Noisey Vs. MetalSucks: The Slayer Name Should Be Retired
Welcome to Noisey Vs. MetalSucks, a bi-weekly column in which the staff of Noisey and the staff of MetalSucks will engage in vigorous academic debate concerning some of extreme music’s most relevant topics of the day. For this week’s edition, MetalSucks’ own Axl Rosenberg does battle with Noisey’s Jon Wiederhorn on the subject of whether or not established bands should record and/or perform covers. Read Axl’s position below, then head over to Noisey to check out Jon’s counter-argument. Enjoy!
Some band members are expendable. To wit: even if you love Mick Harris’ drumming and recognize its historical importance to the genre, there’s no denying that Napalm Death have managed to make many fine albums without him. But some band members are not expendable. And the late, great Jeff Hanneman was not expendable. The bottom line is, Slayer with Jeff Hanneman is really not Slayer at all.
On some level, the surviving band members themselves must be aware of this fact: 75% of their most recent setlists consist of songs written solely by Hanneman, and he co-wrote the other 25%. Hanneman was THE driving creative force behind the band. It’s impossible to imagine them without him — even moreso than without Dave Lombardo, one of the most legendary drummers in the history of metal. I’m as big of a fan of Lombardo’s as anyone, and I don’t think the albums Slayer made without him are anyone’s favorites from their discography, but those albums are also STILL really good for the most part. Usually when a band reunites with a key member, they pretend that the albums they made without that member never happened — for example, you don’t see Joey Belladonna singing a whole lotta John Bush-era Anthrax songs. But Slayer continued to play post-Lombardo-era anthems like “Disciple” (music written by — shocker! — Jeff Hanneman) even after he re-joined the band, because, well, some of those songs are awesome, and the fans would be pissed if they suddenly disappeared from the set list.
Speaking of Lombardo: I suspect that my opponent will argue that should he return to the fold, Slayer should be allowed to keep their name. But that’s a naive assertion, because Cliff Burton will return to Metallica before Dave Lombardo re-joins Slayer (again). Not only would bringing Lombardo back require writing some sizable checks, but it would require Kerry King and Tom Araya to take a blow to their collective ego and admit that they made a mistake. They didn’t even allow Lombardo to be part of last week’s statement about the loss of Hanneman — if the death of a mutual friend didn’t forgive all debts, what will? And by King and Araya’s own admission, they became “aware of the true extent of [Hanneman’s] liver condition [during] the last days of his life” — that’s days, plural. But Lombardo now infamously asked “Can you imagine if one of us was dead?” just twenty-four hours before Hanneman passed, which suggests he wasn’t clued in on the guitarist’s waning health. (Obviously I’m speculating here, but even if I’m wrong, I’d bet a lot of money that Lombardo ain’t comin’ back.) There’s been a massive communications breakdown here. When Slayer tours this summer — which they’ve already announced they’ll do — it will be with fifty percent of their original, and most revered, line-up. So Lombardo is a non-issue. Period.
Look: I’m a MASSIVE Slayer fan. I would argue that, from a creative standpoint at least, they have easily outshone their peers in the Big Four. Even if not everyone loves some of their non-Lombardo-era and/or latter-day releases, they never indulged their most misguided creative instincts, and as a result, they don’t have any albums that induce eye rolls on a mass scale. There’s no St. Anger or Risk or Stomp 442 in their discography. And that’s in no small part because Hanneman never seemed to run out of ideas for totally evil sounding, totally awesome music. But he’s gone now, and he’s taken Slayer with him. So let King and Araya start a new band or bands with other metal dignitaries in search of a new home (and we all know that there are plenty out there). Slayer should call it day while they still have some dignity.