Until a few months back, I had not dug into the catalogs of any of the “big” bands of metal. Sure, I knew Metalica and a handful of songs here and there from other bands. I also knew a bunch of hard rock, and of course, a few bands that weren’t “big” per se, but well respected. Still, arena metal was a fairly untouched genre, so I decided to change my ways. Let’s give these big metal bands an honest listen. I started with Iron Maiden, which I absolutely love because of this experiment. Next, I moved onto Anthrax, which just did not do it for me. Today, I check one more band off my list. Today I listen to Slayer for the first time.
The Slayer songs I listen to today are from fan polls from such places as “thetoptens.com,” Revolver.com, Classicrockhistory.com, and Loudwire. Looking at the song titles, I’ll admit…I am absolutely frightened, but this is for science after all! Musical science. So….read along as I listen to Slayer for the very first time!
Angel of Death (1986)
My first instinct is to headbang to the amazing guitar intro. The guitars on Angel of Death are wildly amazing. The guitars continue to be amazing throughout Angel of Death, but even more so towards the last quarter of the song. Dueling guitar solos seem to wail at each other…and it’s totally awesome!
Looking at the lyrics, I feel a little sick to my stomach. The whole song is about the holocaust. Slayer holds no punches in describing the horrors of the Nazi execution camps, including the medical experimentation, torture, neglect, and cruel and “efficient” ways of killing a person. Normally I would quote actual lyrics, but these lyrics are so disturbing I would rather not. Angel of Death is a very graphic song.
Angel of Death might be one of the most graphically disturbing songs I’ve heard in a long time, but dang, they did such a great job on the lyrics and the guitars. Angel of Death deserves an A.
Dead Skin Mask
The guitars in Dead Skin Mask sound ominous. If the title isn’t a dead giveaway, I can tell Dead Skin Mask is going to be dark. And oh how dark the song is!
Early in my interpretations of the song, I immediately think of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. That’s not a coincidence, as both the song and the character draw from the same inspiration: serial killer Ed Gein. Dead Skin Mask talks about how Gein liked to make various crafts from various preserved body parts. Yeah, I think I might go lose my lunch now.
I will never listen to this song again. Dead Skin Mask seriously makes me want to vomit. While the Dead Skin Mask itself is not a bad song, I just don’t want to subject myself to that kind of horror. I will say, that I respect how Slayer paints a vivid picture of the life of Gein (and what made Gein tick). However, once is enough for me. I really hope the next song is happy.
Despite my earlier wishes, Disciple is not a happy song. About a third of the way through Disciple, lead vocalist, Tom Araya, screams “God hates us all” multiple times. Other lyrics point out the horrors of society, including racism, war, famine, and the like. The last few lyrics are “I reject this (bleep)ing race, I reject this (bleep)ing place.” Ultimately, Disciple is a song about agnosticism and encourages the listener to think for themselves. While I have no problem with the latter, the former just feels hopeless. Not happy, that’s for sure!
Although Slayer wanted Disciple to be an agnostic anthem, the song just comes off as a rant. While rant in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re trying to convince someone to throw out religion, rants are unuseful. Then again, maybe I’m just overly harsh because I wanted a happy song.
On my first listen to Black Magic, I turned my brain off and just listened to the sounds of the song. My favorite thing about Slayer thus far seems to be the guitars. Oh, and Black Magic has some amazing guitars! During most of Black Magic, rhythm guitars seem to be the order of the day, but these guitars keep me interested. Black Magic also has a couple of guitar solos that sound powerful and loud. If this were a Beatles song, Ringo Starr would yell “I got blisters on my fingers!” after playing these solos!
Turning my brain back on, the lyrics describe a person under the control of Satan. This person is fighting their master’s puppet strings and trying not to be evil. Still, the condemned soul seems to have no hope. Eventually, the soul gives in. Dark and sad, but I kind of expect that from a Slayer song I guess.
Again, Slayer knows how to paint a picture with their lyrics. Slayer truly captures the condemned soul’s inner torment. Once more, Black Magic actually gives us a little hope when juxtaposed with Disciple. Sure, the thesis of Black Magic is you just can not fight evil, no matter how hard you try. However, the thesis of Disciple seems to be the opposite message. Considering Disciple was written almost 20 years after Black Magic, maybe they’re saying you CAN fight evil.
South of Heaven
This is how South of Heaven sounds. South of Heaven starts with a guitar-strumming slowly in a minor key. Eventually, other instruments join in. Drums, a second guitar playing the same notes as the first, but in a higher pitch. Finally, we get the vocals. The tempo gets a bit faster during the song. Towards the end, we get a standard thrash guitar solo with drums beating hard. All in all, South of Heaven sounds like a standard Slayer song.
What about those lyrics? Let’s see – there are fornicating souls about to face the second coming. People getting damned to hell. Rape, murder, and all kinds of other evils. Yep…South of Heaven has the standard lyrics of a Slayer song.
Despite being the second most listened Slayer song on Spotify, South of Heaven seems rather bland and boring. Almost like Slayer phoned it in.
Seasons in the Abyss
Seasons in the Abyss starts with a melody of rock instruments. Several guitar parts play with, and off of, one another. Drums and bass provide a decent rhythm. Everything so far sounds amazing. A minute into the song, the melody changes dramatically. The only instrument is a lead guitar, which plays for about twenty seconds before the vocals join the song. The chorus is extremely catchy! Eventually, other guitars join in, providing another dueling guitar solos effect, all the while giving us time to process the lyrics. Structurally, Seasons of the Abyss is a really good song!
Of course, the lyrics are dark AF (at least to my interpretation). Seasons in the Abyss seems to be about slipping into the insanity of death. Still, looking at other interpretations online, this song could be about a psychedelic experience or even Aleister Crowley’s book, “The Abyss.” Whatever. I feel like the sounds of the song provide enough meaning without having to dig too deep.
An overall solid song with a solid sound!
Raining Blood has a solid thrash sound throughout the song. Is it different than any other Slayer song? Not really, but the sound works nonetheless and that’s what matters.
What about the lyrics? Well – the song is called “Raining Blood.” I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. Still, let’s look a the first verse though, just in case.
“Trapped in purgatory / A lifeless object, alive / Awaiting reprisal /Death will be their acquiescence.”
Yeah – so basically a song about people condemned to their eternal fate of torture. Nothing new for Slayer.
Like I said, the lyrics are nothing special, but the instrumentation truly rocks!
Will I Listen to Slayer again?
I do not want to offend any Slayer fans out there, but I did not enjoy this session of I Listen To very much. The music was good, and I will admit the lyrics were at times mind-blowing and pure poetry, but they were also dark AF! I wanted to go hug a teddy bear while sipping a hot cup of cocoa after this session. I took a break halfway through writing I Listen To Slayer session. During this break, I made a cheesy graphic with rainbows and unicorns for a future playlist – a playlist of happy songs. No, I will not show you this graphic, because it ended up being stupid and terrible graphic design.
My point being, Slayer has talent. Slayer knows how to write good songs. Slayer also writes compelling lyrics, and they play their instruments well. With that said, Slayer is just not my cup of tea. I wish them well, but I will not listen to Slayer again of my own free will. Now if you will excuse me, I think I should listen to some feel-good music to boost my mood.