Dave Lombardo explains why Slayer were the best thrash metal band: "Our mantra was to blow everyone away"

Slayer 1980s
(Image credit: Getty Images/Chris Walter/WireImage)

You don't get to be one of the Big Four by being humble, and when it comes to thrash metal none of the Big Four went nearly so hard as Slayer. But in the new issue of Metal Hammer, the band's legendary former drummer Dave Lombardo attests that they weren't just the heaviest thrash band - they were the best, too. 

Asked by Hammer which of the Big Four was best, he has no hesitation. "Slayer. Ha ha ha! Who else could I pick?! We were brutal man, we were on top of our game, and if you watch the videos we were on fire. We really showed everyone else how it should be done – we tore everyone a new one.”

Elsewhere in the interview, he discusses how his Cuban heritage helped give him a fascination for percussion from an early age and how Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman's discovery of punk inspired him to pick up the pace. Even when death metal arose later in the decade, he admits Slayer weren't worried.

"We’d watch a lot of those bands from side-stage anyway," he says. "I remember whispering to Hanneman, ‘We’re better’, or ‘We’re faster’, ha ha! It wasn’t necessarily arrogant, but it was inspiring if we watched a band that couldn’t deliver the ferocity we were because it made us feel amazing, like, ‘Oops, failure!’ It was a youthful approach – you want to be better than the guy before you, you want to blow everyone away, and that was our mantra.”

All that said, Dave isn't dismissive of his contemporaries, talking up drummers Lars Ulrich (Metallica) and Tom Hunting (Exodus). “When we left LA and went to San Francisco I saw [Exodus] and was like, ‘This guy is badass’ and you know what? He still is!" Dave exclaims. "We played a show with those guys in Testament, and that guy is stronger than ever. He’s made an amazing comeback after his illness [Tom was treated for stomach cancer in 2021] and I’m so proud of him, and I’m so happy to have seen those guys as many times as I have."

He also admits that while there were rivalries, they were always friendly. "We were competing, but not in a negative way," he says. "We wanted to be the best, we wanted to be the heaviest, the fastest. So our rivals were any band that’d open up for us – we’d be like, ‘Let’s blow ’em out the water!’ I can’t think of a single band we had a real negative relationship with.”

Read the full interview in the new issue of Metal Hammer, on-sale now! Order your copy online here.

Ghost cover 2

(Image credit: Future (cover: Travis Shinn))

MHR380 Dave Lombardo Feature

(Image credit: Future)
Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.