QUESTION OF THE WEEK: HATE THE GAME, NOT THE SLAYER
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Know what’s awesome about Slayer? Everything goddammit! They’re fast. Violent. Merciless. Great artwork. Awesome singer, unbelievable drummer, historic guitar tandem. Sonics to scorch your brain. Special.
So why is it not enough for them to crank out Slayer-by-numbers records? Are they short-dicking their own creative prowess? Did they get freaked out by the stinky backlash to their sorta macho, Slipknot-influenced album? Do they care not so much? Let’s figure out their next move in today’s MetalSucks Question Of The Week, a weekly survey of our staff on a recent hot-button issue that’s (Slaytanically) rocking our metal planet.
Fearless. Controversial. Half-baked. We give it to you straight every Friday afternoon. Straight to hell, like the road you’re on. Here’s this week’s question:
Wat u think? The MS staff’s expert answers after the jump!
Slayer might be the AC/DC of thrash, but they’re also the KISS of thrash. At this point and after all their weird merch, nothing they do could surprise me. Even music-wise. I don’t really need more Slayer music; they should just release 60 minutes of the Tom Araya scream.
Slayer’s career-trajectory — writing the same record over and over again — has worked just fine for them. I don’t think they’re even capable of doing anything else; they’ve never had to. If they ever really tried to branch out and morph, over time their career might go down the shitter. And while new Slayer bores the hell out of me, I don’t think any “evolved” Slayer would be that good either; damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
I’ll vote for … well, nothing definitively. On the one hand, I have a huge soft spot for God Hates Us All, Slayer’s answer to Slipknot’s Iowa (and its superior); but next came Christ Illusion, which is incredibly boring. And on the other hand, I really liked the uneven World Painted Blood for what it was: timeless Slayer thrashitude; “Psychopathy Red” may as well have been peeled off side A of Reign In Blood. (But didn’t they have a better track laying around than “Playing with Dolls”?) So while Slayer still has the chops to tear the skin off your cheek and fuck your jaw with the best, I wouldn’t mind seeing them experiment. Then again: “Playing with Dolls”; Kerry King’s many lyrics about how mad he is at his JNCOs; Tom Araya rapping (alright, that song is good). Basically, it’s likely that I’ll be fine with whatever Slayer will do that doesn’t involve retirement. Except Christ Illusion. They need to ankle whatever they did there.
C’monnn Slayer totally should gamble. There’s no risk of a sales crater; the few fans that still purchase music would buy any Slayer release. And there’s a creative, inspired Slayer album to be made cuz fuck it’s impossible that any of the guys — or even just Kerry King — is so without depth that Slayer’s only messages are fuck god, serial killers will eat your ballz, and Nazis! Nazis! Nazis! Look at Rush’s new Clockwork Angels: In the course of their quiet Canadian lives, those nerds uncovered fresh passion to drive a powerful artistic statement even after 70 goddamn records. (Slayer records number only 38.) So yes, I vote for a measured leap, a concept album about awesome thrash metalists in Earth’s funnest and least comprehensible city, a project that would harden the four Slayer wangs beyond half-limp, a far-out producer to lock horns with (Bob Ezrin? Billy Anderson? Erik Rutan? Kurt Ballou?), and the angry pursuit of perfection that made them Slayer.
Here’s the thing: Slayer must try to make an old-school Slayer record now, just to make it up to fans for when they started working with Bon Jovi’s producer and … Oh no, wait, wrong band. Well, but there were all those years when they had a different singer and made a bunch of records that most people don’t care about … What? That wasn’t Slayer either? Oh, alright. But how about the way they’re always saying stupid, bigoted shit in interviews and … Wait, yet again, that’s not Slayer.
JUSTIN M. NORTON
Let’s all just go re-listen to Reign In Blood.
Songs are certainly essential to Slayer’s appeal. Plenty of bands do a pretty good job of sounding like Slayer — even though they will never write immortal songs like “Reign In Blood” or “Dead Skin Mask” or “Mandatory Suicide.” But just as important to me is that nobody else feels like Slayer. Even when the song style changes (e.g. Diabolus in Musica and the Undisputed Attitude covers record), I hear the same infernal danger flowing through Slayer’s work. So I don’t care if the next Slayer record sounds exactly like their classics or if it’s a dubstep album, as long as that energy is there. But I didn’t hear the enthusiasm in World Painted Blood that many did, so a change on the songwriting front might do them good. Some of my favorite Slayer tracks are the unconventional ones — “Gemini” is a pretty damn serviceable sludge track and I adore “Killing Fields” (though I still can’t figure out its time signatures). So if Araya sounds like he’s frothing out of every orifice, Lombardo drums for his very life, and Hanneman’s guitar solos spasm as though infected by spider venom too, then the next Slayer album will be just fine.
D.X. FERRIS author of 33 1/3: Slayer’s Reign In Blood (here)
There is nothing wrong with Diabolus in Musica. It’s got groove, it’s got dynamics, it rocks. (Maybe it has a nü metal flare or six, but there was a time before “nü metal” was a punchline, when that label referred to killer bands like Slipknot and pre-sucking Marilyn Manson, not the dreaded Limp Bizkit and Orgy.) So is Slayer able to disengage autopilot and make a departure? Yes.
Now Kerry King admits that you always know what you’re going to get with Slayer. That allows the group to easily be taken for granted. It happened with in the ’80s to the Ramones, who kept making good records like Animal Boy and Too Tough to Die. But like Slayer and Motörhead, the Ramones never really went away. So it was hard to get excited about their new albums; okay sure, some of the new songs weren’t very… exciting.
But yeah, it’s time that Slayer branches out a little, maybe does something new. I’m not talking electronic rhythm tracks, an acoustic intro, or clean vocals; maybe a concept album based on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. We don’t need another “Cult” or “New Faith” full of half-assed lyrics. King and Jeff Hanneman once were the top wordsmiths of the thrash movement. Now King is content to write stuff like — and I’m paraphrasing here —“Religion is poop; fuck you and your God.” I think their best option is to regress.
Here’s an idea that came to me when video of Tom Araya singing Crüe’s “Looks That Kill” surfaced this week: When I was writing my Reign in Blood book, Metal Blade chief Brian Slagel recalled that early Slayer’s sets were “mostly covers, and they played probably the best cover version I’ve ever heard of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ by Iron Maiden, and a few originals — kind of like when Metallica started.” And to King’s recollection, their first-ever gig was all covers like Montrose’s “Rock the Nation,” Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” and UFO’s “Lights Out.” So I think Slayer could draw a breath of fresh air via a new covers album of classic rock, old metal, and proggy NWOBHM. Or they could write some material in that style. It’s in ‘em.
Well that settles that: According to MetalSucks, Slayer’s next album should be a concept covers album about naked religious Nazis overrunning Orange County. Its production should be helmed by a discarded comb; guest spots from Joey Ramone and Geddy Lee; cover art by Paul Stanley; and released on memory sticks brushed with nerve gas and buried in Rick Rubin’s gut. Can’t wait! For now, have an awesome wknd!