Trying to write an introduction for an article about Slayer is like trying to rip off a beer bottle cap with your teeth: there’s absolutely no need for it. The band has ascended to almost godlike status among the metal world, enduring every trend, adversity and controversy one could imagine.
Even within the last year, as the band dealt with the tragic passing of founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman and third departure of founding drummer Dave Lombardo, the Slayer machine soldiers forward with an astounding relentlessness. These days, amidst the constant touring and world appearances, the band has its sights set on a new record: the first Slayer album to feature less than three original members.
“Dude, we’ve got loads of songs,” says guitarist and media darling Kerry King, who has been the unofficial face of the thrash metal titans since its inception in 1981.
“We’ve had so many things come up this year with the Hanneman fiasco and parting with Dave and all the touring we’ve done, it’s just kinda been on hold.”
In place of Hanneman and Lombardo, King and Tom Araya (bass/vocals) have enlisted former skinsman Paul Bostaph, who played previously with the band during another Lombardo absence, and Gary Holt (Exodus), who has been the unofficial replacement for Hanneman since his initial break from the band in February of 2011.
“It wasn’t like starting completely from scratch at that moment because we already had somebody that was filling Jeff’s spot and Jeff was cool with it,” notes King.
“If I had Jeff pick out his own replacement, I don’t think he would have picked anybody other than Gary. He’s just the perfect dude in a shitty situation, unfortunately.”
As of this writing, there have already been 11 songs demoed between King and Bostaph, with three more on the way. However, until the band decides that Holt will be a full-time member, his writing talents will be kept solely to Exodus. That being said, King has discussed the possibility of bringing him in to record leads, which would be huge boost to the process, as Holt is undoubtedly one of the best in the business.
King also explained that the band have intentions to go over some of Hanneman’s old material and attempt to work it in to the new album, but noted that plan being a slippery slope.
“At some point we have to go in and deconstruct it, because if it’s not done, you’ve got to take a new approach to it and stomach it,” he says.
“My main concern is putting out something that’s got Hanneman’s name on it being mediocre. I don’t wanna do that. If were going to put out anything from Jeff its gonna be as good as it could be if Jeff was still here.”
Not only that, but now that the band has decided to continue on without Lombardo and Hanneman has caused nothing short of an outcry among a large part of the fan base, who lay claims that this version of Slayer could very well not even sound like Slayer anymore.
“To me, that thought is kind of asinine. It’s the same way we’ve recorded for the last 15-20 years, there’s just a songwriter missing, which I totally get. But, I think what you’re going to hear in the new Slayer record is going to sound just like you would expect it to,” King states.
It’s hard to argue with that. Slayer have been one of the few bands in the world, much like AC/DC before them, to have perfected a blend of simple and unique that you could never take away from them. And much like the voracious hordes of undead that are sometimes their lyrical topics, Slayer will forge ahead without any second thought.
Slayer will never die.
Catch Slayer at the Stampede Corral (Calgary) on November 3, at the Shaw Conference Centre (Edmonton) on November 4 and at the MTS Centre (Winnipeg) on November 7.
By Brandon McNeil