What initially seemed a humorous approach quickly asserted itself as an influential force to be reckoned with, from the pummeling rhythm section and ferocious tag-team guitar assault, to bassist Tom Araya‘s raw, blistering vocal style. A handful of subsequent releases established a strong cult following for the band, as well as demonstrating their penchant for flirting with symbolic clichés and provocative subject matter, with songs such as “Chemical Warfare”, and “Necrophiliac”. In 1986, the band found a strong supporter in Def Jam Records head Rick Rubin, who produced their groundbreaking classic Reign In Blood album, which for many diehard metal fans, set new standards for speed-metal that most bands would be hard-pressed to achieve.
Slayer’s occasional forays into catchy melodies and seemingly trite arrangements have resulted in a few unforgiving detractors, but the band has continually pushed the boundaries of their genre without losing their foothold. Their ten-year mark was captured on the double-length album, Live: Decade Of Aggression – that release also marked the end of an era with original drummer Dave Lombardo, who left the band to pursue other musical directions. Lombardo was replaced by another Bay Area metal veteran, Paul Bostaph, who jumped at the chance to fill the vacant throne in one of the bands who had served as a major influence on his former group, The Forbidden.
While many metal bands seem content to simply rehash previous formulas, Slayer has consistently shown their willingness to forge new directions, without slipping into the conundrums of contrivance or self-parody. Acknowledging their unique roots, which melded hardcore punk aggression with the technical prowess and full frontal fury of metal, Undisputed Attitude was released in 1996, featuring a selection of covers heralding the glory days of punk, ranging from Minor Threat to Iggy Pop. Diabolus In Musica (Columbia; 1998) was the band’s first major label release, startling many longtime fans with its’ somewhat industrial tendencies, while maintaining the relentless signature Slayer sound. Initially an acquisition of taste for some, the album nonetheless proved that Slayer was capable of redefining their own style, without compromising their musical integrity. This year finds Slayer re-united with DefJam Records, and to commemorate the occasion, the band’s ninth studio album, God Hates Us All, was released on September 11th of this year, and the irony of this could be lost on no one, least of all the members of the band themselves, as the album encapsulates some of the band’s most brutal and over-the-edge material to date.
© J.Free / D.A.M.F.; 2001; 2022