Slayer is a thrash metal band that began in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, USA in the suburb of the Huntington Beach area. Its founding member, guitarist Kerry King, had previously been in another band with bassist Tom Araya, and so he asked him to join the band. They then teamed up with guitarist Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo.
King was influenced by the band Venom, and Lombardo was into the punk scene that was dominant at the time. Hanneman's father had fought in World War II against the Germans, and this had an influence on some of the songs he wrote. Hanneman has a large collection of war memorabilia and, rather dubiously, Nazi medals.
Araya's family moved from Chile to Los Angeles for the prospect of a better life. One of his brothers is Slayer's bass technician, and his birthday is 6-6-61.
Like most bands Slayer started out playing small clubs. They did cover versions of songs by bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, who were very popular at the time.
The big break came the following year, when the owner of Metal Blade records heard them play. He offered them a slot in his label's upcoming compilation, Metal Massacre III. They agreed, but only if they could release their own album too. The deal was done and the song 'Aggressive Perfector' went onto the compilation, and Slayer's first album Show No Mercy came out in December 1983. It was hailed by many of the genre's aficiandos as a masterpiece, though critics laughed at the comic cover.
The next album, Hell Awaits, was released in 1985, and it showed that Slayer had matured in the years since they'd formed. The music on Hell Awaits was darker and the album sold very well. So well that producer Rick Rubin contacted Slayer and asked them to join his label Def Jam. In 1985, Slayer toured Europe for the first time. Their first British gig was at the fabled Marquee in London.
Reign in Blood
1986 brought one of their finest albums, Reign In Blood. It is hailed as the best thrash/speed album and is credited with killing off the genre as no other bands could match it. The songs include 'Angel of Death', a song written by Hanneman that is about Joseph Mengele. This song and the album resulted in both Hanneman and Slayer being dubbed as Nazis - the band's logo is an iron eagle and their fan club is called 'Slaytanic Wehtmacht'. Reign In Blood was the band's first gold-selling album, and it helped boost the band's reputation as being one of the most energetic bands live on stage.
A problem started to be seen in the band, though. Lombardo felt he was being left out by the other three. So he quit and was replaced by Tony Scaglione. The new drummer unfortunately couldn't cut the mustard, so Lombardo came back very soon after he'd left.
South of Heaven was released in 1988, but due to its slower and heavier nature it was not immediately accepted by fans. Lyrically, it was different. Instead of the typical killing and Satan, the songs on the album were about Nazism, war, abortion, and TV evangelists. The album went gold and was followed by another European tour. Because of the controversial nature of their songs, Slayer had now become idols for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis over Europe.
Seasons in the Abyss
1990 gave Slayer their first platinum album, Seasons In The Abyss. In the same year, they went on the 'Clash Of The Titans' tour, which also helped develop a big rift between them and their musical enemies Megadeth. The following year saw the live album Decade of Aggression. A concert video was made but not released, as Slayer wasn't happy with the quality.
The next year, drummer Dave Lombardo was fired. He had been spending too much time with his wife, which, among other things, had 'made his drumming suffer'. He was replaced with Paul Bostaph. In 1992 Slayer did the famous Monster Of Rock Festivals in Poland, Germany, and England. They were among the supporting bands, with Skid Row and WASP, the headliners being Iron Maiden.
Slayer did the soundtrack to the film Judgement Night, and played at Monsters Of Rock concerts in Brazil, playing to 40,000 people at a time. In the following month came the album Divine Intervention. Included on the album was another Hanneman song, 'SS-3'. This one was about Nazi Reinhard Heydrich, and provoked yet more attacks from people, including Sepultura vocalist Max Cavelera. For the rest of 1994 Slayer did a European tour, supported by Machine Head.
After much touring Slayer released an album of punk covers, called Undisputed Attitude, in May 1996. After this was finished Bostaph left to join The Truth About Seafood. He was replaced with Testament drummer Jon Dette.
Soon after they headlined Dynamo Open Air in Holland and co-headlined Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium with Iron Maiden. In October, they did the Ozzfest - a rock festival arranged by ex-Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne.
Early in 1997 Dette was fired. He was replaced with Bostaph, who had left The Truth About Seafood.
In June 1998, Slayer's latest album, Diabolus In Musica, was released. It was true to Slayer's traditional sound, and thus sold well and was accepted by fans.
Slayer have earned a reputation as one of the most hardcore, heavy thrash groups around.