The 25 Best Metal Bands of All Time!

The 25 Best Metal Bands of All Time, #3: Slayer


The 25 Best Metal Bands of All TimeSlayer 25 Bands List

MetalSucks recently polled more than a hundred of metal’s most revered musicians, critics, journalists, artists, publicists, and industry insiders to find out which 25 bands represent the very BEST in the history of metal. Today we continue our countdown with California’s…

85 Votes
1,571 Points

Slayer went too far.

They took things faster, louder, and most importantly darker. They merged the heavy melodic riffs of metal’s forefathers with the filthy bitter rage and speed of hardcore punk and birthed the putrid antichrist of Thrash. They took the rebellious Satanism of Venom and Iron Maiden and took it beyond the Hammer Horror bullshit, into the stark gasmask-clad world of nuclear warfare and psychic pain. Slayer’s music wasn’t about mad axemen or romanticized versions of famous wars, it was about the sex killer on the news and the hideous atrocities perpetuated on real-life battlefields of recent past. Their music never took things at surface value—if Slayer write a song about something, they tear it wide open and pull its dripping guts out to see what makes it tick.

While their first two records are benchmarks of the thrash genre and their later output serves as a fascinating view into metal’s evolution throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, it is the Unholy Three, the Larry Carroll triptych, that defines Slayer and indeed metal at large. Reign in Blood remains a standing monument to what you can do—and don’t have to do—in metal. It’s a twenty-nine-minute aural mugging that stays stuck in your head for days, and includes a song about Josef Mengele that paints the Holocaust as the hideous tragedy it truly was. Then there’s South of Heaven, a seething cauldron of abstract horror that breathed deadly-serious un-life into the slowly-bloating thrash genre. The band’s change of tempo may have lost them the praise of some die-hard pizza thrashers, but it recruited a whole new legion of morbid creeps to the cause. And finally there is Seasons in the Abyss, with its stripped-down sound, catchy riffs, and brusque combination of Slayer’s trademark obsessions, violence and the devil. While the other two albums are for psychopaths and occultists, Seasons… is a record by metalheads for metalheads about metalheads, exuding a sense of real-life disillusionment.

But the songs on these albums are not simple descriptions of death, gore, and Hell set to a few moshable guitar parts. Slayer’s lyrics illustrate darkness and anguish using evocative imagery and frightening point-of-view immersion; “Dead Skin Mask” doesn’t describe ol’ Ed Gein sawing a face off in his woodshed, it invites the listener to dance with the dead in his dreams. The riffs of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King are strung-out and discordant, hard around their edges but nightmarish and provocative at their centers. Tom Araya’s bellows and screams often imply a mischievous grin on the singer’s face, but then he screams “WAR!” during the bridge of “War Ensemble” and you can almost picture a dying soldier’s rictus of agony. And behind it all is the inimitable drum work of Dave Lombardo, his ferocity made unquestionable by his technical skill. Slayer weren’t content to be typical, or literal, or easily-swallowed.

There’s a wholesome side to metal that a lot of fans like to fall back on when the genre is attacked. It’s that idea of the average heavy metal fan who’s a typical person, usually blue-collar, enjoying the simpler things in life. This ur-metalhead is sort of a punk, sort of a hippie, sort of a working man just trying to make that dollar. They can be seen tooling around on their car, van, or motorcycle, rocking a barbed wire tattoo or a shirt with flames on it, and drinking a domestic tall boy. They’re easy-going and fun-loving, even in their acknowledgment of life’s many ills. And they’re best represented by Metallica, good-natured everydudes who never worshipped the Devil or spent their evenings reading true-crime novels about serial murders, but instead aspired to just play some heavy fucking metal and ended up living the rock star dream.

And that, if you ask me, is why Slayer is higher on this list than Metallica. Because Slayer weren’t for everyone. They weren’t for your typical metalhead, they were for the weird kids, the ones who wanted to take everything too far. Metallica can retroactively claim ownership of today’s thrash bands, but they were prominent inspirations for mainstream acts like Kid Rock and Shinedown. Slayer, meanwhile, got in the heads of the creeps and weirdoes, who pushed even the boundaries set by Slayer with their creation of death metal, black metal, and grindcore. In the world of Slayer, the extreme is the starting point. No stone should be left unturned (especially gravestones). Nothing is sacred, because nothing ever was. Blood’s cheap, it’s everywhere.

Metal has always been about going beyond extremity, about pushing a little further until you reach the breaking point. Slayer pushed too far, and the dam broke. Heavy metal was drowned beneath a tidal wave of gore and hellfire, and many of the posers and the squares and the detractors were scared shitless by that, leaving only the true to revel in the spilled blood.


#4 — Metallica (84 Votes, 1,486 Points)
#5 — Pantera (65 Votes, 1,052 Points)
#6 — Judas Priest (61 Votes, 997 Points)
#7 — Megadeth (64 Votes, 913 Points)
#8 — Death (57 Votes, 778 Points)
#9  — Motorhead (42 Votes, 622 Points)
#10 – Carcass (42 Votes, 516 Points)

#11 – Cannibal Corpse (40 Votes, 510 Points)
#12 – Anthrax (42 Votes, 497 Points)
#13 – Sepultura (41 Votes, 444 Points)
#14 – Dio (33 Votes, 433 Points)
#15 – Mercyful Fate (31 Votes, 419 Points)
#16 – Morbid Angel (33 Votes, 406 Points)
#17 – Meshuggah (32 Votes, 377 Points)

#18 – Opeth (30 Votes, 364 Points)
#19 – Testament (33 Votes, 347 Points)
#20 – At The Gates (28 Votes, 331 Points)
#21 – AC/DC (17 Votes, 313 Points)

#22 – Celtic Frost (24 Votes, 310 Points)
#23 – Ozzy Osbourne (21 Votes, 290 Points)
#24 – Napalm Death (22 Votes, 278 Points)
#25 – Lamb of God (29 Votes, 277 Points)



Chris Alfano – East of the Wall, Gear Gods
Paul Allender – White Empress, ex-Cradle of Filth
Rob Arnold – The Elite, ex-Chimaira, ex-Six Feet Under
Alan Averill (aka A.A. Nemtheanga) – Primordial
Chuck B.B. – Artist
Matt Bachand – Shadows Fall
Micke Berg – Below
Chuck Billy – Testament
Randy Blythe – Lamb of God
Paul Booth – Last Rites Tattoo and Art Gallery
Jake Bowen – Periphery
Terry Butler – Obituary
Liz Ciavarella-Brenner – Publicist, Earsplit PR
Blake Charlton – Ramming Speed
Richard Christy – Charred Walls of the Damned, ex-Death, ex-Iced Earth, ex-Control Denied, The Howard Stern Show
Monte Conner – President, Nuclear Blast Entertainment
Bruce Corbitt – Rigor Mortis, Warbeast
Doc Coyle – ex-God Forbid
Sergeant D. – MetalSucks, Stuff You Will Hate
Topon Das – Fuck the Facts, Merdarahta
Anso DF – MetalSucks
Peter Dolving – Rosvo, ex-The Haunted
Ryan J. DowneySuperhero Artist Management
Sacha Dunable – Intronaut, Bereft, Dunable Guitars
Vince Edwards – Head of Publicity, Metal Blade Records
Excretakano – MetalSucks
Extreme Management Group
D.X. Ferris – Slayer ScholarThe 25 Best Metal Bands of All Time, #3: SlayerMetalSucks
Ryan Fleming – Black Table
Jon Freeman – Publicist, Freeman Promotions
Matthew Friesen – Culted
Ville Friman – Insomnium
Mike Gitter – Senior Director of A&R, Razor & Tie
Frank Godla – Metal Injection, Meek is Murder
Mike Greene – Director of Digital Marketing, Razor & Tie
Shane Handel – Set and Setting
Jeff Hodak – Head of Sales, Razor & Tie
Terence Hannum – Locrian
John Hoffman – Weekend Nachos
Mark Hunter – ex-Chimaira
Don JamiesonThat Metal Show
Daniel Jansson – Culted
John Jarvis – Pig Destroyer, Fulgora
Gaz Jennings – Death Penalty, ex-Cathedral
Patrik Jensen – The Haunted
Rick Jimenez – Extinction A.D.
Kassa – Below
Mirai Kawashima – Sigh
“Grim” Kim KellyMetalSucks
Zeena Koda
Erik Kluiber – Gypsyhawk
Eyal LeviUnstoppable Killing Machine, Dååth
Jason Lekberg – IKILLYA
Adam Lindmark – Morbus Chron
Ryan Lipynsky – Serpentine Path, Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind
Jonah Livingston – Ramming Speed
Bob Lugowe – Director of Promotions/Marketing, Relapse Records, Brutal Panda Records
James Malone – Arsis, Necromancing the Stone
Jose Mangin – Director of Music Programming, Sirius XM Liquid Metal
Bobby Mansfield – 16
Misha Mansoor – Periphery
Morgan McGrath – Live Nation
Mike “Gunface” McKenzie – The Red Chord, Stomach Earth, Nightkin
Vince Neilstein – MetalSucks
Eventansvarig Biostaden Nyköping – Below
Chris Ojeda – Byzantine
Casey Orr – Rigor MortisWarbeast
Rob Pasbani – Metal Injection
Anders Persson – Portrait
Chris Pervelis – Internal Bleeding
Karim Peter – Artist Relations, IndieMerchandising
Raphael Pinsker – Booking Agent, 3Thirteen Entertainment Group
Markus “Rabapagan” – Metsatöll
Josh Rand – Stone Sour
Emperor Rhombus – MetalSucks
Gus Rios – Gruesome
Tobias Rosén – Noctum
Axl Rosenberg – MetalSucks
Travis Ryan – Cattle Decapitation, Murder Construct, Nader Sadek
Marc Schapiro, Branch Marketing Collective
Zach Shaw – The Syndicate
Patrick Sheridan – Fit For An Autopsy
Alex Skolnick – Testament
Brian Slagel – Chairman/CEO, Metal Blade Records
Mark Solotroff – Anatomy of Habit, Bloodlust!, BLOODYMINDED
Steve “Zetro” Souza – Exodus, Hatriot
Kevin Stewart-Panko – Decibel, MetalSucks
Black String – Vampire
Jason Suecof – Audiohammer Studios
Bram Teitelman – Metal Insider
Nick Tieder – No Jacket Required Marketing, Indegoot
Tone Deaf Touring
Aaron Turner – Old Man Gloom, ex-ISIS, Hydra Head Records
Brody Uttley – Rivers of Nihil
George Vallee – Head of Publicity, Street Smart Marketing
Dirk Verbeuren – Soilwork, Bent Sea, Scarve
Jens Vestergren – Below
Jake Wade – Columns
Kelly Walsh – Publicist, Prosthetic Records
Mike Wohlberg – The Fat Kid Illustration
Wookubus – The PRP

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