Few bands epitomize heavy metal better than Slayer. From their Satanic speed metal beginnings to the their legendary thrash masterpieces recorded with producer Rick Rubin, Slayer would come to define metal in iconography, aesthetics, and sound.
For many, Slayer have proven to be a gateway band to extreme metal. More brutal, aggressive, and blasphemous than Metallica, Megadeth, or Anthrax, Slayer represent the left hand path. Adorning their albums with Satanic and darkly Biblical artwork by Larry W. Carroll, the band would influence the burgeoning black metal scene in the ’80s and ’90s, as well as achieving commercial success as part of the aforementioned Big Four of thrash metal.
Slayer’s core lineup of guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, singer-bassist Tom Araya, and drummer Dave Lombardo was responsible for classic albums such as 1986’s Reign in Blood and 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss. Lombardo would exit and rejoin the band a couple of times in the subsequent years, with drummer Paul Bostaph stepping in to fill the vacancy.
When Hanneman tragically passed away in 2013, the metal world and Slayer’s fanbase grieved. But it wasn’t the end for the band. Exodus’ Gary Holt had been filling in for the ill guitarist, and remained with Slayer following Hanneman’s passing. The band would go on to record one more album, 2015’s Repentless, and tour until November 30th, 2019, when Slayer played the final show on their farewell tour.
Kerry King recently said that he thinks the band “quit too early.” He has also been talking up a potential post-Slayer project that is expected to feature Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph — essentially Slayer without Araya. We still have not heard any music from the as-yet-unnamed group, but Bostaph has confirmed the collaboration.
In the meantime, we decided to look back at Slayer’s 10 greatest songs, given that 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the band’s formation. Loosen up those neck muscles… here we go.