On Slayer’s 1984 concert album, Live Undead, rabid-dog singer Tom Araya took time to screech the following announcement to his loyalists: “They say the pen is mightier than the sword. But I say fuck the pen, ’cause you can die by the sword.”
Araya had good reason for this attitude, because people with pens (or laptop computers, for that matter) have never been particularly kind to his band. Targeted for mass-marketing cheap gore and accused of exhibiting neo-Nazi tendencies, this brutal heavy-metal warhorse has always been at the unacceptable edge of a disrespected sub-genre.
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Unacceptability, however, can be a great asset in the world of metal, where target audiences are teenage boys who feel misunderstood by parents, teachers, and punch-the-clock society. Watching your heroes flaunt their unacceptability, and profit mightily from it, is the kind of vicarious thrill you rely on at an age when most of your best thrills are vicarious. The sheer cumulative effect of a quarter-century of blinding thrash-metal has made Slayer legendary, but they’ll never be respectable. This quartet emerged from Huntington Park, California, in 1982 and rode the wave of an underground metal renaissance launched in England by the likes of Iron Maiden, and extended in America by Metallica. From the start, Slayer was faster and more extreme than its competition, with a fixation on darkness and the occult so relentless they made Black Sabbath look like a bunch of sandal-clad flower children.
Determined to not let The Omen and Ann Coulter monopolize the promotional potential of 6-6-06, Slayer planned to launch its Unholy Alliance tour (sponsored by Hot Topic!) that same day, but was forced to push it back by more than a week, due to Araya’s gallbladder surgery (nothing says thrash-metal like a painful case of gallstones). Before the summer is out, they’ll unleash the first album in 16 years to feature their original lineup, surely extending their apocalyptic reign of blood to a new generation.
- Gilbert Garcia