The Scariest, Heaviest Band Ever

Slayer is the scariest, heaviest band ever. This is not a topic for debate; this is metal rule number one. Slayer is so badass that you can't even say their name: you have to crush the dual-syllable malediction into one long, monosyllabic oath and bellow it like a pillaging Cossack. Back in the '80s, when parents were suing Ozzy because he told their kids to worship Satan, Slayer was convincing the cooler kids to carve their pentagrams in their flesh. Slayer is the kind of band that will kick your favorite band's ass and laugh while they're doing it. Believe that.

It's been almost 30 years since Slayer's debut, "Show No Mercy," hit the metal underground like a hydrogen bomb. Like Metallica, Slayer was a direct backlash to the glitzy, hair-metal scene in L.A. that was burgeoning in the early '80s. Slayer's intent was to sonically decimate the spandex-clad movement and take metal to another level: a scary, satanic level. Through the span of a career which has seen virtually no commercial airplay at all, Slayer has not only maintained an abrasive level of speed and heaviness, they have managed to garner praise and acclamation from outside their vast legions of hessian hoards. Slayer has stubbornly kept grinding out unapologetic anthems of aggression. Their landmark album, "Reign in Blood," set the standard for heavy music and has since become both a classic and a blueprint; a high watermark that many bands strive to attain but rarely achieve.

In 2009, they released "World Painted Blood". It was a triumphant return to form for the group and many have since hailed the album as Slayer's finest since the unholy triumvirate of releases "Reign in Blood," "South of Heaven" and "Seasons in the Abyss". They are currently on the road with metal giants Megadeth and Testament in what has been dubbed the "Carnage Across Canada" leg of an international tour. This gathering of heavy metal mainstays is no small feat, given that Slayer and Megadeth haven't played together since a well-publicized beef between the two bands drove an acrimonious wedge between the former "Clash of the Titans" participants. These days, though, the guys find themselves older, wiser and back on the road to mayhem.

"We're just out there, playing these arenas, kicking ass and having a good time," says long-time Slayer drummer - and original member - Dave Lombardo. "We are reacquainting ourselves with these old friends and I think it's great that we've reestablished all this. I just hung out with Dave (Mustaine, vocalist for Megadeth) this morning. I walked out of the hotel and there he was. We're friends. We're out here to do what we do best and that's the way it's going. I anticipate that the rest of the tour is going to go the same way, too."

"World Painted Blood" sees the original band return to the devastating format it perfected in the late '80s and early '90s. Lombardo describes the writing process as a familiar journey for Slayer.

"There are probably three different approaches we use to writing. One is Jeff (Hanneman, guitars) bringing me a CD with the drum patterns of the songs. He'll create the songs with digital drums in his home studio and give it to me with these drum loops. What I do is I listen to the structures; I know the basic beats that he wants in there, so I just elaborate on those ideas and give them my own touch. Then Kerry (King, guitars) will play some riffs for me. He'll give me a basic idea of what kind of beat he wants. So I take the idea and go with it. I start creating other patterns over top of those that resemble the ones that he initially presented to me. It's just a creative thing. It's not as difficult as some people might think.

Lombardo is often credited with an innovative drumming style, one that is blazingly fast and, at the same time, impossibly subtle and intricate. The man has set a number of speed records with his vicious double bass breaks (check out "Angel of Death" and "At Dawn They Sleep" for proof) and heavy-handed pounding. Being able to play those songs past the age of 40 is a feat in itself.

"The reason I hit so hard is because I'm trying to take care of that machine. I still feel as good as I did probably 10 years ago," says Dave. "Not abusing my body so much has really helped. Drinking takes such a toll on you. It's great to go out and be with your friends and all that, but it really takes a toll on your body. I recently went out and got drunk with some friends of mine and I got hammered. And that will be the only time on the tour that I will get that way. It just takes too much time to recover and I can't perform as well. I try to keep healthy, I take vitamins every day."

As for inspiration, it doesn't take much to get the feisty Lombardo fired up for a show.

"There's something that happens about 45 minutes before I go on. I can tell when my endorphins are going to kick in, when I know something is going to happen. The adrenaline starts pumping through your body and you get this rush. My arms kind of feel like they are swelling up and I can feel the tension in them. I think you get that rush because you're excited. I still love doing this."

As the rhythmic engine that propels Slayer, Lombardo's strength is crucial to driving Slayer in their element: the live arena. What Slayer does best is whip an audience into a mighty frenzy. Slayer live is like nuclear war in a phone booth: a brutal and relentless attack that has the capacity to leave a victim dazed, bloodied, and unsure of what just happened. Regardless of age they are out there night after night bludgeoning their fans.

"My bass drums just pummel them," laughs Lombardo. He is well aware of what his drums can do. "From what I hear, it beats you up pretty good. The sound is really good, we have a great soundman. And, of course, you have Slayer behind the instruments. There is no doubt you're going to get a beating."

And their fans welcome that beating. Old and new, they have converged wildly to witness this formidable unit.

"It's been great. You see a real wide range of fans, as far as the ages. You get the fathers with their kids; you get the teenagers, the twenty- and thirty-year-olds. It's awesome. It's longevity. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that our music has been in so many video games. It's really cool. In a way, the Internet has ruined music and yet other things have sprung up and helped it along."

The set list is designed to please everyone.

"We are currently doing two songs off "World Painted Blood," the title track and "Hate Worldwide." Then, we are performing the entire "Seasons in the Abyss" record. That's what we're doing in Canada, currently."

Also in the offing from Slayer is a re-release of three classic live DVDs now available separately or in one limited-edition package available exclusively on Slayer's website, 2003's "War at the Warfield" and 2004's "Still Reigning," will be reissued. And, for the first time ever, 1995's "Live Intrusion," which has been digitally re-mastered, will also be available on DVD.

"'Live Intrusion' was when I wasn't in the band. They blotted me out. They might have fixed it now, but they blotted me out. They released that when I was away from the band, so that's why they did that. I never questioned them about it, but I don't really care."

Slayer also continues their worldwide domination by hitting the road heavily, with dates scheduled in Europe, South America and many other international cities, with a second leg of the Carnage tour set to include Anthrax. 1991's original American "Clash of the Titans" lineup, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, will tour together once again on the second leg of the American Carnage Tour. In the spirit of beating the recession there will be special pre-sale discounts on all tickets in most markets and a limited amount of $10 tickets will be available in many cities.

As far as their place in the annals of heavy music, Lombardo is both humble and knowingly appreciative when it comes to the devotion and recognition Slayer has received over the years.

"When I do these interviews, when I meet the fans and they start telling me, that's when I realize it."

Steven DiLodovico

Steven DiLodovico is an accomplished writer who grew up in the underground Hardcore scene in the early '80s, where he learned and lived the DIY ethos by booking local shows, writing for fanzines and organizing events of varying political activism. While raised on a steady diet of heavy classic rock from the '70s, his roots extend deeply into the worlds of Punk, Metal and Hip Hop. Originally from Philadelphia, Steven has worked for various independent record labels in different genres, including Superegular Recordings, Babygrande Records, and Enemy Soil Records. He has written for such Hip Hop magazines as Subculture and Elemental as well as a number of Hip Hop websites. He has also contributed to highly-esteemed websites like Jersey Beat and SmutLife. Steven is currently co-writing an oral history of the legendary Trenton, NJ Punk club City Gardens. Contact Steven at [email protected].