Slayer is a thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band formed in 1981 and is one of the pioneers of the thrash genre along with fellow Big 4 acts Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. The current lineup includes Tom Araya (bass, vocals), Kerry King (guitar), Gary Holt (guitar) and Paul Bostaph (drums). During the band’s history, they have been mired in many controversies and lineup changes.
Slayer was formed in 1981 by Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. Soon after the band recruited Tom Araya and guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Hanneman would become one of the main creative forces in the band over their long career. Slayer began by playing covers of NWOBHM acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. At the time they were mainly known for wearing make-up, leather and spiked clothing. This is an image that the band would quickly jettison when the thrash subgenre began to take off. In 1982 the band signed a contract with Metal Blade Records which has become a point of a lot of contention as it was a very non band friendly contract.
Slayer’s debut album Show No Mercy was released in 1983. The recording of the album was entirely financed by the band. Show No Mercy gained quite an underground cult following as it showed off a speed an aggression that many had never heard before. Based off the slight success of the album, the band went an even faster and heavier direction with 1984’s EP Haunting the Chapel. This release featured major writing influence from Jeff Hanneman who had an affinity for hardcore punk music and the signature sound Slayer sound of Slayer began to form. After the tour for the EP, Kerry King joined the newly formed Megadeth. The relationship lasted only a few shows, before a rift formed between King and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine. Much of this stemmed from Mustaine giving King a hard time about wearing make-up and leather.
In 1985 Slayer released their second studio album Hell Awaits which had major satanic references influenced by bands like Venom and Possessed. Hautning the Chapel, Hell Awaits, Venom’s Black Metal and Possessed’s Seven Churches were major influences on the birth of extreme metal, most notably the subgenre of death metal.
In 1986 with major issues between the band and Metal Blade Records, Slayer jumped to Russell Simmons Def Jam record label joining with major produce Rick Rubin. Here is where the band completed the Slayer style that they are famous for today. They took the fast thrash sound from their previous two releases and added better production and shorter hardcore style song run times. Shortly after joining Def Jam, the band released their magnum opus Reign in Blood. It was their first successful album entering the Billboard charts at number 94. It’s funny to note that the same critics that panned the album back in the day as drivel, now list it as one of the best metal albums of all time. It just goes to show how misunderstood extreme metal was at the time.
In 1988 they released South of Heaven. While critics gave it positive reviews because the album showed musical growth on the band’s part with a slower pace and better concentration on more complicated arrangements, fans of the band did not feel the same way. The band went back to their faster style on their 1990 release Season In The Abyss. Seasons features three of the band’s most well known and popular tracks, “Dead Skin Mask”, “Season in the Abyss” and “War Ensemble”. The latter became the band’s first music video. It was also the Slayer’s first album to be released on Rubin’s Def Jam offshoot Def American.
In 1992 the band saw its first lineup shake up. Lombardo quit the band for the first time due to conflicts with the other band members. This a theme that would reappear between Lombardo and the band over the years. Paul Bostaph would replace Lombardo on drums. In 1994, the band released Divine Intervention which debuted at #8 on the Billboard charts. A couple years later, the band returned to their roots releasing a cover album called Undisputed Attitude. However instead of Iron Maiden covers, the entire album featuring covers of punk songs. Bostaph left the band shortly after and was replaced by Jon Dette. Dette was fired a year later in the middle of touring and Bostaph rejoined the band.
In 1998, nu metal was permeating the airwaves and Slayer added elements of it into their next album Diabolous In Musica. Recently Kerry King has stated that this is his least favorite album of Slayer’s and the band rarely plays anything from it live. The band would return to form with 2001’s God Hates Us All, even receiving their first Grammy nomination. Bostaph left abruptly while touring in support of the album and Lomardo returned after almost ten years to finish out the dates.
Their highest charting album to date, Christ Illusion, dropped in 2006 and it was the first to feature Lombardo back on drums since 1990’s Seasons In The Abyss. The song “Eyes of the Insane” netted the band their first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
In 2009, the band released their tenth studio album World Painted Blood. The album was an amalgamation of different styles from some of their previous releases. Soon after its release the Big 4 came together for the first time to play a show in Poland. In 2011 Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica played a few more dates together in Europe and the U.S. Unfortunately a full scale Big 4 tour has never materialized, most likely due in part to the some of the massive egos of some Big 4 band members.
At the start of 2011, guitarist Jeff Hanneman contracted a flesh eating virus from a spider bite. He was replaced by Gary Holt of Exodus for all live dates. As the band’s main creative influence was on the shelf, there were no plans to release any new material. However, by late 2011, Hanneman’s health improved and the band began writing new songs. Unfortunately the new album continued to get pushed off and in early 2013, Dave Lombardo was asked to leave the band over differences in monetary compensation. Lombardo asked for a bigger cut right before Slayer’s Australian tour and the band refused. Paul Bostaph rejoined the band for the third time.
On May 2, 2013 Slayer was met with their biggest tragedy. Jeff Hanneman passed away from liver failure due to years of alcohol abuse. With the death of their biggest contributor musically, the future of Slayer is up in the air. Kerry King maintains that the band will carry on while Araya is unsure if the fans would approve. Despite this, the band continues to work on their next album with Gary Holt on guitar. It remains to be seen if they can continue their signature style without Hanneman and what the fans’ reaction will be.
In early 2014, the band ended their long and successful relationship with producer Rick Rubin and his American record label. Later in the year, the band signed with Nuclear Blast Records and released a new single called “Implode”. Slayer plans to release their next album by the end of 2014.
- Show No Mercy (1983)
- Haunting The Chapel EP (1984)
- 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)
- The 25 Best Thrash Albums
- Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman Would Have Been 50 Years Old Today
- Rick Rubin No Longer Working With Slayer
- The Metal Community Reacts to the Death of Jeff Hanneman