The 10 best Slayer albums of all time ranked

Slayer's Kerry King performing live
(Image: © Getty Images)

Slayer are bowing out after 12 albums, and it's safe to say that Slayer albums are not for the faint-hearted. Each one is a blistering, gnashing display of destruction and hatred for mankind. 

Their reputation is built on 1986’s landmark Reign In Blood, but there is much more to them than one (admittedly brilliant) album. But which ones are really worth your time and effort? Here, we count down the 10 best Slayer albums of all time. Even the most casual metalhead should own most of these albums.

10. Christ Illusion (2006)

Christ Illusion (2016)

After a five-year gap, the longest stretch of time between releases in the band’s career, Slayer hit the mark with their finest album since Seasons In The Abyss

Was it a coincidence that Lombardo returned behind the kit? The sound was modern, yet dynamic. The songs were direct and fearless – they even wrote Jihad about the 9/11 attacks from a terrorist’s perspective, while the Grammy-winning Eyes Of The Insane dealt with a soldier’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Thrash was making waves again, and Slayer had come up with their own tidal wave.View Deal

9. God Hates Us All (2001)

God Hates Us All (2001)

Released on September 11, 2001 – yes, 9/11 – the album had more realism in the lyrics, mirroring the uncertainty of the times. Musically, though, it was a little confused. 

Producer Matt Hyde was brought in and was keen to update the Slayer sound, something the band didn’t appreciate. So, the end product didn’t quite realise the potential the songs suggested. However, there’s enough here – especially on the Grammy-nominated Disciple and Bloodline – to ensure the band could still stride into the new millennium as metal gods.View Deal

8. Repentless (2015)

Repentless (2015)

From the rampaging shock ‘n’ awe of its title track to the seething belligerence of Pride In Prejudice, Repentless made it plain that the tragic death of Jeff Hanneman was not going to dent Slayer’s sonic armour. The late guitarist’s Piano Wire aside, this was Kerry King’s album: a scowling reaffirmation of musical values, given extra impetus by the need to honour a fallen comrade. 

Songs like Chasing Death and Implode are as heavy and hostile as anything in the Slayer catalogue, but it was the gruesome, slow-motion squall of When The Stillness Comes that packed the biggest emotional punch. Still Slayer. Still killer.View Deal

7. Divine Intervention (1994)

Divine Intervention (1994)

Paul Bostaph came in to replace Dave Lombardo. A fine drummer, but not quite in the same class, or with the same impact, as his predecessor. Further problems emerged because the band used several studios and two producers – Toby Wright and Rick Rubin – which gave the album a disjointed feel. 

Also, the guitars seemed to be mixed too low and not, as is Slayer’s way, pushed right up in your face.View Deal

6. Show No Mercy (1983)

Show No Mercy (1983)

Recorded with virtually no budget, Show No Mercy was so vicious and downright evil that it knocked most people’s perceptions of metal on its head. This was extreme, even by the standard Metallica had set at the time. 

Some misunderstood the band’s high speed, unrelenting approach as proving they had little of musical value to offer. Wrong! To be as convincing as this, the fearless foursome had to be more than competent. A true invocation of dark forces that can still unnerve the unwary.View Deal

5. Hell Awaits (1985)

Hell Awaits (1985)

Anyone who believes Slayer just make the same album over and over really should listen to Show No Mercy, and then this one. The progression was clear. The band were tighter, sharper and, yes, faster than before. And still as driven and angry. With a comparatively more sophisticated production, the band were carving their own niche, as witnessed on the title track, At Dawn They Sleep and Hardening Of The Arteries

This record also made its mark as one of the inspirations for the grind genre.View Deal

4. World Painted Blood (2009)

World Painted Blood (2009)

In contrast to the mixed response received by 2006’s Christ Illusion, Slayer’s 11th studio album was widely acclaimed, not least because it noisily revisited the raw, vicious vibe of the band’s early works. The likes of Kerry King’s Hate Worldwide and Jeff Hanneman’s Psychopathy Red got the balance between cutting edge oomph and underground filth just right, with then drummer Dave Lombardo powering everything along at a breathless pace. 

New lyrical horrors unfurled during the self-explanatorily grim Snuff, while the slithering, sinister Beauty Through Order mirrored the unsettling miasma of its bloody, controversial video. Hanneman’s last full hurrah was a gnarly triumph.View Deal

3. South Of Heaven (1988)

South Of Heaven (1988)

How do you follow Reign In Blood? It’s an almost impossible quandary, but the band elected to get even heavier by slowing down – mind you, when anyone suggests Slayer ‘slowed down’, it has to be born in mind that they were still playing riffs at hyper speed, just not going consistently into warp overdrive.

They even included Judas Priest’s Dissident Aggressor as a nod to their own metal heroes. But the title track and Mandatory Suicide were the real gems.View Deal

2. Seasons In The Abyss (1990)

Seasons In The Abyss (1990)

The last studio album for drummer Dave Lombardo, until 2006, and while it offered no discernible change in direction from what had gone before, the band’s strength of vision was clear on Dead Skin Mask and War Ensemble

Many believed that Seasons In The Abyss was the sound of Slayer stuck in a rut. However, this was actually a band in a groove, knowing precisely what they should be doing, and how to deliver it. At a time when some were saying thrash was dead, Slayer were still brimming with ideas.View Deal

1. Reign In Blood (1986)

Reign In Blood (1986)

Citing this as ‘the greatest thrash album of all time’ might sound like a convenient soundbite… until you hear it. With Rick Rubin producing, everything was taken to a height nobody would ever scale again. The playing was world class, the songs were stunning, the production balanced technology with the brute force of their live performance and, best of all, it came in at under 30 minutes, which meant that it never outstayed its welcome. 

From the moment opening track Angel Of Death kicks in to the last chords of closer Raining Blood, this is peerless.View Deal