When Slayer broken the horrible news last week that, after one final world tour, they'll be packing it in, we had to look back and marvel at their unfuckwithable place in heavy-metal history and ponder the impossible: What is the greatest thrash band's single greatest song? We posed the question to our fans and followers, and you cast your votes on social media using the hashtag #TellRevolver. Below are the ranked results.
Though best known for their pedal-to-the-metal high-velocity riffage, Slayer also flourish in slower cadences, using the change in speed to add a creepy-crawly atmosphere to their hellborn sound. "Dead Skin Mask" — an ode to real-life serial killer Ed Gein, who inspired Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Leatherface — hinges on a down-tempo call-and-response riff, one that lingers in your head long after the record comes to a close.
After dropping three LPs packed full of lightning-fast riffs and unbridled speed, Slayer loosened up on the reins ever so slightly with their fourth studio album, South of Heaven. Between its pared-down vocal arrangements and crisp, distortion-free guitars (gasp!) the record's title cut certainly pushed the diehards out of their comfort zone — and all the better for it.
A six-minute, doom-inflected blitzkrieg, the title track to 1990's Seasons in the Abyss LP teaches yet another master class in thrash-metal dynamics. It's also one of the group's most motivational songs (at least, by their cynical standards), inviting the listener to "Step outside yourself/And let your thoughts drain/As you go insane, insane." Leave it to Slayer to paint insatiable madness as profound truth — and an excuse for out-of-this-world riffage.
The opening track to the watershed Reign in Blood isn't just one of Slayer's most vicious and controversial songs, but it's also the basis for Public Enemy's "She Watch Channel Zero" and sets the tone for arguably the greatest heavy-metal LP ever made. By the time Tom Araya lets out his last scream on "Angel of Death," the internal struggle begins: Do you repeat this song or listen to the rest of this near-perfect album?
Before the sweet, sweet evil riff of "Raining Blood" has even kicked in, the stage has already been set: thunder clouds and the pitter pat of rain provide unsettling ambiance while Lombardo's dual toms forbode the imminent onslaught. What follows is not only the obvious choice for Slayer's greatest track, but also one of the greatest tracks of all time by any artist.