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One of the "Big Four" Thrash Metal bands, Slayer was formed in 1981 by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, later joined by vocalist/bassist Tom Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo. 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 seem to be warming up with them since they are returning to their thrash metal roots, a trend that continued with World Painted Blood three years later.
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, religion, 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. 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 has made ten studio albums:
- 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
(Also included in the Slayer discography is an album of Hardcore Punk covers, Undisputed Attitude, released in 1996.)
- Tom Araya: vocals, bass guitar
- Jeff Hanneman: lead guitar
- Kerry King: rhythm guitar
- Dave Lombardo: drums (1981-1986, 1987-1992, 2001-present)
- Tony Scaglione: drums (1986-1987)
- Paul Bostaph: drums (1992-1996, 1997-2001)
- Jon Dette: drums (1996-1997)
Slayer shows these tropes:
- 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 is 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 supports nor condones Nazism itself.
- Kerry King really doesn't like organized religion...which is ironic as Tom Araya is a devout Christian but is willing to sing anything that King comes up with.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Several songs on God Hates Us All, but "Payback" takes the cake.
- 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").
- Flanderization: While their earlier albums had some Satanic themes, they were often mixed with other topics and usually took a Rock Me, Asmodeus form. As Kerry King has gradually begun writing more lyrics, their main theme seemed to become hatred against Christianity, as the titles of God Hates us All and Christ Illusion suggest. World Painted Blood appears to have turned this around, however.
- 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.
- Gorn: Some of their lyrics fall into this category, most notably "Angel of Death" and "Piece by Piece".
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Kerry King.
- Horrible History Metal: "Angel Of Death" (about horrible medical "experiments" conducted by the titular Josef "Angel of Death" Mengele during World War Two) and "Unit 731" (about horrible medical "experiments" conducted by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War).
- Lead Bassist: Tom Araya. It helps that he's also a vocalist.
- Long Runner Lineup: 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.
- 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", and "Necrophobic".
- The way some fans like to refer to the band: they don't simply say the name, they just belt out SSSSSSSSSSSSLAAAAAAAAAYEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- 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 thrash metal bands of the time, they usually settle on Level 9, with South Of Heaven and Show No Mercy typically staying in the 7-8 range.
- 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.
- No Kill Like Overkill: The chorus to "Payback."
I'm going to tear your fucking eyes out
- 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).
- Precision F-Strike:
- "Fight 'Till Death" 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!
- "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.
- Reflective Eyes: The entire video for "Eyes Of The Insane" is shot from this kind of perspective.
- Refuge in Audacity
- Rock Me, Asmodeus: They really like Satanic themes.
- Religion Rant Song: Present on much more recent albums like God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion, mostly of the Type 2 variety.
- Sarcastic Title: "Jesus Saves"
- Something Completely Different: The Hardcore Punk Cover Album Undisputed Attitude.
- Sympathetic POV: 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.
- Those Wacky Nazis: "Angel of Death", "Behind the Crooked Cross", "SS-3"
- Up to Eleven: Inverted Trope 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.