It’s inevitable; one day your favorite band will, with the passing of time and evolution of music, sound like Foghat to the youngsters. Take Metallica, for example. “They already do [sound like Foghat],” laughs Slayer singer-bass player Tom Araya. “I don’t want to sound mean or ugly, but they do.” Yup. It’s not about their sell-out haircuts—it’s that lately “Seek and Destroy” and “The Call of Ktulu” elicit the same nostalgic reaction as “Slow Ride.” The same, says Araya, is true of Slayer.
Pause to consider it: Don’t you, when you hear the strains preceding the thrash deluge of “Raining Blood,” experience not only a fist-pumping rush but a kind of wistfulness, a thousand-yard-stare nostalgia for the days when such aggressive sounds emanating from your bedroom made Mom and Pop consider calling in Max von Sydow to hose you down with holy water?
“I think we’ve gone from being evil,” says Araya, “to being cool.”
Now they can say things like, “There’s some kind of magic [about the new album, World Painted Blood] that I can’t quite put my finger on.” That’s drummer Dave Lombardo talking to online metal show Capital Chaos. When City Weekly yanked him out of bed for a 9 a.m. phoner, we asked—with tongue in cheek—if it were at least black magic or some Aleister Crowley funk.
“No black magic, no Wicca, nothing,” Lombardo said. Alchemy? “Chemistry. When you listen to Dark Side of the Moon, that to me, when it was made, there was something special going on. There was camaraderie, some kind of an alignment of planets. Whatever it is, something was going down at that time. Now, it’s nothing with candles, nothing with voodoo. It’s just what magic went on at rehearsal … that’s what I’m calling magic. Dark Side of the Moon has that magic. AC/DC Highway to Hell has that magic. And if I may add, there’s one more record that we have that has that magic, and that’s Reign in Blood.”
Reign in Blood, Slayer’s third album, is widely regarded as a metal masterpiece. Every band whose discography contains such a platter says that about every new album they put out. It’s cheap and easy marketing, and if there’s anything scary about Slayer nowadays, it’s the idea that this band of undisputed attitude might sell out.
Except that, by design, there’s no room for selling out in Slayer’s music. For one, there’s the band’s hallmark: speed. When the band proffered the more down-tempo South of Heaven, fans recoiled before ultimately embracing it, proving to the band they had to deliver certain somethings—insane tempos, whammy-strangling solos, double-bass drum blasts, controversial lyrics—and they’ve hardly faltered since.
World Painted Blood, despite what may be construed as a titular allusion to Reign, isn’t a redux. Rather, it’s a convergence of Reign and South, its chronological successor, blending hair-whipping thrash-punk (“Unit 731,” “Not Of This God”) and comparatively sludgy songs like “Snuff” and “World Painted Blood.” There is one near heart-attack moment in “Playing With Dolls,” which starts in vaguely nu-Metallica territory with Araya’s talky vocal/borderline rap, but it actually is tempered with psychotic breaks, creating a tug-of-war effect in which Slayer’s psychosis ultimately prevails.
This, of course, is the story of the band. A bunch of kids got together and wrote songs about Satan and Nazis and set it to the most extreme sounds they could muster, and photographed themselves ripping apart naked bloody wenches or—gasp—six-packs of Stella Artois. People crapped their pants, but Slayer kept it up. Now, against all odds, they’re virtually in the mainstream. Maybe the best art is the most frightening?
“Absolutely,” says Lombardo. “And then there’s art that just sits there and makes absolutely no sense.”
w/ Megadeth, Anthrax
3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
Tuesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m.