Brian Jones Group 7 May 26, 2005 The Controversy and Influence of Slayer Slayer was a controversial and influential

death metal band that formed in 1982. At first, they performed simple covers of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but eventually they decided to try and forge an identity of their own. In doing so, they focused their group gimmick around dark themes; namely, Satanism and death. On top of creating a unique image, Slayer used their threatening images to gain attention, and thus build a small, cult-like, following. After not too long, the group found a gateway into the recording industry, by being invited to perform on the Metal Massacre III album. Coincidentally, this same album also featured another popular metal band, Metallica. Indeed, throughout the decade of the 1980’s, the world of metal and its various sub-genres (death metal, speed metal, thrash metal, etc.) was ruled by the “Big Four:” Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. Throughout the end of the decade, these four groups maintained their large fan bases and continued to expand their legacies into the 90’s. However, by the beginning of the 90’s, many considered Slayer to be the most uncompromised of the Big Four. This lack of compromise refers to both the style of music, as well as the band’s image. The other bands had gradually toned down their images, due to both the aging of the bands’ members and pressure by the media and concerned parent groups. As time went further on, this toning down could be seen more and more; especially in the image of Metallica, who in the late 90’s, went against their own image and cut their hair short. Slayer, however, worked hard to maintain their evil

image. They succeeded. This image can be seen even in their most recent album, God Hates Us All of 2001. This evil image was best exemplified, however, in their early years with the album entitled Reign in Blood. Released in 1986, this album is considered by many metal heads to be both the greatest Slayer album, as well as the greatest speed metal album of all time. Some, however, claim that this title should be given to Metallica’s Master of Puppets, another legendary LP. Regardless, Reign in Blood was an instant classic, and featured some of the group’s most graphic work. In fact, CBS refused to distribute the album because of its graphic nature; which, in turn, gathered even more attention for Slayer. Much of Slayer’s work, especially in the 1980’s, conflicted with its mainstream environment. While popular groups like Guns n’ Roses were spending their time singing about women and love, Slayer devoted its efforts into spreading the message of Satanism. However, this message fit right in with the rest of the metal following, which at the time was small enough to be considered almost cult-like. This anti-mainstream fan base remained relatively small until grunge bands like Nirvana appeared in the early ‘90’s, at which point heavier rock took off with the mainstream base. For its time, however, Slayer had – and still has, due to its evolving sound – a much more aggressive tone than both popular rock and even previous metal, such as Led Zeppelin. Adding to the aggressive sound were the band’s lyrics, which were surrounded by controversy due to its constant references to Nazism and Satanism; again, the controversy simply gave Slayer an even greater mystique.

Certainly, Slayer helped the world of metal create faster and angrier music. Many considered Slayer an inspiration for the death metal movement of 1994, which caused an explosion of many new metal bands. These bands often hailed Slayer as a true innovator of speed metal. Moreover, Slayer was another great example of how controversy adds to a group or artist’s popularity; similar stories can be seen with the likes of Elvis Presley, Black Sabbath, or even Eminem. However, what the music industry really gained from Slayer were their trademark speed metal riffs, tempos and structures. A great example of Slayer’s speed metal is “Angel of Death” off of their classic album, Reign In Blood. Within the lyrics of the song are clear references to Nazism, including Auschwitz and the Aryan race in particular. This song in particular caused quite a bit of controversy, especially with Jewish groups. Obviously this would be the consequence of releasing a song like this; because it narrates in dark, graphic detail the experiences of a victim in a Nazi death camp. Now, one might ask, why would Slayer write a song about this? Furthermore, what is the message? The song does not seem to actually have much of a message, it seems, unless it truly is a pro-Nazi song that clearly expresses hatred for Jews. However, one would imagine that the song would only have that message if Slayer truly did hate the Jews. If that is not the case, though, then the only other feasible explanation is that the song was written simply to garner attention. Once again, “Angel of Death” is an extreme example of using controversy to gain more listeners – and, indeed, death metal was gaining more listeners, especially around the time of this album. One must not ignore, however, that the use of hate-speech in the song is quite prominent. Phrases such as “I want you to die,” “human mice,” and “pathetic harmless victims” suggests that Slayer truly is anti-Semitic.

The other possibility, though, is that the song is not Pro-Nazi, but rather ProDeath. After all, the song does feature more references to the “Angel of Death” and the “Kingdom of the Dead” than mere promotions of the Nazis. Perhaps the Nazis are simply viewed as a third party that is helping Death claim more victims. Judging by the more Satanic feel of the band, this seems like the most realistic theory. Simply out of virtue that the Holocaust was filled with so much death, it elicited references by the deathworshipping band. All controversy aside, a metal lover can still enjoy “Angel of Death” simply for the music itself. Throughout the entire song, incredibly fast riffs from two guitars with heavy distortion combine with a fast, heavy beat; the result is a high-impact, aggressive powerhouse of a song. The lead guitar also screams at a high pitch during the song, causing for an even more powerful sound. At no point does the song let go of its energy. This is the trademark sound of Slayer, but one could argue that it enhances the message of the song, which describes the frightening and blurred experience of being in a death camp. Death surrounds the victim, and as the song goes on – especially during the guitar solo near the end – the experience explodes even more into the senses. The vocalist also never “sings,” per se, but rather speaks quickly. In more intense sections, the speaking turns into screaming, something typical of all death metal. The peak of the song is reached during the guitar solo, which both increases the tempo and the speed of the guitar tapping. Going through an entire range of highs and lows, the solo turns into an innovative, diverse blast of sound. This is what exemplifies the trademark of Slayer: their intense speed and hard beat. If Slayer has made only one contribution to the world of music, it is the limit-pushing, distorted screaming of the

percussion and guitars; which has only been successfully replicated by a few groups since.

Bibliography Huey, Steve. < http://music.yahoo.com/ar-264870-bio--Slayer >. “Slayer Biography.” Yahoo! Music: 2005.