Death, murder, Satanism, Nazism, war, rape, guns, serial killers, witchcraft, gang-related killings, apocalyptic nightmares… make no mistake, few bands have been as relentless in their excavation of life’s darkest corners as Slayer. Sometimes with howling clumsiness, sometimes with forensic finesse, for more than three decades now this Californian quintet have made it their business to compile a compendium of only the most visceral audio nasties.
Here are their 10 most ‘mature-themed’ moments.
10. Necrophiliac (1985)
Tom Araya’s assertion that Slayer’s songs amounted to no more, or less, than a gory horror movie are borne out by this cartoonish and gleefully cack-handed tale of someone who desires to have, erm, ‘relations’ with a lass who no longer walks among us. ‘I feel the urge, the growing need, to fuck this sinful corpse,’ barks Tom Araya. That’s the sort of thing that would get flagged on eHarmony.
9. Angel Of Death (1986)
There are certain topics into which Slayer should not wade with their size 10 boots, the Holocaust being one of them. Of course, this determinedly grim tale of Auschwitz camp ‘doctor’ Josef Mengele remains the group’s most notorious, not to mention popular, song. This said, there are subjects that should only be approached with good reason – a mere desire to shock isn’t one of them.
8. Necrophobic (1986)
The lyric to Necrophobic, Reign In Blood’s shortest and fastest song, reads as if Slayer had found a medical dictionary in the dumpster behind their practice room. This is a tale of ‘sliced incision, zero vision, loss of vital signs’, and so on and so forth. Perhaps not a doctor with whom you would wish to make an appointment, it’s still probably preferable to A & E on a Friday night.
7. Silent Scream (1988)
The Tom Araya penned lyric to Silent Scream tackles the subject of termination with a grim and determined zeal because “it’s a subject that’s pretty much ignored here in the States”. ‘Crucify bastard son,’ he barks on the entirely melody-free chorus, before concluding that ‘suffocation, strangulation [and] death are fucking you insane’. Whatever that means.
6. War Ensemble (1990)
One of Slayer’s more evergreen numbers, War Ensemble frames human conflict in terms of a sporting contest, a tussle where ‘victory is massacre’ and ‘the end is a slaughter’. This often deftly worded lyric is seemingly all fun and games, or at least it is until one realises that the song was a favourite of US troops in the Gulf War of 1990.
5. Hallowed Point (1990)
Despite a membership whose political views would cause Donald Trump to raise a hand in protest, this almost beatific paean to gun violence is one of Slayer’s most artful lyrics. As far as poetic descriptions of the visceral nature of munitions go, ‘riddled convulsion, confetti of flesh, scattered helplessly’ is tough to beat.
4. Sex. Murder. Art. (1994)
A subject that Slayer ought really to have left well alone, Sex. Murder. Art. tells a deeply unpleasant tale of non-consensual sexual violence: “slaves to my torments, scream to your heart’s content, time, time again, pleasure in inflicting pain…”
3. Richard Hung Himself (1996)
Slayer’s cover of punk band D.I.’s gratuitously grisly Richard Hung Himself is perhaps the quartet’s most dazzling hidden gem. The lyric features the level of sympathy you would expect from the band, which is none. In its place stands a gleeful account of a depressed young man’s final act. Hugely distasteful.
2. Payback (2001)
Slayer are often many things – repulsive, vile, incorrigible and so on – but rarely do they appear genuinely angry. Aimed at an unknown foe, this galloping gelding of a song takes shots at a target who has ‘a fucking catheter in your brain [that is] pissing your common sense away’. Threats of physical violence then follow; credits roll.
1. Jihad (2006)
Kerry King was reluctant to address the subject of the World Trade Center attacks on account that he suspected every other metal band would be weighing in to this particular pool of blood. But when Jeff Hanneman suggested a lyric narrated from the point of view of the suicide-murderers themselves, Jihad was born. ‘Fuck your God, erase his name, a lady weeps insane with sorrow’, is just one of the lines from what is Slayer’s best lyric.