Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best. As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones. I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate! This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?
NOTE: I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only. There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.
This week, we get a bit heavy and discuss the mighty Slayer. Or perhaps it’s SLAAAAYERRRRR! Part of the Big 4 of American thrash, and hailing from Huntington Park, California, Slayer has been around for nearly 40 years, recently retiring in 2019.
Slayer features the double guitar attack of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, the thrash metal drumming excellence of Dave Lombardo, and the blood curdling screams of vocalist Tom Araya. They were the one band that legitimately scared me when I was younger. Attending and surviving one of their concerts in the old days was an accomplishment on its own.
Slayer experimented on this one and the result is the worst album of their career. That said, I find there are some decent offerings here, such as Bitter Peace, Death’s Head, and Stain of Mind. Even a bad Slayer album has some opportunity.
Best Song: Bitter Peace
Best Deep Cut (Aren’t ALL Slayer Songs Deep Cuts?): Bitter Peace
The album with a made-up name. Recorded with Gary Holt on guitar and Paul Bostaph on drums, this is a rather weak offering. It’s not a horrible record, but there is nothing that reaches out and grabs the listener. When the Stillness Comes sounds like King’s attempt to channel his inner Hanneman and write something on the more moody and melodic side. But again, we have our moments here.
Best Song: Chasing Death
Best Deep Cut: Chasing Death
This album, appropriately released on September 11, 2001, starts off with a bang with the trifecta of Disciple, God Send Death, and New Faith. Unfortunately, things go south for a while until Bloodline completely saves the back half.
Best Song: New Faith
Best Deep Cut: New Faith
The first album to feature Paul Bostaph on drums, Divine Intervention is the also the first Slayer record that disappointed me (nothing to do with Bostaph’s drumming!). Again, there is hope with, Killing Fields, Dittohead, and 213.
Best Song: Killing Fields
Best Deep Cut: Killing Fields
Lombardo’s return! I really have nothing against Paul Bostaph, I promise! He’s an amazing talent, but Slayer needs Lombardo like AC/DC needs Phil Rudd (sorry, Chris Slade!). Coincidently, this album is a return to form for the band. Check out Flesh Storm, Skeleton Christ, Eyes of the Insane, and Jihad, for starters.
Best Song: Flesh Storm
Best Deep Cut: Flesh Storm
This record doesn’t get a lot of love in my opinion. I find it extremely underrated. I love the title cut, especially the middle breakdown. In fact, nobody does the driving, mid-tempo thrash like Slayer, especially when placed within an otherwise fast song (see World Painted Blood, War Ensemble, and Angel of Death for reference).
The record is a perfect mix of top speed and slower thrash, such as Psychopathy Red (fast) and Playing with Dolls (slow). Other standouts are Hate Worldwide and Human Strain.
Best Song: World Painted Blood (it WAS a single, so I guess not a deep cut)
Best Deep Cut: Human Strain
Now we get into the classic five albums. These five records feature Slayer at their creative peak, with Hell Awaits representing the band heading toward its classic sound. More polished than its raw predecessor, the album features the amazing title cut, complete with its breathtaking thrash metal opening. No matter how many times I listen to this song, the two-minute jam before the lyrics starts gets me going every time! Other strong tracks include At Dawn They Sleep and Necrophiliac.
Best Song: Hell Awaits
Best Deep Cut: At Dawn They Sleep
Dangerous, hungry, and raw. That is how Show No Mercy sounds to me, nearly 40 years after its release. That Slayer had yet to find its defined sound does not matter on this album. Slayer classics on this record include The Antichrist, Die by the Sword, and Black Magic.
Best Song: Die by the Sword
Best Deep Cut: Fight Till Death
Fresh off their iconic Reign in Blood, Slayer decided not to rewrite history and went for a more stripped down and slower approach. While Silent Scream and Ghosts of War conjure up the ghosts of Slayer past with their fast tempos, the meat of this record is in the mid-tempo numbers, including the classic title cut, complete with it’s haunting album intro. Further robust offerings include Mandatory Suicide and Behind the Crooked Cross.
Best Song: South of Heaven
Best Deep Cut: Behind the Crooked Cross
Considered the standard in thrash metal by many, Reign in Blood comes in at a tidy 34 minutes. I remember the old cassette that had the entire 10 songs on one side. Flip it over and play it again!
The classic Angel of Death leads it off. That breakdown in the middle is mind-blowing. Alter of Sacrifice and Jesus Saves anchor the middle section, while the album closing duo of Postmortem and Raining Blood is unequaled. The breakdown after the intro and before the vocals on the title cut is, in my opinion, the finest thrash riff there is.
Best Song: Angel of Death
Best Deep Cut: Postmortem
Simply put, the finest collection of Slayer songs in its catalog. A perfect mixture of blazing speed, mid-tempo, and doom and gloom thrash, Seasons represents the final chapter in the classic Slayer era.
The fast: War Ensemble, Hallowed Point, Born of Fire
The mid-tempo: Blood Red, Spirt in Black, Temptation
Doom and Gloom: Expendable Youth, Dead Skin Mask, Skeletons of Society, title cut
This was the record that introduced me to how much of a whack job Ed Gein was!
Best Song: Seasons in the Abyss
Best Deep Cut: Spirit in Black