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Editorial: Slayer Should Become Professional Songwriters

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This Record Store Day, Slayer released a new vinyl single titled “When The Stillness Comes.” Side B was a live recording of “Black Magic.”

As a pathetic Slayer fanboy, I trekked out to Twist and Shout on Colfax and got myself a copy. The single was decent, though not classic Slayer. But an idea hit me, and I slowed down the playback from 45 to 33rpm. Lo and behold, “When The Stillness Comes” is actually pretty badass at 33. Tom’s slow-motion deep vocals are amazing, and the guitars sound looming and evil. If that song had been performed with by a doom metal band, it would’ve been perfect. High On Fire’s “When The Stillness Comes” would rock my shit.

You can find many examples of recent Slayer material that would be better if performed by another band. Everyone I know hated “Playing with Dolls” off of World Painted Blood, but imagine that track performed by Slipknot. Think about “Jihad” off of Christ Illusion via Death Angel, or “New Faith” from God Hates Us All played by Behemoth. Each track would be much more interesting with these bands’ signature styles applied to it (feel free to think up more fantasy combinations in the comments section — I’m interested to hear other examples).

So why don’t the members of Slayer become metal songwriters? They obviously have the chops and the material, but it seems like their current brand of burly thrash is at odds with the cross-section of metal for whom they’re writing songs. Why not just sign some awesome deal with Nuclear Blast to write songs for their roster and make bank? Give bands like Nails, Belphegor, and Melechesh a crack at that new material.

Obviously a prime facet of metal is having the creativity and technical ability to write your own songs, but you’d be surprised how much of your favorite music was written by people other than the performers. And come on, who wouldn’t be interested in performing a King/Araya original? If Slayer handed you a new song and said, “We’ve been listening to your music lately, and we think this would work really well with what you do,” would you turn them down? I doubt it.

You could also argue that it makes no financial success for the band. Why write for other bands when you can just do everything your way? But look, no one’s going to stop buying Slayer records or t-shirts. By being one of the most important bands in a niche genre, Slayer has nothing to worry about. They’ll forever be a pillar of the scene for fans young and old alike. And I’m sure their current record deal with Nuclear Blast paid them handsomely — perhaps they could take That Plus and just focus on writing songs?

Maybe all I’m really asking for is a latter-era Slayer tribute album (and let’s be fair, that would rule). But not all late Slayer is equal. I’m down with “Bitter Peace” and “Catalyst” and “Psychopathy Red” and “Payback.” Those tracks are just fine as Slayer tracks. It’s those songs that need to be harder, crunchier, more extreme than what the band is offering these days, that would turn out better in the hands of someone who understands the modern metal climate more thoroughly.

It’s not that I don’t like Slayer anymore or that I won’t see them at Mayhem Fest this summer — Slayer will always be one of metal’s best live bands, if not the best. I’m just wary of this new post-Hanneman album. Slayer have such a rich history that surviving in an alternate form doesn’t seem like the way to do it, if you ask me. Slayer aren’t about to reinvent the wheel, they’re about to keep it rolling. So they should make big bucks writing cool metal tunes for upcoming bands and every few years tour live and play some classic thrash. I’d see them every time.

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