Monday, July 25, 2011

All Hail Slayer!

Don't ask me how I connect my mental dots to come up with my blog post topics, because here's how I came up with todays...

So, I was sitting here, staring at my computer, completely blank of inspiration and I was singing "Birdhouse in Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants, except I was changing the lyrics around to be morbid, like saying "Make a little birdhouse out of skulls", and "There's a picture opposite me, of sadistic brutality..." that sort of thing.  So, I was like wtf is wrong with me, it's like what TMBG would sound like if they did a collaboration with Slayer, and then I was like "OMG, SLAYER!"  And that's when I decided to make this post all about the greatest Slayer songs ever, because you know how much I love counting shit down and I also love Slayer!  Yeah, that's the kind of mind you're dealing with here.

Even in their 50's, they will still kick 90% of all ass they meet.
What can I say about the mighty Slayer?  How many bands get harder and faster as they get older?  Not Metallica, that's for sure.  Not Megadeth either.  That's pussy shit now, stuff you find in your little sister's music collection and you're like wtf...  In 5 more years, "Enter Sandman" will be playing over the speakers in your dentist's office as he's knocking you out to clean your teeth.  It will be all muzak'ed out, with xylophones and shit and you'll think to yourself "I can't believe these guys made Kill 'em All"  But you know what Slayer will be doing?  Melting the fucking faces off of a crowd of screaming maniacs somewhere and wiping their asses with squeamish posers.

That's what Slayer does.  That's all Slayer knows how to do.  Slayer can't be reasoned with, it can't be bargained with and it will not stop until your face has been melted off from their blistering thrash.

Allow me now to take you on a musical journey through the history of thrash brutality with it's undisputed godfathers, Slayer.  9 reasons to love this band, 9 reasons why they are now and forever will be the kings of metal, 9 levels of Dante's Inferno.  Hell awaits...

9.  Dead Skin Mask

Whenever possible, I want to show live clips with good audio quality, rather than playing clips that are just cuts from their albums.  Reason being, as good as Slayer is on record - and they are damn good - they are just an unstoppable force of nature live.  I've seen Slayer live 3 times and I will see them every time they come through any city within an hour or two drive of me because they are one of the best live bands ever.  This is a great clip of them performing my number 9 pick song, "Dead Skin Mask".  Written about the serial killer Ed Gein, who made suits out of the skin of his female victims, this song has a classic, creepy-ass Slayer intro that breaks into a heavy as hell rhythm that explodes into madness, getting harder and heavier and faster and more chaotic as it builds to the solo and then breaks all the way back down to the intro music, lulls you into a false sense of peace, and then beats you across the face with that heavy ass rhythm again.  So many Slayer songs follow this template, and that's why so many Slayer songs are fucking awesome.  The only thing that lacks in the live version is the girl screaming at the end, but it makes up for it in power and energy.

8.  Seasons in the Abyss

For this song I chose the official music video, because it's one of only a few actual videos Slayer made for their songs, excluding live footage, and it's the first music video Slayer ever made.  The video quality is lacking, because the only other version on youtube is the Vevo one and they fucking suck dick and won't let you imbed their clips.  Like "Dead Skin Mask", this song starts off with the slow, creepy intro, kicks into a most-pit rhythm and then crescendos before reprising the intro and grinding slowly to the end.  Like I said, it's a Slayer formula and it works.  "Seasons in the Abyss" was Slayer's 5th studio album, and basically every song on it is great, pretty much like every other Slayer album.  Picking only 9 songs for this list is not going to be easy, because I could pick 9 great songs just from this album.

7.  Mandatory Suicide

Slayer, live again, doing what they do best.  This is my second favorite song from the album "South of Heaven" (guess what my favorite is!).  I picked this song not just because it also has an insane, mosh-pit rhythm throughout, but because it is an anti-war song.  Slayer has been accused of being Satanic, pro-nazi, pro-war and a lot of other different negative labels because of the controversial nature of their music, but their interest in the imagery and sociology behind things like Satanism, Nazism and war aren't endorsement of those things.  Slayer has always had a pretty strong anti-war message, illustrated by songs like "Mandatory Suicide" that basically equate being sent off to war with being forced to kill yourself.  When Slayer writes about Satanism, Nazism, mass murder and war, they're coming from the standpoint of guys who are fascinated with the mindset of men who can commit these acts, who can think up these ideas and then carry them out.  It's almost a psychological study, a thesis set to music.

6.  South of Heaven

I was trying to decide which Satanic-themed song I wanted to put in the number 6 slot and I chose to go with the title track and my favorite song from the album "South of Heaven".  This album was possibly Slayers most controversial one, not because of the themes of the songs or anything like that, but because it was generally felt to be lacking the same level of intensity found on previous Slayer albums.  Some critics accused Slayer of "selling out" on this album, if such a thing is even possible, because of how much more mellow Tom Araya's vocals were and how the music was slower and more melodic than on their previous album, the legendary "Reign in Blood".  I mean, it's going to be hard to follow up one of the top 10 greatest metal albums of all time with anything that's not going to get shit on to some degree unless you somehow manage the impossible and actually top it, so Slayer had an uphill battle from the get-go with "South of Heaven", but they definitely did go in a much slower, heavier and more melodic direction with this album than they had done on "Reign in Blood".  I think their logic was sound, you can't do "Reign in Blood, part 2" so why try?  Just make a good, heavy and dark album, put 100% into it and let the critics be critical.  In the end, "South of Heaven" took it's rightful place along side all of the best stuff Slayer has done.

5.  War Ensemble

I should point out by now that none of the songs on this list are going to be from albums that came after "Seasons in the Abyss".  It's not that I don't love those albums, because I do, it's just that to make a list of the greatest Slayer songs ever demands respecting the foundation upon which their entire career was built.  Slayer is only the band it is today because of the first 5 albums they put out.  To know Slayer, to understand and appreciate just how much of a force in the metal world they are, you have to know their roots.  Divine Intervention, Diabolus in Musica, God Hates Us All, Christ Illusion, World Painted Blood and even their album of punk covers, Undisputed Attitude, are all amazing records and worthy of the Slayer legacy, and if nothing else they will be the focus of a second blog post about the greatest songs of the "Modern Slayer" era.

See, Slayer underwent a transformation of sorts after the release of "Seasons in the Abyss".  Dave Lombardo left the band and was replaced with former Forbidden drummer Paul Bostaph.  The result was a shift in sound and direction for Slayer.  In many ways, they got harder and faster and went back to their roots a bit, I think probably to silence critics who saw the loss of their long-time drummer as the beginning of the end for the band, but at the same time there was a certain groove and way that Lombardo drummed around Slayer's rhythms that was as important to the Slayer sound as the King/Hanneman twin leads or Tom Araya's vocals.  Not to knock Bostaph, I saw them live both with Paul and Dave on drums and Paul Bostaph handled business and helped the band to record some truly epic shit, but it's almost like Van Halen with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar.  They're in many ways the same band, but in very specific ways completely different.

So, my number 5 song is "War Ensemble".  Like "Mandatory Suicide" it's also a song about the horrors of war and the hypocrisy of men in power sending men without power to fight and die on their behalf.  You could easily categorize 90% of the Slayer songs ever written as being about one of 4 topics - Satanism, Nazism, war or serial killers.  Like I said before, there is a fascination with the extremes of man in Slayer's music.  An attempt to profile and explore the minds of those who are capable of committing the worst atrocities imaginable.  That, through exploring these topics and understanding the evil and sickness behind them, perhaps we can learn about the depths of our own depravity, and see how the same kinds of sickness and evil exist in other, more subtle forms in our society.  Plus, this song fucking rips ass.  Seriously, this song ignites the mosh pit like a keg of dynamite.

4.  Antichrist

From the first Slayer studio album, "Show No Mercy".  Slayer still plays this song live, nearly 30 years after recording it, which just shows how well their music has stood the test of time, and further supports my choice to only include their first 5 albums in this top 9 list.  Like I said, the Slayer of today is still Slayer, but classic Slayer is what their entire reputation is built upon and it all started with this album.  This was Slayer when the world wasn't ready for them yet.  This album was controversial simply because few bands were doing anything remotely close to this level of intensity, speed and with the imagery and lyrical content.  When death metal was still sperm in the balls of Floridian headbangers, when grindcore was still a bunch of pissed off British post-punkers looking for a sound, when black metal was still a group of Satan-worshiping Norwegians talking about burning churches and painting their faces, Slayer was showing a world who had just barely figured out how to handle Metallica's "Kill 'Em All" that it could get a LOT harder, darker and scarier, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.

3.  Hell Awaits

The first time I ever heard this song, the intro almost made me shit my pants.  That creepy back-masked chant with the demonic voice right before the drums kick in had me thinking "Oh shit, a demon is about to summon from this motherfucker right now!"  This song is pure, evil sickness.  Not only does it start off heavy as all hell, as is the Slayer formula for success, but it kicks into an insane fast rhythm and then Tom's vocals come in with a rapid-fire delivery that sounds like an auctioneer from hell.  It's like "blarbafargabladdablah fariginavano!  Shimmy namma bladdafarga minganomimom HELL AWAITS!"  Who needs guttural, death metal growls when you can just yell your lyrics out so fast that nobody can keep up with them!  Shit's brutal as hell son, and as you can see from the end of this clip, Slayer has been transitioning from "Hell Awaits" into "Antichrist" in their live show, pretty much as long as they've been playing live.  They did it in every show I've seen.  They did it on their "Decade of Aggression" CD and every live DVD since.  It's as much a trademark of their performance as the blood red lights that come on right before "Raining Blood", but I'll get to that in a minute...

2.  Angel of Death

I had found a better quality live clip than this one, but it didn't have Tom doing that insane fucking "AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" scream at the beginning, and that's almost fucking sacrilege.  This is the second best Slayer song ever.  I would love to just put the entire "Reign in Blood" album on here, because this album, more than any other, completely defined Slayer as a band and put the world on notice as to where the bar was set for metal.  Any band worth a shit who's ever done anything remotely considered metal lists "Reign in Blood" as one of the albums that had at least some influence on them musically.  This is the song that kicks off that album, and it immediately blasts you in the face with a relentless sonic assault that leaves you feeling like you just got your ass kicked by musical notes by the time it's done.  It's such a great move, like the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket waking everyone up by banging a metal trash can and shouting at the top of his lungs.  It's like "WAKE UP!  HERE COMES A LOAD OF HOT METAL RIGHT UP YOUR ASS!"  Slayer reprised this move again by using "War Ensemble" to kick off "Seasons in the Abyss" because it works.  It gets right in your face and lets you know you're about to be taken on an intense and unrelenting ride.  So, when you start off one of the most legendary metal albums ever recorded with a song like this, how do you end it?  Well...

1.  Raining Blood

It cannot be overstated.  This is the best Slayer song, ever.  See those red lights at the beginning?  That's what I was talking about during the "Hell Awaits" clip.  There are certain things that Slayer always does live, not because they're lazy, but because they work and the fans expect it.  If Slayer did "Raining Blood" without those red lights, the fans would be like "What the fuck?"  They wouldn't say "WTF?" because Slayer fans don't fucking speak internet in real life.  My only criticism of this clip is that they cut the song short and didn't go out on the brutal blast solo from hell that just stops short and becomes rain, but it actually rains blood, so that kind of made up for it.

So, there you go.  9 reasons to love Slayer.  If you already love Slayer, 9 reasons to justify it.  If you're a fan, 9 tracks to play as loud as you can and remind yourself why you like these guys so damn much in the first place.  If you aren't a fan... well, you probably don't even like metal, so it doesn't matter anyway.  Seriously, I don't know anyone who likes metal who doesn't also like Slayer.  They ARE metal, they raised the bar and set the tone for generations of extreme metal bands.  They are like the Beatles of metal.  They have in some way influenced just about every extreme metal band in the world, and certainly every metal band from America.  They sell out arenas despite having almost no mainstream media promotion.  They've made less than a handful of music videos, only been played on a handful of radio stations before satellite radio came along with it's all-metal station and pretty much did all of their promotion through relentless touring, putting out amazing music and making their T-Shirts part of the basic metal heads uniform.  They're the biggest "underground" band in the world.  They never sold out, never compromised, never changed their sound to try and chase the success that their peers like Metallica and Megadeth found by toning down their hard edge and going "mainstream".  Slayer didn't conform to the mainstream, the mainstream conformed to them.  30 years later and they're just as hard as they were when they first started, if not harder.  How many metal bands can make that same claim?  Hell, how many metal bands can keep doing the same thing, the same way, for 3 decades and just keep getting bigger and bigger from it?  All hail Slayer, the greatest metal band in the world!

1 comment:

  1. i agree with your list and would like to have your mouth babies please.