It goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway: Slayer rule. But out of a back catalogue stuffed with some of the most exciting, intense and influential tunes in metal’s history, there are a few heavy elephants in the room. We’re not including cover versions (so their massacre of Born To Be Wild escapes to live another day, alas) or collaborations (good news for Atari Teenage Riot), so which Slayer songs aren’t pulling their weight? Here’s ten.
10. NIGHT RIDER (1983)
Hardly seems fair to pick on a song Slayer abandoned before their debut, but it’s hard to resist with a name like Night Rider (David Hasselhoff started driving KITT around Slayer’s hometown shortly after the song was written). Musically it’s a ramshackle lash-up of turbo-NWOBHM keg-party juvenilia like hundreds of other American teenagers were attempting at the time.
9. SPILL THE BLOOD (1988)
In 1988, many thrashers were aghast at South Of Heaven’s slower, lighter songs and Tom’s laidback ‘singing’ voice. Most now agree it’s a bold Slayer classic, but those early niggles persist with this drab closer, jamming aimless variations on the title track melody under flat, bored vocals, while the acoustic intro was already a well-worn thrash cliche that Slayer had previously avoided.
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8. HUMAN DISEASE (1998)
One of several mediocre sluggish chuggers from Slayer’s millennial catalogue that just seems to churn and stomp without making any impression. This throwaway was good enough for the Bride Of Chucky soundtrack, and to be fair it’s nearly saved by Tom’s creepy, punchy vocals – although not his listless spoken word parts, nor the cringeworthy “sex of the 90s” lyrics.
7. VICES (2015)
Yet another bog-standard, interchangeable mid-paced groove effort from latterday Slayer that tends to blur into immemorable stodge, yet the band seem to think it’s worthy of making the Repentless tour setlist. On the plus side, the band can toss it off during an onstage nap, and the audience gets to go for a piss before Slayer bring out the big guns.
6. DEATH’S HEAD (1998)
The idiotically basic riff suggests Jeff Hanneman was essaying the primitive, snotty punk that Slayer had just revisited on Undisputed Attitude, but wilful amateurishness palls from a band this capable. Death’s Head – a name straight out of the Random Slayer Song Title Generator – further confused the issue with a groove-free, hyperactive hippety-hoppety beat and fashionably processed vocal effects.
5. DEVIANCE (2001)
Although it provides respite from God Hates Us All’s predominating tough-guy belligerence, Deviance is a bewildering alt-rock experiment that can’t help falling flat, and not just because Tom sounds like a queasy hippy on the spoken verses. The police radio burbling and half-hearted screams make for a tacky intro, and there’s a lethargic monotony and lack of momentum throughout.
4. CULT (2006)
If you’ve never heard Slayer before Cult will probably blow your mind, otherwise this is self-parodic Slayer-by-numbers bluster, exemplifying their worst traits post-1990: over-familiar to the point of sterility, autopilot riffs, dead-end arrangements and inane adolescent lyrics, with confirmed Catholic Tom Araya screaming pencil-case blasphemies like “There is no fuckin’ Jesus Christ!” with all the bluster of a man who’s had a lovely nap.
3. LOVE TO HATE (1998)
The initial controversy – that Slayer had written a song with the word ‘Love’ in the title – was soon overshadowed by the bigger controversy that the extreme metal pioneers had written a scrappily grooving rap-metal number, absorbing influences from the 90s mainstream that sat uneasily with a generation of embattled headbangers weaned on The Antichrist, Kill Again and Necrophobic.
2. AMERICON (2009)
More lunkheaded strumming with banal wah-wah accessories on this can’t-be-bothered World Painted Blood duffer. Americon is largely hobbled by its oddly plodding, child-friendly Teach Yourself Slayer tempo, but the phoned-in solos don’t help, nor the hackneyed sloganeering lyrics (“It’s all about the motherfucking oil!”). The title ties with Consfearacy as King’s lamest portmanteau word.
1. THRESHOLD (2001)
Confirming Slayer’s millennial slide into downward dumbing, Threshold’s rudimentary chug riff belongs at some het-up wooly-hatted teenagers’ first youth club gig. The mechanical rhythm’s all stiff, the anger is more teenage temper tantrum than homicidal maniac, and even though it’s only two and a half minutes long, it still manages to be boring and repetitive.