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It's almost too much to comprehend: Slayer are calling it a day. Over their nearly four decades of aggression, they've persevered through seemingly endless controversy, major lineup changes, the rise of grunge and nu-metal, and even the death of original member and key songwriter Jeff Hanneman. Through it all, they have always been Slayer. Or should we say, "SLAAAAAYYYERRRR!!!"
The band are in the midst of their final world tour, but even once they've finally hung it up, they will never really be gone, because they've left a very deep and permanent mark — one even deeper and more permanent than their bloody logo cut into a fan's flesh. You might even say that they changed the world.
1. They helped invent extreme metal
Sure, Venom and Hellhammer laid the groundwork for extreme metal — but the former was a joke band, and the latter was, by their own admission, pretty shitty. Slayer made extreme metal truly extreme, fusing violent, occult, politically incorrect themes and imagery with a blitzkrieg of tetanus-inducing speed riffing and hair-raising doomy atmospherics that terrified, captivated and/or inspired anyone who heard it. Every metal anything black-, death-, grind and otherwise brutal, offensive and nasty that has come since owes an eternal debt of gratitude.
2. They rewrote the book on double-bass drumming
If you're a drummer — and maybe even for some of you who aren't — Dave Lombardo is God. Or at least, a god. Or at very, very least, a godfather, specifically, "the godfather of double bass," as Drummerworld dubbed him. Jazz and rock musicians — from Louie Bellson to Keith Moon to "Philthy Animal" Taylor — had played double bass before him, but no one weaponized the form until Lombardo came along with his machine-gun double kicks, as exemplified on "Angel of Death." The bar was officially lifted.
3. They made punk cool to metalheads and metal cool to punks
Ask virtually any old-school metalhead and they'll tell you that two bands rode particularly hard for punk and hardcore in the Eighties — one was Metallica and the other was Slayer. Metallica's punk influences were mostly limited to James Hetfield and Cliff Burton's tee collection, and to bands such as GBH and the Misfits (the latter of whom they, of course, covered). But Slayer's constant open discussion about the importance of hardcore, the endless Dead Kennedys stickers, the covers LP of classic hardcore songs (1996's Undisputed Attitude), and the overwhelming need for speed and the overall middle-finger-flying outlook cleared the way for punks and metalheads to join arms — and join arms they did, sometimes in Slayer's pit.
4. They made hip-hop cool to metalheads and metal cool to hip-hop fans
Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash knew their way around classic breaks by Incredible Bongo Band and Jimmy Castor, but when it came time for collaboration with a new generation of rappers Rick Rubin looked no further than his own stable of bands. Slayer's "Angel of Death" provided the fodder for Public Enemy's "She Watch Channel Zero," while Kerry King scribble-solo'd like a guitar-wielding psycho-killer on the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." You can bet that little baby Fredro Starr, Evan Seinfeld and pretty much everyone on the Judgement Night soundtrack — which saw Slayer team with Ice-T — were listening intently.
5. They inspired Pantera to drop glam and embrace thrash
Before Pantera became the Cowboys From Hell and the torch-bearing metal band of the Nineties, they were a glammy crew of spandex-clad wannabes following in the split-jumping footsteps of Van Halen. Then they started hanging and jamming with Kerry King, introduced by a mutual friend, Phil Anselmo's boxing coach. By that time, Pantera were already leaning in a heavier, less hairsprayed direction, but King's influence put them firmly on track to becoming the southern-fried wrecking crew fans know and love. "Dimebag and Kerry sitting down with each other opened up Dimebag's eyes, and eventually the rest of the guys' eyes, to the power of thrash," Anselmo recalled to Talking Metal. "The magic of it really influenced us to push our own music over the edge."
6. Their logo is a pop cultural touchstone
If you're some kind of branding expert, you would do well to take lessons from what Slayer has accomplished thanks to some swords and crooked lettering. For over 30 years, Slayer's ubiquity and resonance has been bolstered thanks to the sheer unfuckwithable icon-ness of their logo. The typeface is shorthand for anything "badass" and "dangerous," and as a result, has lent itself to everything from tour tees to high-fashion streetwear collaborations to — WTF! — Beyoncé pins.
7. They scared Marilyn Manson as a kid
Can you imagine frightening the Antichrist Superstar himself? That's what happened when a young Marilyn Manson first encountered Slayer while at Christian school, as he revealed in our joint interview with both controversial entities back in 2007. Young Brian Warner picked up the thrash outfit's Live Undead picture disc and "it scared me so bad," he told us, "that I had my mom try and return it." Momma Warner claimed that the vinyl was scratched, but the store wouldn't accept it back — and thank Satan they didn't, because the experience helped send her son down the rabbit hole of heavy metal and shock rock. The rest is history.
8. They gave Californication's Hank Moody the title to each of his books
Throughout the seven seasons of Showtime's Californication series, the life of David Duchovny's tragicomic alcoholic character Hank Moody unfolds like a Slayer album: fast, violent, chaotic and very close to flying off the rails into a catastrophic disaster. So it's only fitting that the titles for each of Moody's first three fictional novels were taken from the thrash legend's catalog: South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss and God Hates Us All.
9. They gave us all a go-to heckle to scream at bands we don't like
Slayer's chaotic live show set a fearsome new precedent for rock shows on a global scale; to witness the thrashers' walls o' death and 1000-mile-per-hour solos in-person for the first time is to behold a real-life hellscape, a feral fugue that can make their peers' live setups look like Kindergarten playtime. As such, hecklers quickly adopted the band's name as a go-to invective, just as goofy as "Play Freebird!!!" but far crueler: When someone yells out "SLAYER!!!" (typically under the influence of alcohol), they're basically telling the band onstage to go back to the playpen — if you can't stack up to Slayer, you ain't worth shit.
10. Slayer do not give a fuck
Befitting the title of their hardcore covers album, Slayer is synonymous with "undisputed attitude" — and that attitude is "fuck you." From the jump, the band has unapologetically followed its own creative vision, to hell with parental-advisory censors, radio stations who wouldn't play their songs, venues that banned them and music nerds hating on their guitar playing. Their extreme sound and attitude should have kept them squarely out of mainstream culture — yet it's exactly what made them break through. And the band's no-fucks-given vibe is the direct extension of its members: They are not "cool." They wrote controversy-courting songs about the Holocaust, but also liked beach hangs and listening to the B-52s. Individually, they rep both sides of the political aisle, but collectively, Slayer stand for nothing … except Slayer. They've never written a ballad. The man singing the lyrics "God hates us all!" is a practicing Catholic. The guitarist who wrote the lines "God hates us all!" loves kittens and puppies. Over nearly four decades they've lost drummers, gained drummers, lost a guitarist, added a guitarist, but to this day Slayer don't give a fuck: When they hit the stage they still deliver the same unparalleled, uncompromising whiplash-inducing event that has unified generations of metal fans and elicits the collective rally cry: Fucking Slaaayer!