Dave Lombardo Remembers Writing Early Slayer: “It’s Gotta Be Heavy. It’s Gotta Be Faster”
Each band in the Big Four brought their own style to the then-nascent thrash genre. In the case of Slayer, it was extremity. The California quartet played harder, faster and with more intensity than their peers, with many citing albums like Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits as major influences on extreme metal as a whole. Speaking to Stereogum, former drummer Dave Lombardo discussed what it was like writing Slayer music during the band’s first few albums and EPs.
“I was pushing the limits. I remember saying to [Jeff] Hanneman, ‘It’s gotta be heavy. It’s gotta be faster. Fuckin’ faster. Let’s fuckin’ play hard.’ And I think the whole mindset that we had at the time was just to play faster — physically faster, not computerized faster like it is today. You have the help of different software to make you sound like this fucking Big Ben perfect clock. Back then, you had to be on point. There was no click track. I had not recorded an album with a click track until probably Christ Illusion. And on Christ Illusion, we only used a click track for part of a song. So, you know, things were very primitive at that time. What you heard on those albums, it was real. It was real human playing, without the help of any computer-generated time signatures or anything. So, we were pushing the envelope, and it was intentional.”
Lombardo also talked about that iconic double-bass break in “Angel of Death” and explained how the section, which pushed metal drumming forward, came to be.
“Well, it was part of a drum solo. They used to let me just go off on the drums. We used to play a song called ‘Show No Mercy’, and it started with a drum solo. And I remember one particular show, I believe it was in the Valley in L.A. I did a drum solo, and then I stopped and I just let the double bass go, and it caught Hanneman’s attention. He went, ‘Dude, we should put that in a song.’ I think at the time we were writing some of the ‘Reign In Blood’ music, and he said, ‘You should put that in the middle of this song.’ And so we did.”
As great innovations often go, Lombardo had no idea that what he had done would be so influential. To him, it was just business as usual.
“It was just a really cool surprise little section of the song. You know, you’re listening to the song, and boom, it goes into this drum fill. I thought it was great, but I didn’t know to what extent it was going to impact the listener. And apparently, it was one of the really cool moments of that record.”