From a lacerated sky,
Bleeding its horror,
Creating my structure,
Now I shall reign in blood!"
One of the "Big Four" Thrash Metal bands, Slayer was formed in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo, later joined by vocalist/bassist Tom Araya. Deriving much of their sound from UK speed metal band Venom and focusing on dark, Satanic themes, they released their first album Show No Mercy in 1983. Due to its success, they were quickly pressed to make another album, which resulted in Hell Awaits.
Slayer would then hit gold in 1986 with the release of Reign in Blood (their first album produced by since-longtime collaborator Rick Rubin), which demonstrated the signature sound for which they have become known and featured their best-known songs, "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood". The album has since been deemed one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time.
Their next album, 1988's South of Heaven, divided audiences with its slower, sludgier style, which rubbed some as being overly reminiscent of Black Sabbath to the point of ripoff. However, they combined the best of both worlds with 1990's Seasons in the Abyss. Most fans tend to look down on the eleven-year period when Divine Intervention and Diabolus in Musica were released, not to mention the controversy courted by God Hates Us All for its name and artwork (depicting the band logo on a Bible spiked with a pentagram of nails and covered in blood), as well as its unfortunate release on 9/11. However, with their 2006 release Christ Illusion, fans seemed to begin warming up to them since they were returning to their thrash metal roots, a trend that continued with their future releases leading into the 2010s (World Painted Blood, Repentless).
As Metallica is with its fans, Slayer is with the general public. Much of the content in Slayer songs is dark to say the least, with recurring themes being Satanic and anti-Christian sentiments alongside the major problems with the world (war, terrorism, sectarianism, serial killers, etc.). Also, every single album cover of theirs can be described either as disgusting, unsettling, or horrifying. As a result, their albums have been banned to some degree on several occasions, and many Moral Guardians have decried the members of the band as Satanists. However, vocalist/bassist Tom Araya is a Catholic, and Kerry King — who writes virtually all the most stridently "Satanic" lyrics — is actually an atheist. Despite writing these songs, King has repeatedly stated that he does not condone what the songs are about, instead likening them to entertainment akin to horror movies.
Many critics have called Slayer the world's first death metal band (indeed, Eric Cartman used their music to drive a giant hippie music festival out of South Park, as "hippies can't stand death metal"). While they did inspire many of the death metal bands of nowadays, they are strictly thrash metal. Slayer has even said that they do not support death metal and call it "cookie monster music". (Slayer's occult and satanic themes also mean that they are sometimes lumped in with the first wave of Black Metal, although as with death metal, they have little in common stylistically with the genre; however, many other first wave Black Metal bands, such as Mercyful Fate, also have little to do with modern black metal beyond the lyrics and image, so this categorisation is a bit more justifiable than calling them a death metal band).
In 2018, the band announced that they would go on one final world tour before breaking up. They played their last show on November 30, 2019 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
- 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)
- Kerry King - guitars (1981-2019)
- Tom Araya - bass, vocals (1982-2019)
- Gary Holt: guitars (2011-2019)
- Paul Bostaph - drums (1992-1996, 1997-2001, 2013-2019)
- Jeff Hanneman: guitars (1981-2013; died in 2013 of liver failure)
- Dave Lombardo: drums (1982-1986, 1987-1992, 2001-2013)
- Bob Gourley: drums (1983)
- Gene Hoglan: drums (1983)
- Tony Scaglione: drums (1986-1987)
- Jon Dette: drums (1996-1997)
- Pat O'Brien: guitars (2011)
- Album Title Drop:
- The closing line for "Raining Blood" (the last song from Reign in Blood) is, "Now I shall reign in blood!"
- God Hates Us All as the last line of the intro "Darkness of Christ" and part of the chorus in "Disciple".
- Christ Illusion in second-to-last song "Cult."
- Averted with Diabolus In Musica.
- Animated Music Video:
- Author Appeal:
- Tom Araya has an interest in serial killers, as noted in the songs "213" (Jeffrey Dahmer) and "Dead Skin Mask" (Ed Gein).
- Jeff Hanneman was interested in World War II, since his relatives served in the military, and of Nazi history, despite the fact that in various interviews, he neither supported nor condoned Nazism itself.
- Kerry King really does not like organized religion. Which is ironic, as Tom Araya is a devout Christian, but is willing to sing anything that Kerry comes up with (and in fact is pretty enthusiastic about singing stuff that he thinks is likely to piss people off; it helps that a lot, if not all, of what the band members write is about stuff that pisses them off).
- Book Ends: "Hardening of the Arteries", the final track on Hell Awaits, ends with a reprise of the title track's opening riff.
- Call-Back: Courtesy of "Implode", from Repentless:And if I'm proven wrongI think you know the songI'm pretty sure that God still hates us all
- Cluster F-Bomb: Several songs on God Hates Us All, but "Payback" takes the cake.
- Country Matters: In "South of Heaven".
- Cover Album: Undisputed Attitude, although one of the songs is a parody instead of a straight cover (The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" becomes the straight-up Intercourse with You "I'm Gonna Be Your God").
- Cover Version: Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," Judas Priest's "Dissident Aggressor".
- Darker and Edgier: Their music is this compared to the other three members of the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax).
- Dramatic Thunder: The opening of "Raining Blood."
- And at the end too. Actually, the song ends with rain, but the thunderclap is the point where the music itself stops.
- Driven to Suicide: At the very end of the music video for "Eyes of the Insane", we watch the protagonist hang himself in the garage through his Reflective Eyes.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Show No Mercy takes so much New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence it could almost qualify as NWOBHM if it was not American (in Kerry's words, it sounds like "Iron Maiden here and there"). In their second album, Hell Awaits, the band had been listening a lot to Mercyful Fate's Don't Break the Oath, and it shows, with multiple songs being influenced by Progressive Metal and approaching seven minutes in length, as well as featuring odd time signatures. This, again, was not generally repeated in the band's later material.
- Lyrically, the albums are downright Satanic, with songs like "the Antichrist" and "Black Magic" about Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Although Slayer would continue to use Satanic imagery on their logos, merchandise and album covers, the lyrics are much more mature and about real life "demons" such as Nazism, serial killers or the horrors of war.
- Slayer famously played in E-flat tuning for most of their career, but their first album is actually played in E-standard.
- Epic Rocking: Mostly on Hell Awaits, on which several songs exceed six minutes in length, although it shows up occasionally on other albums as well, such as the title track from Seasons in the Abyss.
- Fading into the Next Song: On Reign in Blood, "Altar of Sacrifice" fades into "Jesus Saves" and, more famously, "Postmortem" fades into "Raining Blood". On at least South of Heaven and Seasons and the Abyss, almost all their song transitions were continuous, with the only significant gap being between LP sides; some of the song transitions (e.g., "South of Heaven" into "Silent Scream") almost approach Siamese Twin Songs levels. (While most songs on these albums have clear endings, they rarely go completely silent before the next one begins.)
- Flanderization: While their earliest albums had some Satanic themes, during their prime their lyrics were comparatively mixed with other topics and usually took a Rock Me, Asmodeus! form. As Kerry King (who is an outspoken atheist) has gradually begun writing more lyrics, their main theme seemed to become hatred against Christianity (although Tom Araya himself is Christian), as the titles of God Hates us All and Christ Illusion suggest. World Painted Blood appears to have turned this around, however.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble:
- Kerry: Choleric.
- Tom: Melancholic.
- Gary: Sanguine.
- Paul: Phlegmatic.
- Fun with Acronyms: To some fans, Slayer is an acronym for "Satan Laughs As You Eternally Rot".
- This is in fact a backronym, which the band printed in the sleeve of Divine Intervention (and also carved into the runout groove of the LP of Show No Mercy, making it Older Than They Think).
- Gorn: Some of their lyrics fall into this category, most notably "Angel of Death", "731", and "Piece by Piece."
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Kerry King had the long hair typically associated with metal musicians during the 80s, but shaved his head between Seasons in the Abyss and Divine Intervention.
- Hates Everyone Equally: "Disciple" is the Trope Namer.I hate everyone equallyYou can't tear that out of meNo segregation, separationJust me in my world of enemies
- Hate Plague: “Hate Worldwide” from World Painted Blood counts as an example.
- Hell Invades Heaven: "Hell Awaits"
- Horrible History Metal: "Angel of Death" (about horrible medical "experiments" conducted by the titular Josef "Angel of Death" Mengele during World War II) and "Unit 731" (about horrible medical "experiments" conducted by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War).
- Lead Bassist: Tom Araya, who is also the vocalist and has his fair share of songwriting.
- Lead Drummer: Dave Lombardo is one of the most influential drummers in metal, and in thrash in particular, for his incredible speed, technical prowess, and power. He was one of the first drummers to extensively use incredibly fast double-kick drums, paving the way for extreme speed drumming in not just thrash but even heavier metal genres.
- Long-Runner Line-up: Type 1 or 5, thanks to twenty nonconsecutive years with Dave Lombardo behind the drums.
- Metal Scream: Primarily Type 1 yelling with some Type 4 screams. Some notable examples below:
- The opening of "Angel of Death", most notably. If that scream doesn't get you pumped, you just don't like metal.
- Tom Araya was quite fond of doing this on the early albums, suddenly turning a single word into a high-pitched drawn-out scream, as seen in "Black Magic", "Chemical Warfare", "Necrophobic" and "War Ensemble".
- The way some fans like to refer to the band: They don't simply say the name, they just belt out SSSSSSSSSSSSLAAAAAAAAAYEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- In 1992, Tom guest-starred on Alice in Chains' second album and did exactly this.
- Miniscule Rocking: Reign in Blood only has three songs that are longer than three minutes — the whole album, which has ten songs on it, comes in at just under half an hour.
- Motor Mouth: Several songs, but "Reborn" and "Necrophobic" (both from Reign in Blood and the latter a full song in less than two minutes) are probably the best-known. "Hell Awaits" is another excellent example.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: "Payback." Holy crap, "Payback."
- Non-Appearing Title: "Seasons in the Abyss".
- Precision F-Strike:
- "Fight 'Till Death" from Show No Mercy:There is no future, no fucking world to be saved.
- "Chemical Warfare" from Haunting the Chapel:Artificial fucking peace / Line up in a death row.
- "Criminally Insane" from Reign in Blood:I have yet only just begun / TO TAKE YOUR FUCKING LIVES!
- "Expendable Youth" from Seasons in the Abyss:TRY AND TAKE ME, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!
- "Fight 'Till Death" from Show No Mercy:
- The Quiet One: Jeff Hanneman was the most reserved of the band members, preferring to stay in the tour bus and read after shows rather than stuff like green room after-parties. Even between recording sessions and touring, it was common for his bandmates not to see him much, as he liked to stay at home when he could.
- "Raining Blood".
- Rated M for Manly: It's pretty much a certainty that there will be no line for the women's restroom at a Slayer concert.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Tom Araya's health problems, including a neck surgery, resulted in the Slayer Farewell Tour, as Araya could no longer headbang like he used to. For a time, it was rumoured that the band would disband at the end of the tour, before it was confirmed that that would not be the case.
- Reflective Eyes: The entire video for "Eyes of the Insane" is shot from this kind of perspective.
- Refuge in Audacity: Invoked at least twice by Tom in interviews. First in explaining why he doesn't mind singing Kerry's anti-Christian lyrics, and second in explaining why the reaction to "Jihad" was so muted compared to, say, "Angel of Death." In both cases his explanation boiled down to, "It's just Slayer being Slayer."
- Rock Me, Asmodeus!: They really like Satanic themes.
- Religion Rant Song: Present much more on recent albums like God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion, mostly of the Type 2 variety. However, there are still examples on earlier albums, such as South of Heaven's "Read Between the Lies" and Reign in Blood's "Jesus Saves".
- Sarcastic Title: "Jesus Saves".
- Satan: Several of the band's earlier songs were about Satan or Hell. But once The '90s rolled around the band stopped singing about him (although they still sing about things like war, Nazis, serial killers, anti-religion, etc.)
- The Show Must Go On: Kerry King invoked this trope after Hanneman's death.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: Averted in songs like "Angel of Death", "Dead Skin Mask", "213", and "Jihad". Not that it stopped Moral Guardians from getting worked up, but the band's general point of view seems to be that they shouldn't have to tell anyone how awful the subjects really were.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The chorus to "Payback."I'm going to tear your fucking eyes outRip your fucking flesh offBeat you till you're just a fucking lifeless carcass
- Those Wacky Nazis: "Angel of Death", "Behind the Crooked Cross", "SS-3".
- Uncommon Time: "Metal Storm / Face the Slayer" starts in 4/4, transitions to 9/8, and then goes back to 4/4. "At Dawn They Sleep" starts in 5/4, then transitions to 4/4. Their usage of this trope has dropped off over time, however.
- Villain Song: There are a lot of these in Slayer's song catalog. One of the band's trademarks is that they frequently sing from the bad guy's perspective, be it Nazis, Serial Killers, or even Satan himself.
- Vocal Evolution: Araya started off with a fairly common Halford rip-off voice before moving onto a harsh amelodic bark startin with Haunting The Chapel before going to a still strained and harsh but melodic singing voice on South of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss before switching back to the second vocal style.
- War Is Hell: "Eyes of the Insane." BIG time.
- Word Purée Title: Repentless. It sounds like a Portmantitle meaning something like "relentlessly unrepentant", but Kerry King admits he thought it was already a real word when he wrote the title track.