During their 30-plus years of songwriting, Slayer crafted some of the angriest, sickest and most lyrically graphic songs in the history of thrash. In interviews, guitarist Kerry King has spoken about how the band usually touched on one of three taboo-pushing themes: war, the occult/religion and murder.
But it isn't just the subject matter of Slayer's songs that makes them so ghastly, it's also the way the band addressed those themes — often as if they were the perpetrators of the insidious acts Araya sings about — and how uncompromising they were about the lurid details they included, savoring death, cruelty and blasphemy as if they were sources of sustenance. As a result, countless bands have been directly influenced by Slayer's bloodiest and most sacrilegious offerings.
What made the group's lyrics even more impactful is that the band's most disturbing songs were based on real-life acts of brutality. Slayer specialized in writing about serial killers, including Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer, but they also shocked and awed when addressing historical atrocities of war and terrorism, such as the Holocaust, Japanese prison camp torture and September 11th. Below are the most twisted and unnerving passages from some of Slayer's grisliest songs. Many come from the band's biggest hits, others are hidden in deep cuts. Most left indelible scars on the millions who heard them.
I feel the urge the growing need
To fuck this sinful corpse
My tasks complete the bitch's soul
Lies raped in demonic lust
Hanneman and Kerry King collaborated on this, one of the most disgusting and self-explanatory songs in Slayer's catalog. Just as chilling as the lyrics is the gleeful way Araya has introduced the cut in concert (see the video above): "This is a song about older women. The kind you find six feet underground. You know, the best part about older women is when you eat them out. You can hear the maggots in your teeth. Yummy."
Pumped with fluid, inside your brain
Pressure in your skull begins pushing
Through your eyes
Burning flesh, drips away
Test of heat burns your skin,
Your mind starts to boil
Frigid cold, cracks your limbs
How long can you last
In this frozen water burial?
Jeff Hanneman wrote "Angel of Death" about Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, an Auschwitz physician who conducted barbaric human experiments on his victims, including stitching twins together back to back, gouging out the eyes of people with different-colored irises, and injecting foreign substances into patients to see how they reacted. What's most chilling about "Angel of Death" is that, while it doesn't glorify the atrocities, it describes them in vivid detail and channels the perverse, fevered curiosity of the infamous "butcher."
Blood turning black, the change has begun
Feeling the hatred of all damned in hell
Flesh starts to burn, twist and deform
Eyes dripping blood realization of death
Transforming of five toes to two
Learn the sacred words of praise, hail Satan
On Slayer's first few albums, there was no shortage of songs about satanic rituals and devil worship. King's "Altar of Sacrifice" lyrics make it one of the best, depicting a gruesome scene of demonic transmogrification reminiscent of some of the most hair-raising horror movies of the Eighties.
Holes burn deep in your chest
Raked by machine gun fire
Screaming soul sent out to die
Living mandatory suicide
Araya penned the words to this lovely ditty, which addresses the horrors of war more effectively than perhaps any other song in the Slayer catalog. "Mandatory Suicide" bluntly conveys warfare's twisted glorification and brutal fatalism, starting with "a child's toy" and ending with "massacre on the front lines" — vile smells, screaming souls and "radical amputation" in between. The singer delivers the lyrics with malice and nihilism, and live, no crowd can resist the song's incessant chant of "suicide."
Graze the skin with my finger tips
The brush of dead warm flesh pacifies the means
Incised members ornaments on my being
Adulating the skin before me
Written with disturbingly sensual detail and from a first-person POV, "Dead Skin Mask" is Araya's tribute to Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber Ed Gein, who, in the late Forties and early Fifties, carved up his female victims, using their skin to create masks, a body suit, a belt made from nipples, chair covers and other trophies. Gein's atrocities inspired numerous horror films including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The House of 1000 Corpses and Silence of the Lambs.
The excitement of dissection is sweet
My skin crawls with orgasmic speed
A lifeless object for my subjection
An obsession beyond your imagination
Primitive instinct a passion for flesh
Primal feeding on the multitudes of death
Sadistic acts a love so true
Absorbingly masticating a part of you
Continuing to explore his fascination with serial killers, Araya penned the words to "213" about Jeffrey Dahmer. In addition to vividly depicting Dahmer's grisly acts, Slayer's vocalist writes again in first person, getting inside the head of the sociopath, necrophiliac and cannibal who, according to Araya, sought real love from the 17 young men and boys he killed between 1978 and 1991.
God hates us all! God hates us all!
He fuckin' hates me
Pessimist, terrorist targeting the next mark
Global chaos feeding on hysteria
Cut throat, slit your wrist, shoot you in the back, fair game
Drug abuse, self-abuse searching for the next high
Sounds a lot like hell is spreading all the time
I'm waiting for the day the whole world fucking dies.
One of King's most hateful diatribes, "Disciple" is an especially venomous cut, even by Slayer standards, starting out with mid-paced vocals and evolving into a full-on hardcore onslaught of rapid-fire animosity. King must have been in an especially bad mood when he wrote the song, which concludes with lines that tell off humanity and the whole world at large in no uncertain terms: "I reject this fuckin' race/I despise this fuckin' place."
Strike above the neck and at all extremities
For this is a point of no return for Almighty God
God will give bahishti to his faithful servants
When you reach ground zero you will have killed the enemy
The Great Satan!
Hanneman and Araya worked together to write this Christ Illusion standout about Muslim extremism. On the surface, the words aren't particularly graphic, but what makes the song so disturbing is that it was written from the perspective of a September 11th terrorist. Indeed, the cut ends with a line about the destruction of the World Trade Center penned by Mohamed Atta, one of the main orchestrators and hijackers on 911.
Perversion, slow death agonizing
Stab around the eyes
Flow of blood, warm taste brings me pleasure
Eclipsing all reason
Pushing sperm, in her imitation
Painful act in vain
Organs cooked, bled out potency
Now I am now complete
After reading about Soviet mass murderer Andrei Chikatilo, Hanneman was inspired to write this twisted, graphic song about the homicidal maniac, penned, of course, in first person. Of course, the guitarist had plenty of material to work with: Chikatilo mutilated and killed at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990 and famously described himself as "a mistake of nature, a mad beast."
Bacterial target, eyes exploding
Melting flesh through your mind
Become your madness insanity wins
Infant's flesh on the walls
Testing limits threshold of pain
Ripping out teeth to observe
I want blood
Hanneman's lifelong interest in World War II led him to Unit 731, a secret Japanese biological and chemical warfare research laboratory that conducted brutal scientific experiments on mostly Chinese victims. Researchers at the facility engaged in human vivisection without anesthetics, amputated limbs to study blood loss, removed organs and infected prisoners with deadly diseases. Hanneman's words capture the brutality in all its visceral horror.