Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California, formed in 1981 by guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. Slayer rose to fame with its 1986 release Reign in Blood, and is credited as one of the “big four” thrash metal bands, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Since its debut album in 1983, the band has released twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six music videos, two extended plays and a cover album. Four of the band’s studio albums have received gold certification in the United States. The band has received five Grammy nominations, winning one in 2007 for the song “Eyes of the Insane”, and one in 2008 for the song “Final Six” (both from 2006’s Christ Illusion). Slayer has also played at several music festivals worldwide, including Unholy Alliance, Download and Ozzfest.
Slayer’s musical style involves fast tremolo picking, double bass drumming, riffs in irregular scales and shouted vocals. In the original line-up, King, Hanneman, and lead vocalist/bassist Tom Araya contributed to the band’s lyrics, and all of the band’s music was written by King, Hanneman and Lombardo. The band’s lyrics and album art, which cover topics such as murder, serial killers, necrophilia, torture, genocide, human experimentation, Satanism, hate crimes, terrorism, religion, antireligion, Nazism, and warfare, have generated album bans, delays, lawsuits, and criticism from religious groups and the public. However, its music has been highly influential, often being cited by many bands as an influence musically, visually, and lyrically. Between 1991 and 2013, the band sold 4.9 million albums in the United States.
Slayer is one of the most influential bands in heavy metal history. Steve Huey of AllMusic believes the musical style of Slayer makes the band stronger than the other members of the “Big Four” thrash metal bands Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax, all of which rose to fame during the 1980s. Slayer’s “downtuned rhythms, infectious guitar licks, graphically violent lyrics and grisly artwork set the standard for dozens of emerging thrash bands” and their “music was directly responsible for the rise of death metal” states MTV, ranking Slayer as the sixth “greatest metal band of all time”, ranking number 50 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Hanneman and King ranked number 10 in Guitar World’s “100 greatest metal guitarists of all time” in 2004, and were voted “Best Guitarist/Guitar Team” in Revolver’s reader’s poll. Original drummer Lombardo was also voted “Best Drummer” and the band entered the top five in the categories “Best Band Ever”, “Best Live Band”, “Album of the Year” (for Christ Illusion), and “Band of the Year”.
Groups who cited Slayer among their major influences include Bullet for My Valentine, Slipknot, Gojira, Hatebreed, Cannibal Corpse, Pantera, Kreator, Mayhem, Darkthrone, System of a Down, Lamb of God, Behemoth, Evile and Lacuna Coil. Steve Asheim, drummer for Deicide, declared that “there obviously would not have been a Deicide as we know it without the existence of Slayer”. Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser affirmed that “without Slayer, Sepultura would never be possible”. Weezer mentions them in the song “Heart Songs” from their 2008 self-titled “Red” album. The verse goes: “Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Slayer taught me how to shred…” Dave Grohl recalled, “Me and my friends, we just wanted to listen to fucking Slayer and take acid and smash stuff.”
The band’s 1986 release Reign in Blood has been an influence to extreme and thrash metal bands since its release and is considered the record which set the bar for death metal. It had a significant influence on the genre leaders such as Death, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Napalm Death. The album was hailed the “heaviest album of all time” by Kerrang! Magazine, a “genre-definer” by Stylus magazine, and a “stone-cold classic upon its release” by AllMusic. In 2006 it was named the best metal album of the last 20 years by Metal Hammer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Slayer sold 4,900,000 copies in the United States from 1991 to 2013.
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