A FEAST OF… Slayer ((((Slaaaaaayyyerrrrr!))))

They (we) don’t fuck
around. Three bloody goddamn features wrapped up nice, just in time for the
holidays.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

Part I: Slayer-No
Longer Scary?

 

Nobody’s scared of Slayer anymore. The words Slaytanic wehrmacht no longer carry the
same gravitas – at least as far as frightening evangelicals into protest and CD
burnings? It’s too true. Twenty-seven years after their debut album, Show No Mercy, Slayer is a classic rock
band.

 

It’s inevitable; one day your favorite band will, with the
passing of time and evolution of music, sound like Foghat to the youngsters.
Take Metallica, for example. “They already do [sound like Foghat],” laughs
Slayer singer-bass player Tom Araya. “I don’t want to sound mean or ugly, but
they do.” Yup. It’s not about their sell-out haircuts and fuddy-duddy
Luddite-ism-it’s that lately “Seek and Destroy” and “The Call of Ktulu” elicit
the same nostalgic reaction as “Slow Ride.” The same, says Araya, is true of
Slayer.

 

Pause to consider it: Don’t you, when you hear the strains
preceding the thrash deluge of “Raining Blood,” experience not only the
fist-pumping rush but a kind of wistfulness, a thousand-yard stare nostalgia
for the days when such aggressive sounds emanating from your bedroom made Mom
and Pop consider calling in Max von Sydow to hose you down with holy water?
Now, with Slayer winning a Grammy, and doing USO performances, the tune is ever
more becoming the new “Hell’s Bells.”

 

“I think we’ve gone from being evil,” says Araya, “to being
cool.”

 

Man, Slayer was already cool. They’re just not as
conspicuously threatening now that there’s blood all over Adult Swim and the
Xbox. Now they can say things like, “…there’s some kind of magic [about the new
album, World Painted Blood] that I
can’t quite put my finger on…” That’s drummer Dave Lombardo talking to online
metal show Capital Chaos. When City Weekly yanked him out of bed for a
9am phoner, we asked-with tongue in cheek – if it was at least black magic,
some Aleister Crowley funk.

 

“No black magic, no Wicca, nothing,” Lombardo said. Alchemy? “Chemistry. When you listen to Dark Side of the Moon, that to me, when
it was made, there was something special going on. There was camaraderie, some
kind of an alignment of planets. Whatever it is, something was going down at
that time. Now, it’s nothing with candles, nothing with voodoo. It’s just what
magic went on at rehearsal… that’s what I’m calling magic. Dark Side of the Moon has that magic. AC/DC Highway to Hell has that magic. And if I may add, there’s one more
record that we have that has that magic, and that’s Reign in Blood.”

 

Reign in Blood,
Slayer’s third album, is widely regarded as a metal masterpiece. Every band
whose discography contains such a platter says that about every new album they
put out – see Kiss’s colossal queef Sonic
Boom
, which Paul Stanley claimed was on par with that band’s Destroyer. It’s cheap n’ easy marketing,
and if there’s anything scary about Slayer nowadays, it’s the idea that this
band of undisputed attitude might sell out.

 

Except that, by design, there’s no room for selling out in
Slayer’s music. For one, there’s the band’s hallmark: speed. When the band
proffered the more down-tempo (though terribly so) South Of Heaven, fans recoiled before ultimately embracing it,
proving to the band they had to deliver certain somethings-insane tempos,
whammy-strangling solos, double-bass drum blasts, controversial lyrics-and
they’ve hardly faltered since.

 

World Painted Blood,
despite what may be construed as a titular allusion to Reign, isn’t a redux. Rather, it’s a convergence of Reign and South, its chronological successor, blending hair-whipping
thrash-punk (“Unit 731,” “Not Of This God”) and comparatively sludgy songs like
“Snuff” and “World Painted Blood.” There is one near heart-attack moment in
“Playing With Dolls,” which starts in vaguely nü-Metallica territory with
Araya’s talky vocal/borderline rap, but actually is tempered with psychotic
breaks, creating a tug-of-war effect in which Slayer’s psychosis ultimately
prevails.

 

This, of course, is the story of the band. A bunch of kids
got together and wrote songs about Satan and Nazis and set it to the most
extreme sounds they could muster, and photographing themselves ripping apart
naked bloody wenches or-gasp-six-packs of Stella Artois. People crapped their
pants, but Slayer kept it up. Now, against all odds, they’re virtually in the
mainstream. Maybe the best art is the most frightening?

 

“Absolutely,” says Lombardo. “And then there’s art that just
sits there and makes absolutely no sense.

            “It feels
great [that Slayer is accepted]. Finally people understand that we are just
humans, we don’t go around-music isn’t a threat.”

 

 

***

 

Part II: Blurting
With Kerry King

In which the Slayer
guitarist gets real about his day job.

 

You know a band is cool when you toss ‘em a big, fat
softball of a question-a few of them, in fact – and they refuse to play the
plug game. Blurt gave Slayer
guitarist Kerry King ample opportunity to please the label and sell a few extra
copies of the band’s super sexy, $200 10-LP limited-edition box set The Vinyl Conflict, but he wasn’t
swingin’. “I just woke up,” he said, first thing. Not so much as an excuse, but
to illustrate how much he was diggin’ his time off-even a month after the last
date on the band’s Jagermeister American Carnage tour with Anthrax and
Megadeth. Doin’ a phoner was like goin’ into work for a meeting on his day off.
Only he wasn’t bent out of shaped about it.

 

What’s that? Isn’t Slayer supposed to be the band that
doesn’t fuck around? Well sure – but they’re not dicks. They realize there’s
business to be done; it can’t all be crushing skulls onstage every night. So
they indulge when it’s necessary. Corporate-sponsored tour? Sure thing – but
you don’t seem them holding up Jager bottles during their set. Pick up a few
interviews that couldn’t happen during the tour? Sure thing. But only to a
point.

 

It’s an interesting angle from which to view Slayer.

 

Kerry King on The Vinyl Conflict

This is softball Numero Uno – “How about that box set, huh?”
King stands behind his product, but is no shill. “If that thing came out when I
was young, and it was Priest or Maiden or somethin’, it would’ve been really cool for me to have. You know,
when you get deeper into your career, you get all kinds of ideas comin’ out – why
don’t we do this? Or why don’t we do this?
I think this is pretty cool.”

 

…On Holding the
Finished Product

“I think we got to see the finished version while we were in
Long Island on this last run. As much as we hate to talk business-we always
fuckin’ hate to talk business, but just having that come in before the show,
and checking it out, was pretty cool.”

 

…On the Realities of
Putting Together A Box Set

“The record company pretty much pitched us on exactly how [the
set looks now]. I don’t think any of us had anything extra to add to it. We
were just stoked the way that it was brought up to us. But originally it had a
stupid name, the most generic name in the world. Somethin’ like Slayer: The American Recordings Years or
somethin’. Gimme a fuckin’ break. We were on tour, so we weren’t really
thinkin’ about it, but I said gimme a couple days, I’ll go sit at the bar one
night and I’ll come up with somethin’. And that’s what I did.”

 

…On Slayer’s Image
Evolving from Most Threatening Band to Serious Artists

Blurt’s first
Slayer memory is of a Hit Parader photo
in which the band posed over a scantily clad, bloody babe. It appeared as
though they’d murdered her themselves. And maybe were feasting on her remains.
That kinda thing sticks with you. Now the band boasts a Grammy, and the uproar
over their ostensibly pro-Satan, pro-Nazi lyrics has abated. “I think [our
image] has evolved into promoting free-thinking rather than anything else.
That’s what I try to get across in more of my lyrics than not,” says King.

 

Asked if the best art is scary, hits us in uncomfortable
places, King says, “Um… I like it
that way. [laughs] The point is that Slayer can make serious sociological
points with their imagery, and it’s effective-for their crowd. Some might say
you’d get more with sugar than with salt, but heavy metal lyrics are a valid
form of communication. And they’re getting credit for that now. Of course,
Slayer gets to have it both ways because… they’re Slayer.

 

“We have the really blatant, in-your-face stuff,” King says,
“but we also – we don’t beat around the bush, but we attack you from different
angles. So it’s not always dead-ahead. We might get out point across by coming
around and hitting you in the back of
the head.”

 

On His Day Job, And Slacking Off

“At the end of the day, this is my job,” says King. “And I
don’t know what the hell else to do. Being home for a month, I should’ve been
playin’ guitar the whole time, but I haven’t. I’m definitely gonna change that
‘cause I wanna get a jump start on whatever our next thing is. You know?”

 

On Other Creative Itches, And Fulfillment

So many musicians have side projects and other aspirations.
Do Kerry King’s hopes and dreams stretch beyond Slayer? “Nope. I’m completely
fulfilled. I don’t wanna produce or anything like that, ‘cause I don’t have the
patience for it. I totally dig what I’m doin’.”

 

***

 

Part III: Deign in
Blood

Slayer indulges some
goofy questions for
Blurt.

 

Would Slayer ever deign to appear on a daytime talk show?

 

Dave Lombardo: “Yeah, man. How about The View? I
wouldn’t have to talk! (Mimics hosts blabbing). All these fuckin’ ladies
talking, man. It’s insane! No, let me take that back – how about Jerry Springer? You’d get these parents
on there, ‘Your music (whines)…’ Shut the fuck up.”

 

Kerry King: I
don’t know, ‘cause I don’t watch any of ‘em. I can’t really help you with that
one. Eh… um… No.

 

Two guys dared each other, the next time they got intimate with their
wives, to yell “Slaaaaaayerrrrr!” as they reached orgasm. Neither of them had
the balls to do it. Are they pussies?

 

Lombardo: “Yeah.
Absolutely. Big, torn-up pussies, that’s what they are. It doesn’t take balls
to scream, ‘Slayer,’ alright? I’ll yell ‘Slayer’ in his wife’s fuckin’ face! Nah, just kidding.”

 

Tom Araya: Nah.
But the correct exclamation would be “Slay Her!”

 

King: Not to me,
but for themselves, backin’ out of their Slayer pact that they made together.

 

Will Dave Lombardo push the envelope of heavy metal drumming once more
and innovate a triple-bass technique?

 

Lombardo: It
would require me to have a consistent hard-on, dude. I don’t know if you’re
gonna write that, but it’d be great if you did.

 

King: Ha! Yeah it
would. Either that or how some of the single-kick players achieve a double-bass
sound with a special pedal that also hits when you let off the pedal.

 

If you play Slayer backwards do you heard evangelical Christian
messages, purpose-driven life stuff?

 

King: Yeah, it
might. We should try that. The one time we ever did it was on the intro to Hell Awaits, and of course we did it
purposely. It was just fun. Realistically, in our minds, we were just making
fun of people who think [bands] do that all the time to get [an evil] point
across. We were doing it right to their faces.

 

***

 

What’s that? Isn’t Slayer supposed to be the band that
doesn’t fuck around? Meetings?

 

That’s not to say King wasn’t game. This is just another
example of how Slayer doesn’t fuck around. In any sense, or with anything. They
do what they do, and dig it, but they’re not pitchmen. They’ll do a
corporate-sponsored tour

 

 

[Photo Credit: Randy Harward]

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