Because some of our readers may, in fact, be so full of vitriol that the combination of Justin Timberlake and Paxil just isn’t doin’ it for them anymore, we bring you our bimonthly metal column, “Angry Music for Angry People,” written by MetalSucks‘ Axl Rosenberg, a.k.a. Matthew Goldenberg. In this installment, he celebrates the “most metal band of all time,” the almighty Slayer:
Sub-genre(s): Thrash, speed metal
Best known for: Being the most metal band of all time
For people who like: Jagermeister, driving way over the speed limit, bar brawls
Most interesting member: Guitarist/primary lyricist Kerry King, for numerous reasons. Aside from his chest-length beard and the demonic horns tattooed on the sides of his shaven head, he’s proven more than willing to openly talk smack about any band or musician he feels “isn’t metal,” whether it’s Metallica (“sellouts”) Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine (“a hypocrite”), or Machine Head, who “fooled” King “into thinking they’re metal.” He also owns his own clothing line, KFK (Kerry Fucking King), specializing in shirts featuring such slogans as “God Slaves.” He’s also made numerous guest appearances with other bands, and he provided the guitar work on the Beastie Boys’ songs “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn,” “Fight For Your Right (To Party),” and “She’s Crafty.”
Fun fact: King played lead guitar for Megadeth at that band’s earliest live gigs.
Overview: Those not in the know–Chuck Klosterman, the kids at Hot Topic, my mom–often mistakenly refer to metal pioneers Slayer as “death metal,” although with song titles such as “Necrophobic,” “God Send Death,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Mandatory Suicide,” “Spill The Blood” and “Die By The Sword,” the error is understandable. Slayer actually represent 25% of the “Big Four” of metal, a quartet of bands that all emerged in the early ’80s and changed the game forever. (The other three: Anthrax; Megadeth; and, of course, Metallica.) And the metallic subgenre these bands belong to is the obviously named “speed metal,” often known as “thrash.”
In Fargo Rock City, Klosterman’s likens this music to the sight of a bicycle wheel rotating so fast all its spokes seem to blend together, and that’s actually pretty much right on the money. King and his co-guitarist Jeff Hanneman specialize in massive, super-fast, horror-flick riffs and dueling guitar solos that seek to prove these dudes are the fastest guitar players on earth, and the sound of drummer Dave Lombardo (who left the band following 1990′s Seasons In The Abyss and returned for last year’s Christ Illusion) is that of a locomotive perpetually about to fly off the rails. (Lombardo, also a member of Mike Patton’s Fantomas who sits behind perhaps the biggest drum kit of all time, is considered by many to be the best drummer in metal.)
Like all good metal bands, they’ve also (deliberately and inadvertently) courted controversy, most famously for the song “Angel of Death,” which is about Nazi “scientist” Dr. Josef Mengle. (The band has claimed the song is a documentary-like examination of evil and is in no way intended to endorse white supremacy, but that doesn’t negate the fact that their fan club, the Slatanic Wehrmacht, is named for a division of the Nazi army, or that live performances of the song are often accompanied by footage of the Nazis at work.) And yet the band can also be curiously prescient in its socio-political observations about organized religion; the song “Disciple,” for example, features bassist/vocalist Tom Araya shouting about “terrorists targeting the next mark” and “global chaos feeding on hysteria”; the song kicks off the album God Hates Us All, which was released, through some perverse divine intervention, on 9/11. In spite–or perhaps because–of these brushes with controversy, Slayer has been going strong for some 25 years, and last year’s 20th anniversary (on 06/06/06, no less!) of their breakthrough album Reign in Blood was cause for celebration. (The band toured the album in its entirety, complete with sprinklers that rained “blood” during the grand finale of “Raining Blood.”)
Whatever your feelings on Slayer, their influence is undeniable, with other metal acts stealing their riffs wholesale on a regular basis. The band’s opening acts have a notoriously hard time getting through a set without being drowned out by Slayer’s rabid fanbase and its cries for the almighty headliners. Their mosh pits are notoriously dangerous places (even by mosh pit standards), and like screaming “Free Bird!” at a classic rock concert, shouting (in your most demonic growl) “SSSSSLLLAAAAYYYEEERRRR!!!!” at any metal show is pretty much guaranteed to work everyone within earshot of you into a frenzy that requires them to echo your battle cry. That kind of devotion is down to the band not really changing much in nearly three decades; unlike many of their peers, they never made that grunge or industrial album. Their style has remained consistent, and except for the 15 years spent without Lombardo, they’ve never suffered a major lineup change. And ask any metalhead, and they’ll tell you that only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Slayer.