Jessica Pimentel on Discovering Slayer, Insane Shows, How Their Music Helps Her Acting | Revolver

Jessica Pimentel on Discovering Slayer, Insane Shows, How Their Music Helps Her Acting

From the song that made her blood to run cold, to Kerry King's words of encouragement
jessicapimentel.jpg, Jessica Pimentel
courtesy of Jessica Pimentel

After nearly four decades as revered pioneers of heavy metal and one of the best live acts on the planet, Slayer are nearing the end of their farewell world tour. What will they leave us beyond the fruits of their uncompromising vision: songs, videos, shirts, posters and other memorabilia? For one thing, stories. Lots of stories. So for Revolver's new issue, which features Slayer on one of its multiple collectible covers (you can purchase a copy via our store), we tracked down a few of their many famous friends and fans to compile some of the best.

Here, Orange Is the New Black and Slayer: The Repentless Killogy actress Jessica Pimentel tells her tales of the thrash OGs — from her blood running cold after hearing Slayer lyrics for the first time, to how the band's "raw energy and graphic lyrics" help her prepare to step into character today.

JESSICA PIMENTEL I didn't even know Slayer was a band. I was about 12 years old growing up in Brooklyn and my next door neighbors, as I remember them, were a really cool, young, rock & roll couple. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, who knows — they broke up. When Stephanie decided to move out, she left a box in front of my door marked "cool things for Jessica." In that box was some vinyl, a few goth magazines, some jewelry and other accessories and clothes. One of the articles of clothing was a shirt, which I thought was some fantasy comic book character. I remember thinking it was so cool. My mother and I both thought it was Merlin the wizard so she allowed me to wear it as a nightgown. It was huge. It's a good thing she never read the back. The shirt was an original 1990 Slayer "Spill the Blood" tee. On the back of it were all the lyrics to "Spill The Blood," which I read constantly and I was captivated. I had no idea Slayer was a band and that "Spill the Blood" was a song. I just thought it was an awesome poem and I memorized it. Also being so young with a very clean mind, I saw it for what it was: poetry, fantasy.

As I got older, the nightgown became a T-shirt that I would wear to fencing class while pursuing my degree in theater at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. The T-shirt became a tank top that I wore last year to the Orange Is the New Black premiere. And it's still my favorite metal shirt. I still wear the shirt to this day even though it is completely see-through now with holes throughout the silkscreen giving little peekaboo views and it's being held together with safety pins. I'm scared to wash it because I think it will disintegrate. The story of how I got this shirt, then to the story of working with Slayer now, is about the most full-circle-pinch-myself-is-this-real-life-I-wish-I-had-a-time-machine moments I've ever had. I wish I could find that lady who lived on Court Street and thank her for the gift.

The first time I heard Slayer I was about 14 years old and my friend Tim had lent me a cassette — yes, a cassette — of Reign in Blood. I had been listening to metal for a few years now and I could say that King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Metallica were among my favorites. But I had never heard anything like Slayer. I never heard anything that fast or brutal before. Even the way it sounded was like no one else. I was completely unfamiliar with that this style of singing. It was so fast and I couldn't understand a word Tom [Araya] was saying in the beginning. I'd catch a word here or there and started piecing things together. I kept catching certain words — it sparked my curiosity, and I wanted to figure it out. I got to the track "Altar of Sacrifice." The opening riff immediately got my attention and stood out to me more than any other song. I remember sitting in my room with headphones on, rewinding the song over and over and writing down the lyrics as I was able to decipher them. Then there is that one line in that song. I dropped my pen and my blood ran cold. "What have I gotten into? What have I done? I'm going to hell ..."

It was back when Slayer was still playing smaller venues. New York City, I remember the crowd being in a frenzy before Slayer even got onstage. I felt so bad for the opening band who could not even finish their set because the entire crowd just kept screaming, "Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!" the entire time. Actually, I didn't feel bad at all because I hated them, and I, too, was one of those people yelling, "Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!" When Slayer finally did take the stage, it was a pit like I had never seen in my life. I grew up in the New York hardcore scene so I am not afraid of a rowdy pit, but this was something else. People were beating the crap out of each other, putting people in full nelsons, jumping on heads and just straight punching each other in the face. One person grabbed my friend by the waist, picked him up and carried him clear across the room then slammed him into the wall ... It was amazing.

After living through the pit of my first Slayer show, I realized that I would never want to go through that again because I didn't get to watch much of the show as I was basically fighting for my life the entire time. Don't get me wrong — I had a blast, but I wanted to watch them play. I found a place in the very front row and I refused to move. If anyone came near me or tried to push me, I would give them a swift punch in the throat and continue enjoying the show.

I headbanged so hard that my necklace broke and I didn't care. I screamed at the top of my lungs every single word of every single song. I was sweaty and tired with no voice by the end of the set. The guys were taking their final bows. Mr. Kerry King comes over to where I'm standing and warmly greeted me on the floor. He said he'd never seen a girl get down so rough in the front row. "I'm pretty sure you know every single word." "Yes, I do," I gravelly responded and thanked him for a great show and he handed me a guitar pick, which I still have. He told me I was "awesome and to please keep it up. We need more girls like you in metal."

Absolutely. Sometimes I need to get myself to a place emotionally where I must be cold and violent. Slayer's raw energy and graphic lyrics helped do that many times, but, most of all, it was after watching the "Repentless" video, which connected Slayer with prison, a place where their music took on a special nature for me. It was the perfect soundtrack — and visual — I needed to get me pumped and ready, especially that season when we were dealing with a lot of violence in season five of Orange Is the New Black where we had a prison riot.

They have an unquestionable style that is uniquely their own. There is no doubt when you hear a Slayer song that it is Slayer. There's no guessing. There's no question. That is something that is truly rare in heavy music. To be able to have a signature sound as a band, and each member has a signature sound, individually. Just like you know a Slayer song, you know a Kerry King solo. You know a Tom Araya scream. Not only that, but it has been an honor to watch the evolution of their stage show from the sweaty clubs to monster performances at huge venues — from hundreds to thousands to hundreds of thousands. And the energy and the integrity that they bring to each performance is still the same. I love Slayer. Thank you for all the years of music, friends and great times.