Here at E.D., Ethan and I strive to keep the content on the blog to research-heavy reviews in order to give you our thoughts and encourage you to explore movies and music that you normally may not. We tend not to blast you with news and current events since you have access to that via the Internet.
However, in this case, we felt it important to at least do a quick write up on the band Slayer since they have just announced their final tour set for this year beginning in May. “Why would we care about them?”, you may ask. Well, one of the main drives behind starting this blog was to cover all members of the Big Four: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. I had the hair-brained idea to go through the entire discography of all four bands and assign a grade to each. Ethan had been wanting to do a blog for some time since writing is a bit of a passion for him. Once we realized each other’s desire, we decided to combine both ideas and from it spawned the E.D. Blog (Ethan and David, not erectile dysfunction).
We had the privilege of seeing Metallica last summer for their Worldwired Tour, and we fully intend to see Anthrax and Megadeth at our earliest convenience. Unfortunately for us, we will not be able to see Slayer in live action due to this news. Not that Slayer is our favorite band by any stretch, but we realize their importance for metal. They started the same year as Metallica in 1981 during the fledgling stages of thrash and helped bring that music genre to prominence during the 80’s and early 90’s. We haven’t always agreed with their lyrical themes, but their musical skills are irrefutable. Aside from maybe Anthrax’s Charlie Benante, I can’t think of a better drummer in this genre than Dave Lombardo, who has been hailed as the Godfather of the Double Bass. Tom Araya’s voice is distinctive and is perfect for the band. And perhaps the most recognizable fixtures of the band’s sound are the guitar solos and duets of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, who never ceased to amaze with their creativity and amazing speed.
Why Slayer is calling it quits is somewhat of a surprise but not a total one. Ethan brought it to my attention last summer that Araya had seemed to have lost interest in the business when doing interviews and Ethan felt like their days were numbered. I think he nailed it. It’s not hard to figure out why Araya would lose interest. Just a few years ago, Jeff Hanneman passed away, leaving a huge void for the band to fill. Exodus’s Gary Holt has done a marvelous job, but he’s not an original member. While Holt was part of the Bay Area metal scene in the early 80’s, he wasn’t part of Slayer during their beginnings, and wasn’t able to form the relationships with the other group members like Hanneman. This isn’t Holt’s fault since this problem would exist with any guitarist succeeding Hanneman.
The style and pace of Slayer’s material may also have something to do with their calling it quits. The speed and difficulty of their touring material over the course of 37 years would take a toll on the body. Top that off with Araya’s and King’s previous tensions with former drummer Dave Lombardo, who was constantly in and out of the band, and I’d say a measure of fatigue has finally set in with the group’s members. Imagine being drummer Paul Bostaph, who had to join and leave the band numerous times depending on what Lombardo did, and had to live up Slayer fans’ expectations set by Lombardo. That’s not an ideal situation.
Whatever was the final nail in the coffin for these guys, I’d say they had a good run. Their body of work comprising twelve studio albums is commendable and their early work in particular is spectacular. The three albums they strung together from ’86-’90 (Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss) are perhaps as good as any three from a band in the metal genre. Consider this, heavy metal saw the likes of Master of Puppets, Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, Among the Living, Piece of Mind, and Ace of Spades around this time, and Slayer’s work was distinguishable. I’ve even seen a top twenty list that had Reign in Blood as the greatest heavy metal album of all time. This to me is a tad far-fetched, especially since I feel like Slayer’s succeeding efforts in South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss topped Reign in Blood in songwriting, creativity, and were just better albums from a more mature group.
I’ll not get bogged down in my personal album rankings here, but I’ve always enjoyed discussions on what metal album is the best, and Slayer’s work inevitably comes up at some point in the conversation and usually involves a little controversy. I think the thing I’ll miss most about Slayer is the controversy. Say what you want about their material or their determination to not sway from thrash, their style and music have always stirred up good conversation about the heavy metal genre, and that’s always a good thing.
For Slayer, it appears that the coils of the serpent may now unwind.