Monarchs to the Kingdom of the Dead
Chronicles of Chaos interviews Slayer
by: Adrian Bromley
The name Slayer, amongst metal fans, is a sacred name. The band epitomized metal music in the 80s. They set the trends for what metal music was. Speed. Aggression. Anger. It was the devil's music pushed onward by harrowing guitar riffs and screams of anguish. Slayer was metal. And nowadays every one who :is: a metal fan owns either one (or both) of their 80s classic LPs _Reign In Blood_ and _South Of Heaven_. Many bands out there place Slayer as one of their major musical influences.

The 90s has been a growing time for the band. Slayer -- along with the likes of Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax -- were one of the four bands that carried metal into the 90s. Bands that had done their share of arduous labor in the 80s by carrying the metal torch and heading into the 21st Century with riffs flailing and fists pumping. The other three acts have kind of veered off course of their metal roots lately, many of them opting for a slick, commercial feel. Had Slayer 'sold out', their career would have been over. But they didn't. Their efforts in the 90s -- _Seasons in the Abyss_ (1990), _Divine Intervention_ (1994) and _Undisputed Attitude_ (1996) -- saw the band modernizing their sound to some degree, but still laying claim to their roots. It was still metal and still oh-so Slayer.

This year brings forth a very cool and grooving Slayer LP entitled _Diabolus in Musica_. The record, while a bit crunchier in its riffs and a definite home to bombastic grooves, still fuels the fire of anguish and capping the adrenaline rush we metal heads crave. Slayer have managed to grow as a band but still stay honest and true to their roots. Many are finding this to be one of the year's best, by one of the best. What's the scoop on the new Slayer? Guitarist Jeff Hanneman sat down with CoC to discuss the new LP and Slayer's long career as one of metal's favorite bands.

"I think the key element to what we are doing is that we still enjoy what we are doing. We still get excited about the material we create," says Hanneman. "We enjoy this still. Many of those other bands (Metallica/Megadeth) may not be into this as much. They may have changed their styles 'cause they were bored with this music. As long as we still dig this and get goose bumps, why change?"

Seeing that Hanneman (who is joined in Slayer by bassist/singer Tom Araya, other guitarist Kerry King and drummer Paul Bostaph) wrote most of the material on _Diabolus in Musica_ and a lot of classic Slayer, the question of staying fresh pops up. "I think we always have something to write about. While many bands would get bored or uninspired to write, we always seem to have something to work with. We still get angry and it comes out in the music. People always seem to ask me about the music of Slayer over the years and how we have stayed charged and angry and I say to them, 'Don't you get angry over things still?', I do. We are just very good [at] bringing those emotions into the music." The career of Slayer, while starting off as a cult-like band to follow, grew into a big deal come 1990's _Seasons in the Abyss._ This was the record that broke the band into the mainstream and made it known that they were the band to follow. Had the band experienced much change going from a band on the cutting edge of metal with a loyal fan base to a huge success story for metal music? "For me it was important for us to do what we were doing," he says. "Nothing really changed for us. Just the audience grew or the overall acceptance of the band grew, but we were still doing what we were doing and enjoying it. Obviously it hasn't affected us much. It's not like we said, 'Okay, so now we have a big audience and if we change our style it'll grow bigger.' We don't care on audience size at shows or whatever. As long as we can play what we want it's all okay by us." He comments, "The biggest lesson that we have learned in this business is don't do what someone tells you to do if they have no idea what is going on. We have faced a lot of these situations over the years. One of them was when we were recording _Show No Mercy_ [1984]: the producer wanted Lombardo [Dave Lombardo, ex-drummer] to play the drums without cymbals 'cause they made too much noise and he wasn't sure if he could siphon out the noise. But we did that and it came out fine, but you can tell, at least when I hear it, that that's the way we did it. It's little things like that we have learned, which is to not let people lead you on. Do things the way you want to do them. People try to lead you astray for the most part and you gotta watch out."

On the new record's writing style / sound, Hanneman says, "The biggest difference between this record and the last one (_Divine Intervention_) was that I wrote a lot of this one. With _DI_ I was in a rut and couldn't come up with riffs I like. Before I knew it Kerry had most of the album done. So now with this record I really started working hard from the beginning. I was thinking, 'What do I want to hear on this record? What sounds?' The major thing in the 90s for me, as a songwriter, was getting past the rut I had with the last record and continue on with my writing for Slayer with this one how I wanted to see it come out."

He adds, "This record is definitely a Slayer record. This is the way Slayer has always been and grown. We take what we are into at the time and bring it into the music, but still stay true to our roots. If this record sounds modern, it's 'cause we are into modern music and that shows."

"I practically wrote most of this record all at once," notes Hanneman. "I have an 8-track and drum machine at home and basically I wrote a song and moved onto the next one. It was great writing this record, 'cause every time I would write a song, I'd try to make the next song different. I wanted a different approach. I wanted to keep things moving. The one thing I like about this record is that it's moody. By the time you get to the end of it, it reads like a book. Some of the beats I have brought into the music were brought in on purpose and that keeps the music fresh, yet still having the same riffs and attitude. I really like the beats and ideas I brought into _DiM_ When you're writing material, either on the road or alone, it takes time. I spend time alone doing this. I try to draw myself away from the scene before I write stuff. I always have to reinvent what we are doing as a band to make it a different record. I eventually get back into it again and do the writing."

Slayer has always been about loud music, strong ideas, aggression and images. But they are also human. However, many people see them as sickos and wackos, fueling the youth with corrupt ideas and distorted takes on society. Hanneman acknowledges the views of Slayer as current-themed topics, real-life unfolding within the barrage of riffs and Tom Araya's screams. He knows, like many other bands, Slayer has been targeted by many. "I think most people, when they listen to music, can't separate the music from the individual. We write about death and war all of the time, but we don't go around living it. We don't kill anybody," says Hanneman. "I think people can't see the guys in Slayer just sitting down at home or watching hockey. We do a lot of that."

As for the future of Slayer, Hanneman reveals, "We have talked amongst each other over the last little while and have come to the conclusion that we do want to get another record out as soon as possible. The only thing in my mind is that I don't want to rush things. I don't want to end up with an album that I ain't happy with. We are definitely not going to wait four years for the next one."

The interview ends with the question, 'Why do you think people keep coming back to Slayer?' His response: "I think kids are just happy with us. They keep telling us at some in-store autograph sessions we have been doing that we didn't sell out or forget the fans. I would have to say that the kids feel we are loyal to them. I personally think we are loyal to ourselves and doing what we want to do and [have] stuck to it. And I think the kids can sense that and respect us and the music more."

(article submitted 8/7/1998)

12/24/2009 J Smit 7.5 Slayer - World Painted Blood
12/24/2009 J Ulrey 9 Slayer - World Painted Blood
8/7/2006 G Filicetti Slayer - Christ Illusion
7/8/1998 A Bromley 9 Slayer - Diabolus in Musica
6/9/1996 G Filicetti 7 Slayer - Undisputed Attitude
4/18/1996 G Filicetti 10 Slayer - Live Intrusion
11/29/2006 J Smit Slayer / In Flames / Lamb of God / Children of Bodom Hung, Drawn & Quartered
10/31/2004 A Lineker Slipknot / Slayer / Hatebreed / Mastodon Slipknot vs Slayer 2: Mandatory Maggotcide
8/31/2004 A McKay Slipknot / Slayer / God Forbid God Forbid! It's Slayer -and- Slipknot
7/20/2003 J Smit Slayer / Lamb of God Raining Classics on a Lacerated London
4/12/2002 A McKay Slayer / Hatebreed / Diecast Aggroculture
8/12/2000 P Schwarz Iron Maiden / Slayer / Entombed The Maiden Voyage to a Brave New World
8/12/2000 D Rocher Iron Maiden / Slayer / The Almighty The New Millennium Maiden Slayers
1/16/1999 M Noll Slayer / Sepultura / System of a Down Facing the Slayers, Down in the Grave
7/8/1998 A Bromley Slayer / Clutch / System of a Down Slayed, Once Again
8/12/1996 D Schinzel Slayer / Unsane Slayer Slaughters the Sacred Shoe
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