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 the Epic Rocking Hell Awaits.
However, Slayer hit gold in 1986 with the release of Reign in Blood (their first album produced by 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 been recognized as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. A couple years later, they released South of Heaven. This was met with mixed reviews. While some enjoyed the slower, sludgier style, others decried them for being Black Sabbath wannabes. However, they combined the best of both worlds with the 1990 release Seasons in the Abyss. Most fans tend to look down on the eleven year period when Divine Intervention and Diabolus in Musica were released. However, they gained mass controversy with the release of God Hates Us All (coincidentally released on Sept. 11th, 2001). With their 2006 release, Christ Illusion, more fans seemed to be warming up with them since they were returning to their thrash metal roots, a trend that continued with World Painted Blood in 2009 and Repentless in 2015
As Metallica is with its fans, Slayer is with the general public. Much of the content of Slayer songs is quite dark, sometimes focusing on Satanic and anti-Christian themes, and sometimes focusing on the major problems with the world (war, terrorism, sectarianism, serial killers, etc.). Also, every single album cover can be described either as disgusting, unsettling, or horrifying. This has generated album bans and has led many Moral Guardians to decry the members of Slayer as Satanists. However, they fail to realize that 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 constantly stated that he does not condone what the songs are about, instead likening them to horror movie equivalent entertainment.
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
- Diabolus in Musica - 1998
- God Hates Us All - 2001
- Christ Illusion - 2006
- World Painted Blood - 2009
- Repentless - 2015
(Also included in the Slayer discography is an EP, Haunting the Chapel, released in 1984, and an album of Hardcore Punk covers, Undisputed Attitude, released in 1996.)
- Kerry King - guitars (1981-present)
- Tom Araya - bass, vocals (1982-present)
- Gary Holt: guitars (2011-present)
- Paul Bostaph - drums (1992-1996, 1997-2001, 2013-present)
- 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: "World Painted Blood", which was apparently financed with monopoly money.
- Also this fan-made music video for Criminally Insane.
- 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).
- Badass Beard: Kerry King grew quite an epic one once he became bald. Tom and Jeff also had ones at times.
- Body Horror: Everything about Jeff's illness, from the illness itself (which caused the tissue on the affected arm to necrotize extremely rapidly, as in over a matter of hours rapidly), to the treatment (the debridement involved flaying off most of the muscle tissue because of how extensive the damage was), and all the way to the recovery, which left him with what looked like the aftermath of a full thickness burn. While few images of him from that time that clearly show the wound exist, this picture of him with Gary Holt◊ from 2011 shows just how bad it was.
- 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".
- Death Song: Take your pick.
- 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, who went from typical long-haired metal musician to a Bald of Awesome (he even has tattoos on the scalp).
- 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.
- 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).
- Jerkass: Kerry King can definitely come off as this at times!
- If anyone had any doubts about this, the circumstances surrounding Lombardo's latest departure should lay all doubt to rest.
- If, after that, there are still any doubts, those should be laid to rest by the confusing situation surrounding the band's fate after the Farewell Tour, culminating in King firing his bandmates after the final show, in an act that makes W. Axl Rose at his worst look more sympathetic by comparison.
- Lead Bassist: Tom Araya, who is also the vocalist and has his fair share of songwriting.
- Long-Runner Line-up: Type 1 or 5, thanks to twenty nonconsecutive years with Dave Lombardo behind the drums.
- Mad Lib Metal Lyrics: A lot. This trope might as well have been called "Slayer Style Lyrics".
- Metal Scream:
- 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.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Unlike some other very popular thrash metal acts, they usually settle on Level 9, with South of Heaven and Show No Mercy typically staying in the 7-8 range. Back in their day, however, Haunting the Chapel, Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood would be considered solid 10's, with some songs from each of the three (e.g. "Angel of Death", nowadays a very hard 9) reaching 11.
- 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".
- Not Christian Rock: Yes, Slayer of all bands has an example here: "Silent Scream" on South of Heaven is not only an anti-abortion song but is explicitly based on a rather obscure anti-abortion video entitled "The Silent Scream". The movie — most well known in evangelical Christian and Catholic anti-abortion circles where it is still used as a "scared straight" film — purports to depict a first-trimester D&X (dilation and extraction) abortion via ultrasound, and includes rather graphic descriptions of the dismemberment of the fetus and the "terror" of it trying to get away from the instruments of abortion including "screaming" (lending the film its name). Not that surprising since songwriter Tom Araya is Catholic.
- 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 has confirmed that despite Jeff Hanneman's death, the band will continue.
- Something Completely Different: The Hardcore Punk Cover Album Undisputed Attitude.
- 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.
- Up to Eleven: Inverted with their fourth album, South of Heaven. The band knew that they couldn't possibly top Reign In Blood, so they consciously decided to slow down, stripping away lightning-fast riffs in favor of a more melodic sound.
- However, their next album, Seasons in the Abyss, combined the best of both worlds.
- 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.
- 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.