Origin – Huntington Park, California, U.S.
Genres – Thrash metal
Years active – 1981–present
Website – slayer.net
Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by vocalist and bassist Tom Araya and guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. Slayer’s fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the founding “big four” bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Slayer’s current lineup comprises King, Araya, drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt.
In the original line-up, King, Hanneman and Araya contributed to the band’s lyrics, and all of the band’s music was written by King and Hanneman. The band’s lyrics and album art, which cover topics such as murder, serial killers, necrophilia, torture, genocide, human experimentation, Satanism, hate crimes, terrorism, religion, antireligion, Nazism and war, have generated album bans, delays, lawsuits and criticism from religious groups and factions of the general public. However, its music has been highly influential, often being cited by many bands as an influence musically, visually and lyrically; the band’s third album, Reign in Blood (1986), was described as one of the heaviest and most influential thrash metal albums.
Slayer has released twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six music videos, two extended plays and a cover album. Four of the band’s studio albums have received gold certification in the United States. The band has received five Grammy Award nominations, winning one in 2007 for the song “Eyes of the Insane” and one in 2008 for the song “Final Six”, both of which were from the album Christ Illusion (2006). Between 1991 and 2013, the band sold five million albums in the United States. After 37 years of recording and performing, Slayer will embark on their farewell tour in 2018.
A lawsuit was brought against the band in 1996, by the parents of Elyse Pahler, who accused the band of encouraging their daughter’s murderers through their lyrics. Pahler was drugged, strangled, stabbed, trampled on, and raped as a sacrifice to the devil by three fans of the band. The case was unsealed by the court on May 19, 2000, stating Slayer and related business markets distribute harmful products to teens, encouraging violent acts through their lyrics, and “none of the vicious crimes committed against Elyse Marie Pahler would have occurred without the intentional marketing strategy of the death-metal band Slayer.” The lawsuit was dismissed in 2001, for multiple reasons including “principles of free speech, lack of a duty and lack of foreseeability.” A second lawsuit was filed by the parents, an amended complaint for damages against Slayer, their label, and other industry and label entities. The lawsuit was again dismissed. Judge E. Jeffrey Burke stated, “I do not consider Slayer’s music obscene, indecent or harmful to minors.”
Slayer has been accused of holding Nazi sympathies, due to the band’s eagle logo bearing resemblance to the Eagle atop swastika and the lyrics of “Angel of Death”. “Angel of Death” was inspired by the acts of Josef Mengele, the doctor who conducted human experiments on prisoners during World War II at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and was dubbed the “Angel of Death” by inmates. Throughout their career, the band members were asked about these accusations, and have stated numerous times they do not condone Nazism and are merely interested in the subject.
Slayer’s cover of Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White” raised questions about a possible message of white supremacy in the band’s music. The controversy surrounding the cover involved the changing of the refrain “guilty of being white” to “guilty of being right”, at the song’s ending. This incensed Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye, who stated “that is so offensive to me.” King said it was changed for “tongue-in-cheek” humor as he thought the allegation of racism at the time was “ridiculous”.
In a 2004 interview with Araya, when asked, “Did critics realize you were wallowing in parody?” Araya replied, “No. People thought we were serious!…back then you had that PMRC, who literally took everything to heart, when in actuality you’re trying to create an image. You’re trying to scare people on purpose.” Araya also denied rumors that Slayer members are Satanists, but they find the subject of Satanism interesting and “we are all on this planet to learn and experience.”
The song “Jihad” of the album Christ Illusion sparked controversy among families of the September 11 victims The song deals with the attack from the perspective of a religious terrorist. The band stated the song is spoken through perspective without being sympathetic to the cause, and supports neither side.
Seventeen bus benches promoting the same album in Fullerton, California were deemed offensive by city officials. City officials contacted the band’s record label and demanded that the ads be removed. All benches were eliminated.
In India, Christ Illusion was recalled by EMI India after protests with Christian religious groups due to the nature of the graphic artwork. The album cover was designed by Slayer’s longtime collaborator Larry Carroll and features Christ in a “sea of despair”, with amputated arms, missing an eye, while standing in a sea of blood with severed heads. Joseph Dias of the Mumbai Christian group Catholic Secular Forum in India took “strong exception” to the original album artwork, and issued a memorandum to Mumbai’s police commissioner in protest. On October 11, 2006, EMI announced that all stocks had been destroyed, noting it had no plans to re-release the record in India in the future. However, the album has since been imported and made available in India.