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Slayer

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Slayer is an American thrash metal group, founded in Huntington Park, California, in 1982 by Tom Araya (bass guitar, vocals), Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman (guitars) and Dave Lombardo (drums). Lombardo has been in and out of the group several times, but the others have remained constant. Hanneman and King are the group's main songwriters.

Slayer (along with Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and others) are often credited with creating American thrash metal, by speeding up the sound of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Venom. Slayer was a great fan of hardcore punk, influenced by the likes of Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys and The Misfits, and borrowed some of that music's emphasis on extremely fast tempos in many of their songs.

Slayer has found moderate commercial success, and are known for their devoted cult following. Their lyrics and album art content (such as violence, serial killers, warfare and Satan) have occasionally generated strong criticism. The band has also been accused of holding Nazi sympathies, primarily due to the misunderstanding of the lyrics of "Angel of Death" from the Reign in Blood album. The lyrics were inspired by the grisly acts of Josef Mengele, the doctor who committed scientific atrocities on Jewish and gypsy prisoners during World War II, and who was dubbed the "Angel of Death" by the concentration camp inmates.

Though Araya has never used the low "grunt" vocal style usually associated with death metal, Slayer's music (most notably on the albums Hell Awaits (1985) and Reign in Blood (1986) are generally regarded as having exerted a major influence on death metal and black metal. Moreover, Reign in Blood was the first of many albums to be produced by well-known and respected Def Jam Co-Founder, Rick Rubin.

Their new album is a follow-up to 2001's God Hates Us All. Slayer's first few albums are sometimes regarded as promising, but a little uneven. The powerful Reign in Blood, however, has been called an "undisputed masterpiece" and has been credited with "almost single-handedly inspired the entire death metal genre (at least on the American side of the Atlantic)" while never "crossing the line into self-parodic overkill". Kerrang! described Reign as "the heaviest album of all time".

South of Heaven disappointed some fans by slowing down the tempos a bit and adding touches like acoustic guitars. Many later critics have praised the album, however, as demonstrating Slayer's desire to grow musically and avoid repeating themselves. Undisputed Attitude (1996) found Slayer reaffirming their love for hardcore punk, covering songs by Minor Threat, T.S.O.L., D.R.I. and others. In 1996, a lawsuit was brought against the band by the parents of Elyse Pahler, who accused the band of encouraging their daughter's murderers through their lyrics. The lawsuit was thrown out in 2001. The band received their first Grammy nomination for "Best Metal Performance" on January 8, 2002.

While not suffering the catastrophic disasters that have befallen many of Spinal Tap's drummers, Slayer has seen its share of musicians behind the drum kit. Dave Lombardo left the band in 1986 briefly during the "Reign in Blood" tour and was replaced by Tony Scaglione of Whiplash. However, after the tour was over, Lombardo came back and asked to rejoin Slayer. Lombardo left the band again in 1992 (most believed for good) and formed a band called Grip Inc. King recruited former Forbidden drummer Paul Bostaph who remained in the band until 1996. Bostaph left the band to join a project called "The Truth About Seafood"; he was replaced by Jon Dette, who left Slayer in 1997, because things did not work out with the rest of the band. Slayer asked Bostaph to return to the band. Bostaph agreed and stayed in Slayer until 2001. Bostaph claimed he had sustained an injury that would hinder his ability to play. Shortly thereafter, he announced he had joined the Bay Area band, Systematic. Lombardo rejoined Slayer once again during the "God Hates Us All" tour.

Flash forward to 2006. Take a deep breath 'cause Slayer is back.

From the opening squeals of the guitars of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and the punishing breakaway attack of Dave Lombardo’s drums on “Flesh Storm”, it’s clear from the first thirty seconds the thrash metal titans have returned to pummel listeners with a raging onslaught of new music guaranteed to lay waste to MP3 players, car stereo speakers and whatever else gets in their way.

Christ Illusion marks the long-awaited return of the legendary Slayer. Its first record in five years and its first record in fifteen years with the original band line-up, Christ Illusion is a cacophony of brutality - a soundtrack for the post-Apocalypse. Steeped in scorching riffs and a litany of menacing tracks/tirades on religion and violence, Slayer forges ahead on its devastating path of aural destruction with ten new songs, each charged with the electric hostility for which Slayer is renowned.

Of the record Kerry King is ecstatic: “I love it. I really like God Hates Us All and I think that’s the best record we’ve done in my opinion since Seasons in the Abyss, and I like this better than that one. I think it’s a more complete record; I think sonically its better - all the performances are awesome. I think this one is more intense not because we’re trying to do Reign in Blood: The Sequel, it’s just that’s where our writing is taking us now.”

Songs like the “Flesh Storm”, “Eyes of the Insane”, “Skeleton Christ”, “Jihad” and the first single, “Cult”, showcase the band at its most blazing intensity. The sonic excitement of speed, propelled by King, Hanneman and Lombardo and lead by the immutable roar of Tom Araya provoke the listener with Slayer’s trademark fascination with terror, violence and religion.

For as long as Slayer has been making records, it has been surrounded by controversy.

Since the band recorded its first album, Show No Mercy, Slayer has been plagued with accusations of Satanism, fascism, racism and so on. Christ Illusion gives no quarter to critics who would mindlessly attack the band for “the attraction of the unknown”. Guitarist King enthusiastically describes a lyric fascination with violence and terror this way: “When I was I kid I would see a horror movie over a love story. Being shocked, being in an environment that’s not reality might be frightening but is cool nonetheless. With a lot of our songs we put people in that place. It doesn’t bother me because I enjoy it. It could easily be programming from all the news channels.”

Slayer is often assailed for its subject matter, though the band is unrepentant. “According to Araya, “Violence, darkness . . . So much of my inspiration comes from news articles or pictures and I just start describing the images.”

The singer continues, “With this record, as far as a theme, there is none. That’s just our favorite subject matter. The common thread is death. I think that’s just a common thread in general. We all share death, and we all share it at different times in different ways, but it’s the one thing that we all have in common. We all die. It’s how we live that makes us different.”

Beyond being controversial Slayer is an exceptional force in music, highly praised for its trailblazing style of fast, heavy and aggressive music yet bristling with melody. The much-heralded return of Dave Lombardo to the drummer’s throne will leave fans gasping for breath as he clobbers the listener on song after song.

Commenting on Lombardo’s return to the fold, King notes, “Not to say the shine’s worn off, but it’s old news to us. I think the thing the kids are going to get into, besides just being the first Slayer album in five years, is that Dave’s on it. When he came back he wasn’t a member, he just came back to do a couple of tours and people started asking ‘Is he gonna hang around?’ And I would tell them that was up to Dave. But I could tell that Dave was having a killer time,” King confided. “So it was just a matter of time before he said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ But it’s great. And now that he’s got a new Slayer album that he’s played on, I think he’s going to get some more enjoyment out of playing. He takes pride in everything he does and it’s awesome to have him back with us.”

Having the original members record their first album together in fifteen years is certainly newsworthy but the lasting might of the band and its continued popularity is an achievement few can boast. For each of the members, the band is resolute. There is no other band like Slayer.

“The staying power behind Slayer is that we’ve stuck to our guns,” Says Araya. “Integrity . . . that would be number one. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve stuck to what we do best. - and the fact that we’ve been together as a band for so long. Ten years with Dave, another ten without Dave, and now Dave’s back. It has a lot to do with compromise, that’s just the way it has to be. You have to be able to compromise and give and take and that has a lot to do with why we’re still together and a force to be reckoned with. I’ve learned that without each other, Slayer wouldn’t exist and that the whole is greater than its parts.”

Kerry King is far more succinct. “Slayer, to me, is the coolest band on the planet. There is a timeless quality to Slayer. It’s cool, but I can’t explain it. It’s our life.”

The band has created one mesmerizing record after the next, influencing many of today’s most successful bands, including Slipknot, Sepultura and Killswitch Engage. It continues to earn new generations of fans, while staying true to its ceaselessly devoted followers. Slayer’s legacy is cemented in music forever and the band remains undaunted in its directive to make punishing, aggressive and exciting music. With Christ Illusion the band marks its territory. Slayer has exceeded itself far beyond thrash metal to become an unstoppable juggernaut without equal.

Tom Araya sums it up: “I think the best thing is the band’s longevity and the fact that we haven’t bowed to anyone. That we were able to make a record like Reign in Blood, which, to us, was just another record, but to others, was something very special, it’s had such an impact. People will remember it for a long time, and it’s all because we did things our way, we didn’t bow down to anyone. We didn’t compromise. We stuck to being who we are.”

World Painted Blood (2009) is the most vital and exciting metal release in recent memory. Produced by Greg Fidelman and Executive Producer Rick Rubin (the same team responsible for Metallica’s Death Magnetic) the songs are intense and performed at a level only reachable by the masters of their craft. From epic statements like the title track and “Hate Worldwide”, to the fast, punk/thrash outbursts of “Snuff” and “Psychopathy Red”, to the dark theater of “Beauty Through Order” and “Human Strain” there is nothing backward-looking about World Painted Blood; it’s the sound of a band effortlessly earning their relevance in 2010.


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