Tour of Duty: Slayer

Slayer has delighted the hearts and minds of men, women and children for a quarter century. Formed in Los Angeles in the early ’80s, Slayer bypassed the emerging glam and party metal scenes with brutal themes, technical musicianship and a live show that would impress the most practiced classical performer. Hanneman and King’s lightning guitar lines have inspired millions of kids to pick up guitars. Slayer is inspirational. Their 100 percent commitment to playing crushing thrash metal is what has kept them at the top of the metal scene for their entire career. They’ve been blamed for inspiring murders, they’ve been called Nazis and they’ve been reviled by parents the world over, but one thing never changes, Slayer’s commitment to being Slayer. They never deviated from their heaviness the way Metallica and so many others did. Their lyrics range from eloquent poems in the style of John Milton to descriptions of the holocaust to odes to football. If you go to a show and decide to enter the pit, just go bananas, half the people in there got there by mistake and are running for their lives.

The first time I saw Slayer was in a strange club in London. At that point, the only concerts I’d seen were Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys, Neil Young and Masta Ace. The club was full of British metal heads working themselves into a frenzy in anticipation of Slayer taking the stage. The opening bands were booed and at times were drowned out by chants of “Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!” When Slayer finally took the stage, the entire club erupted into a swarming pit. Some people were smiling, some were frowning and some were suffering, trying to escape. After a few songs the pit calmed down and was contained to the area directly in front of the stage. Half way through the show I stepped to the side to catch my breath and cool down. While watching Slayer rip through song after technical song I felt a cool breeze at my back. When I turned around, I saw a beautiful woman and her long-haired hesher boyfriend helicopter head-banging, their hair acting as fan blades. I’ve since seen Slayer 13 times and every show has been a great experience. Read on to learn about pre-show rituals, run-ins with Nazis, touring in a Camaro and general brutality. Here’s to Slayer, thank you for your many years of service.

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