as serial killers and warfare.
Slayer is one of the most influential bands in heavy metal history. Steve Huey of AllMusic believes the musical style of Slayer makes the band stronger than the other members of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax, all of which rose to fame during the 1980s. Slayer's "downtuned rhythms, infectious guitar licks, graphically violent lyrics and grisly artwork set the standard for dozens of emerging thrash bands" and their "music was directly responsible for the rise of death metal" states MTV, ranking Slayer as the sixth "greatest metal band of all time", ranking number 50 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Hanneman and King ranked number 10 in Guitar World 's "100 greatest metal guitarists of all time" in 2004, and were voted "Best Guitarist/Guitar Team" in Revolver's reader's poll. Original drummer Lombardo was also voted "Best Drummer" and the band entered the top five in the categories "Best Band Ever", "Best Live Band", "Album of the Year" (for Christ Illusion), and "Band of the Year".
Music author Joel McIver considers Slayer very influential in the extreme metal scene, especially in the development of the death and black metal subgenres. According to John Consterdine of Terrorizer, without "Slayer's influence, extreme metal as we know it wouldn't exist". Kam Lee of Massacre and former member of Death stated: "there wouldn't be Death Metal or Black Metal or even extreme Metal the likes of what it is today if not for Slayer". Johan Reinholdz of Andromeda said that Slayer "were crucial in the development of Thrash Metal which then became the foundation for a lot of different subgenres. They inspired generations of Metal bands". Alex Skolnick of Testament declared: "Before Slayer, metal had never had such razor-sharp articulation, tightness, and balance between sound and stops. This all-out sonic assault was about the shock, the screams, the drums, and [...] most importantly the riffs".
Groups who cited Slayer among their major influences include Bullet for My Valentine, Slipknot, Gojira, Hatebreed Cannibal Corpse, Pantera, Kreator, Mayhem, Darkthrone, System of a Down, Lamb of God, Behemoth, Evile and Lacuna Coil. Steve Asheim, drummer for Deicide, declared that "there obviously would not have been a Deicide as we know it without the existence of Slayer". Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser affirmed that "without Slayer, Sepultura would never be possible". Weezer mentions them in the song "Heart Songs" from their 2008 self-titled "Red" album. The verse goes: "Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Slayer taught me how to shred..." As a kid, Dave Grohl recalled, "Me and my friends, we just wanted to listen to fucking Slayer and take acid and smash stuff."
The band's 1986 release Reign in Blood has been an influence to extreme and thrash metal bands since its release and is considered the record which set the bar for death metal. It had a significant influence on the genre leaders such as Death, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. The album was hailed the "heaviest album of all time" by Kerrang! Magazine, a "genre-definer" by Stylus magazine, and a "stone-cold classic upon its release" by AllMusic. In 2006 it was named the best metal album of the last 20 years by Metal Hammer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Slayer sold 4,900,000 copies in the United States from 1991 to 2013.
A lawsuit was brought against the band in 1996, by the parents of Elyse Pahler, who accused the band of encouraging their daughter's murderers through their lyrics. Elyse was drugged, strangled, stabbed, trampled on, and raped as a sacrifice to the devil by three fans of the band. The case was unsealed by the court on May 19, 2000, stating Slayer and related business markets distribute harmful products to teens, encouraging violent acts through their lyrics, and "none of the vicious crimes committed against Elyse Marie Pahler would have occurred without the intentional marketing strategy of the death-metal band Slayer". The lawsuit was dismissed in 2001, for multiple reasons including "principles of free speech, lack of a duty and lack of foreseeability". A second lawsuit was filed by the parents, an amended complaint for damages against Slayer, their label, and other industry and label entities. The lawsuit was again dismissed. Judge E. Jeffrey Burke stated, "I do not consider Slayer's music obscene, indecent or harmful to minors."
Slayer has been accused of holding Nazi sympathies, due to the band's eagle logo bearing resemblance to the Eagle atop swastika and the lyrics of "Angel of Death". "Angel of Death" was inspired by the acts of Josef Mengele, the doctor who conducted human experiments on prisoners during World War II at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and was dubbed the "Angel of Death" by inmates. Throughout their career, the band members were asked about these accusations, and have stated numerous times they do not condone Nazism and are merely interested in the subject.
Slayer's cover of Minor Threat's "Guilty of Being White" raised questions about a possible message of white supremacy in the band's music. The controversy surrounding the cover involved the changing of the refrain "guilty of being white" to "guilty of being right", at the song's ending. This incensed Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye, who stated "that is so offensive to me." King said it was changed for "tongue-in-cheek" humor as he thought the allegation of racism at the time was "ridiculous".
In a 2004 interview with Araya, when asked, "Did critics realize you were wallowing in parody?", Araya replied, "No. People thought we were serious!...back then you had that PMRC, who literally took everything to heart, when in actuality you're trying to create an image. You're trying to scare people on purpose." Araya also denied rumors that Slayer members are Satanists, but they find the subject of Satanism interesting and "we are all on this planet to learn and experience."
The song "Jihad" of the album Christ Illusion sparked controversy among families of the September 11 victims. The song deals with the attack from the perspective of a religious terrorist. The band stated the song is spoken through perspective without being sympathetic to the cause, and supports neither side.
Seventeen bus benches promoting the same album in Fullerton, California were deemed offensive by city officials. City officials contacted the band's record label and demanded that the ads be removed. All benches were eliminated.
In India, Christ Illusion was recalled by EMI India after protests with Christian religious groups due to the nature of the graphic artwork. The album cover was designed by Slayer's longtime collaborator Larry Carroll and features Christ in a "sea of despair", with amputated arms, missing an eye, while standing in a sea of blood with severed heads. Joseph Dias of the Mumbai Christian group Catholic Secular Forum in India took "strong exception" to the original album artwork, and issued a memorandum to Mumbai's police commissioner in protest. On October 11, 2006, EMI announced that all stocks had been destroyed, noting it had no plans to re-release the record in India in the future. However, the album has since been imported and made available in India.
- 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)
Awards and nominations
|2002||"Disciple"||Best Metal Performance||Nominated|
|2007||"Eyes of the Insane"||Best Metal Performance||Won|
|2008||"Final Six"||Best Metal Performance||Won|
|2010||"Hate Worldwide"||Best Metal Performance||Nominated|
|2011||"World Painted Blood"||Best Metal Performance||Nominated|
|2006||Slayer||Kerrang! Hall of Fame||Won|
Metal Edge Readers' Choice Awards
|2003||War at the Warfield||DVD of the Year ||Won|
|2004||Slayer||Best Live Act||Won|
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- A.^ From late 2010 until his death in May 2013, Jeff Hanneman's participation in Slayer was minimal. In January 2011, he contracted necrotizing fasciitis, which severely restricted his ability to perform. He appeared publicly with the band on only one known occasion, playing two songs during an encore at one of Slayer's Big 4 performances in April 2011; he also attended rehearsals for Fun Fun Fun Fest in November 2011, but did not end up performing at this show. By July 2012, Hanneman had not written or recorded any new material for the band's follow up to 2009's World Painted Blood. In February 2013, Kerry King stated he was planning on recording all of the guitar parts for the upcoming album himself, but was open to Hanneman's return if he was willing and able. King also denied that Gary Holt, member of Exodus and Hanneman's live fill-in, would write or record anything for the upcoming album. Hanneman died on May 2, 2013 at the age of 49 due to liver failure.
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