Retrospective

Slayer: The All-Jeff Playlist

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Jeff Hanneman

By the time Slayer scored a major-label record deal, metal shows had become boring. The big ones, anyway. If you dropped $12 on a ticket to an arena concert, you were probably going to have to sit through four slow songs before the band worked up a sweat and played a ripper. Then you’d have to sit — or, rather, stand — through a drum solo and bass solo and two guitar solos. And that’s a fine, respectable part of the hard rock tradtion. But still: It’s boring. Slayer helped blow away all that shit. Specifically, Slayer songs written by Jeff Hanneman helped blow away all that arena-era excess.

As I compiled the three indexes for my new Slayer biography, the numbers surprised me. First, Slayer didn’t really tour much over the years. But that’s another story.

Hanneman was Slayer’s most prolific songwriter, with 125 music and lyrics songwriting credits to Kerry King’s 118, over the course of 11 studio albums (10 original LPs and one dominated by punk covers, with three original tunes).

Second — and in no way does this minimize Hanneman’s incalculable impact on the band’s sound — I was surprised to learn that Hanneman had only written both the music and lyrics for 13 Slayer songs by himself. (15 if you count the punk songs the band recorded on Undisputed Attitude, which he wrote for his Pap Smear side project.) A full eight of them arrived by 1988’s South of Heaven. (King has written 24 to date, 18 of them before 1998’s Diabolus in Musica, not including the new “Implode.” Araya has 36 credits, Bostaph 2, and Lombardo zero.)

The book features some excellent photos by Harald Oimoen, the kick-ass photographer best known as one of the dudes behind the Bay Area thrash scene yearbook Murder in the Front Row. In one, Hanneman and King stand close together, shredding in harmony. King is dressed in a Judas Priest-style getup of leather and steel studs, Hanneman wears an Agnostic Front T-shirt. Metal and punk didn’t mix much in those days; the two genres were generally at war with each other. But that image is the perfect representation of Slayer’s sound: classic metal meets stripped-down hardcore. And somehow the two opposite cultures locked together, leaving both sides of the formula stronger.

Both Hanneman and King were at their best when they collaborated heavily, but Hanneman continued turning in fine work till the end. If you listen to the album worth of all-Jeff material, the common denominator between the songs is a muscular groove that reflects the circle-pit soundtracks Hanneman heard when he was a young metalhead, which drew him into the world of punk. In the book, former Slayer drum tech Gene Hoglan recalls the first Slayer mosh pit — and, thus, probably the West Coast’s first metal pit — breaking out during “Necrophiliac” (music by Hanneman). And it’s easy to see how Hanneman’s innate sense of rhythm changed metal. No more of that “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” shit. Slayer and their generation of thrash made metal a full-contact experience.

D.X. Ferris is the author of both 33 1/3: Reign in Blood and Slayer 66 2/3: The Jeff & Dave Years. A Metal Band Biography, which are now both available in physical editions, e-book editions, and audiobook editions here. You can follow him via Facebook and/or Twitter: @dxferris and @SlayerBook.

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