What the Bay Area four-piece also created was what every musician wants to achieve – an instantly recognisable sound that was uniquely their own. Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and Kerry King‘s furious, dissonant riffing and solos, Dave Lombardo‘s (and later Paul Bostaph‘s) unbelievably fast and tight drumming and Tom Araya’s possessed, yet clear and enunciated, vocal attack – each element was key in the creation of their blasphemous cacophony.
With 12 studio albums across four decades, there are plenty of under appreciated Slayer gems littered throughout their catalogue. Some hidden away at the back end of records and forgotten, some simply never making the stage despite their cult status with fans. What (hell) awaits you on our deep cuts list? Read on and found out…
“Cleanse The Soul”
Opening our selection is a number off of Slayer’s classic fourth album, South of Heaven. “Cleanse The Soul” is one of two tracks from that record that wasn’t performed live – the other being their excellent and well-known cover of Judas Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor”. Whilst South of Heaven is seen by many as the LP were Slayer went down a gear in pace, “Cleanse The Soul” is a fast, to-the-throat assault that features all of their classic hallmarks. Interestingly, guitarist Kerry King is well known for hating the song – claiming that the intro riff is ‘too happy’ – and thusly refused to play it live. However, to us, it’ll definitely go down as a classic, underrated Slayer gem.
The first Slayer release with founding drummer Dave Lombardo back in the fold after a 15 year absence, a fair chunk of 2006’s Christ Illusion saw the band also return to their classic thrash metal sound. “Consfearacy”, a perfect example of Slayer’s obsession with portmanteau in their latter career, is a ripping three minute belter. It’s a furious song, with relentless drumming and guitar work suffocating the listener. One of a many tunes from Christ Illusion that never gets talked about, or was performed live, “Consfearacy” is a killer track that deserves to be revisited.
“Crypts of Eternity”
Slayer’s second album Hell Awaits was a big turning point in the band’s career. The music is longer, more complex and, ultimately, far more evil than their debut. It also packs some of their classic earlier material, especially the rampaging title track. However, a song that is frequently overlooked is the epic “Crypts of Eternity”. One of the earliest examples of progressive thrash metal, the six and half minute mini-opus features endless digit bending riffs and feel/tempo changes – the back-to-back sections that crop up at the halfway mark are totally unexpected and awesome. Tucked away towards the end of the Hell Awaits, more people need to know about this early, underrated Slayer deep cut.
The only original track on 1995’s hardcore/punk covers Undisputed Attitude, “Gemini” is classic Slayer at their dynamic best. With the tempo pulled in for most of the tune, the almost sludgy feel adds a dirty and brooding vibe to the song, as well as giving drummer Paul Bostaph plenty of room to add massive rolling fills. Slayer did pull it out of the archives for their final tour, playing it a bunch of times after a 10 year hiatus from their set, yet it still feels like a completely underrated number. Closing an album that was cooly received by their ardent fanbase, it’s not a huge surprise “Gemini” has become forgotten by many.
Horror movies and heavy music have always had a tight-knit companionship, so it’s no surprise that Slayer have cropped up on a couple of film soundtracks in their time. Written for the 1998 horror-comedy Bride of Chucky, the mid-paced “Human Disease” certainly fits in the with Slayer’s late-90s output, eschewing high tempos in lieu of a more groove orientated style. It’s a menacing piece – any song with Tom Araya breaking out some spoken word is creepy – and is certainly a lot more interesting than the movie it was recorded for. In fact the whole soundtrack is pretty solid, featuring songs from Rob Zombie, Judas Priest, Type O Negative and… Blondie. “Human Disease” can also be found on their Soundtrack To The Apocalypse boxset, released back in 2003.
“Playing With Dolls“
Another dynamic and mid-paced song, “Playing With Dolls” is lifted from 2009’s World Painted Blood. One of the last tracks penned by the late, great Jeff Hanneman, the disturbing lyrics certainly belie it’s innocent title. The plucked main guitar passage almost sounds like AC/DC–gone-evil, and, like all great Slayer tunes, it comes to a thunderous crescendo – the screaming guitars, rampaging drums and Tom Araya frantic vocals make for a powerful climax. “Playing With Dolls” is the perfect example of late-era Slayer, a never saw the bright lights of the stage.
No, not “Hallowed Point” from Seasons In The Abyss, rather the closing track from 1998’s Diabolus In Musica, “Point”. The band’s eighth full length was a bit of a controversial release, with the more experimental and down-tuned material too radically different from the classic Slayer template for many fans. “Point” is much closer to their old-school output; while there are elements of groove to be found, it features none of the murky chords and nu-metal touches that had started to infiltrate their sound. Plus the last forty seconds or so is peak, berserk Slayer and a perfect way to close the album.
Taken from the 2001’s polarising God Hates Us All, “Seven Faces” proves that while clean guitars aren’t something that feature heavily in Slayer‘s back catalogue, when they used the are effective in creating a creeping atmosphere. Stuck halfway through the album, “Seven Faces” never got performed live and is rarely mentioned by Slayer fans. Tom Araya sounds absolutely wild here, and while it’s not fast track by any means, it features some absolutely mosh-ready riffs – the powerful outro in particular packs an instantly neck-whipping groove.
Divine Intervention is a bit of a dark horse in Slayer’s arsenal – it’s certainly not on the same level as it’s predecessor Seasons In The Abyss, but the band’s sixth full length certainly has some cracking stuff on it. The powerful and driving “SS-3” is one of the most underrated tracks on this album. It’s another Hanneman penned tune about World War 2, this time tackling the death of Reinhard Heydrich, the principal architect of the Holocaust, and it’s bloody aftermath. It’s a perfect example of Slayer their most direct and to-the-point, yet was never played live, and to this day remains criminally under appreciated.
Taken from Slayer‘s classic debut Show No Mercy, “Tormentor” is a perfect example of the band’s early sound. Not as extreme or diabolical sounding as they would become renowned for, it’s certainly a hell of a lot heavier than most other metal in 1983. Driven along by more simplistic riffs and drumming, Tom Araya’s vocals sound almost fully formed, as to is Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King’s wild soloing. While the album’s production is certainly dated, there is more plenty of potential on display. “Tormentor” featured in the Slayer‘s early sets, however the last time it was performed was 1985.
How did we go? What are your favourite forgotten Slayer classics? Did you catch them on their farewell tour – if so, did they pull out enough deep cut material to service the die hard fans? Let us know in the comments below!