When the original line-up of Araya, King, Haneman and drummer Dave Lombardo were together, the former three all wrote lyrics with the two guitarists being responsible for the music. With their extreme musical style, their equally extreme lyrics and artwork have been very controversial since the beginning of their career, covering generally all of the worst things that go on in the world such as murder (particularly serial killers),various aspects of war such as terrorism and controversially Nazism, as well as Satanism and criticism of religion which has seen many groups try to ban sales of their albums, lawsuits filed against them and great offence taken by religious people and various others. Despite this, they are one of the most influential metal bands ever, with their musical, lyrical and visual style being an influence on many bands in extreme metal genres such as death and black metal. Their third album, 1986’s Reign in Blood is considered to be one of the greatest thrash albums of all time.
They have produced twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six music videos, two ep’s and a covers album all of punk songs. They have received a gold certification for four of their albums. They have also been nominated for a grammy five times, two of which they have won for the songs “Eyes of the Insane” in 2007 and “Final Six” in 2008 both of which are from 2006’s Christ Illusion. They reportedly sold five albums between 1991 and 2013. However it would seem that all that is about to come to an end as in January 2018, they announced that they are about to embark on their final world tour, which they are still currently on. So let’s have a look at the 10 best songs that they have written in all that time…
# 10 – Altar of Sacrifice
Track 4 off Reign in Blood, and written by King “Altar of Sacrifice” shows Slayer in all their Satanic glory with this rather grisly number depicting an unfortunate individual being sacrificed to the lord below himself. It chronicles the journey down below via all the twisted methods that his earth minions put the poor person through to entering hell itself with the line: “ENTER TO THE REALM OF SATAN!”
# 9 – At Dawn They Sleep
An earlier one from the second album, 1985’s Hell Awaits, “At Dawn They Sleep” is pure 80’s Slayer with horror movie inspired lyrics, specifically about vampires. It is a notably long number for Slayer, who have generally short songs, and a technical one, with impressive guitar leads.
# 8 – Spirit in Black
Off fifth album Seasons in The Abyss, “Spirit in Black” is a strong sounding track lyrics with lyrics about an evil spirit, which at the time was fairly standard lyrical fair for Slayer. It has a unique arrangement, being mid-paced but never too fast or too slow, showing that the band at this point had become more accomplished as songwriters.
# 7 – Eyes of the Insane
A latter day cut of 2006’s Christ Illusion and one that’s shows that Slayer have lost none of their rage with age. Somewhat mid paced but with a disturbing atmosphere that makes its lyrical content more poignant. It covers a soldier in war, particularly referring to the Iraq war that was happening at the time.
# 6 – Mandatory Suicide
A slower number off a generally slower album, 1988’s South of Heaven dealing with one of Slayers favourite subjects: war! Starting off slow and gradually building up, the section at the end is well worth it with some good guitar work and Tom Araya shouting about a “massacre on the front line!” over the top.
# 5 – Skeletons of Society
Another Seasons cut and one that lyrically shows that Slayer can be good story tellers with their lyrics, with it being about someone seemingly witnessing the apocalypse. Yet another one that is mid paced, it shows that Slayer are a band who experiment and progress, even if they have always had a formula.
# 4 – Dead Skin Mask
A song about serial killer Ed Gein, who also inspired horror movie characters such as Norman Bates in Psycho and Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It tells the story of his love of wearing victims body parts and generally has a very creepy and dark tone to it.
# 3 – War Ensemble
A true thrashing angry banger that depicts the madness of soldiers fighting on the battlefield. As Tom Araya screams “The Final Swing is not a drill, its how many people I can kill!” you can almost imagine it being played as both sides massacre each other.
# 2 – Angel of Death
Slayers; most famous song of their most famous album Reign in Blood, this song is pure Slayer to the core. From Araya’s opening “AAAAHHH!” scream to THAT riff, this is truly one of the most evil, offensive and generally awesome metal songs of all time. Most importantly, it caused much controversy upon its release due to its graphic lyrical content depicting the most horrific events that occurred during the holocaust in World War 2, with the title referring to the man who orchestrated it, Joseph Mengele. People felt that they were glorifying it, leading to accusations of Nazism, which the band have always stated is not the case.
# 1 – Raining Blood
The title track of Reign (although something of a play on it, being spelt differently and meaning actually raining blood as opposed to an evil monarch REIGNING in blood) the closer of the album is the one to end it all. Speeding at a millions per hour then slowing down with possibly the most iconic breakdown in metal ever, and then thrashing like a maniac at the very end followed by a sound effect of rain that you can only assume is not water, what else could top it?