Getting the opportunity to write about one of your absolute favourite bands is always a privilege, with Slayer being no exception. Having come from being a frankly underground metal phenomenon in the 1980s to their status now as one of the greatest bands to ever grace heavy music, the legacy of Araya, Hanneman, King, Lombardo, Bostaph and Holt simply cannot be understated, with their musical output influencing and inspiring generations of like-minded bands to come. Here is my ordered list of the Best to Worst album releases in “SLAYEEEEEEEER’s!!!” discography. It doesn’t look right spelling it the correct way does it?
- ‘Reign in Blood’
‘Reign in Blood’ is the benchmark. It is to metal what ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ is to prog, and what ‘London Calling’ is to punk rock. Clocking in at just under 29 minutes, the album is bookended by two of the genre’s most infamous songs, with the eight in the middle never compromising in terms of aggression, velocity and sheer musical violence. The fact that everyone from pop acts to grindcore bands cite ‘Reign in Blood’ as an influence is a testimony to its importance, not just to Slayer but to music in general. Timeless.
- ‘Seasons in the Abyss’
‘Reign in Blood’ deservedly gets the limelight when it comes to the pinnacle of Slayer’s releases, but one should not forget the quality of the band’s 1990 album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. A perfect mix of the chaos of Reign and the nightmarish melody of ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ draws on real-life serial killers and the insanity of war as lyrical topics, among others. Opening track “War Ensemble” with its grisly tale of death and maiming described in its bloodiest way makes for an accurate picture of what Slayer is all about. It is also my favourite Slayer album by a quite considerable margin, and seeing “Born of Fire” played live recently was such a treat.
- ‘Show No Mercy’
Where it all began: 1983 Two hungry young musicians with a mutual affection for Priest, Maiden, Sabbath and Venom come together along with a bassist/vocalist with an unparalled roar and a drummer extraordinaire to compose one of the most vital debuts in the history of metal. While ‘Show No Mercy’ definitely captures a band finding themselves musically, the quality of some of the songs on this album – namely “Die by the Sword”, “The Antichrist” and “Black Magic” – simply cannot be denied. Some of the band’s releases since may have caused you to forget just how well this album has aged, so I highly recommend you revisit it if it’s been a while.
- ‘South of Heaven’
No other album on this list opens with a riff so eerie yet so inviting of applause when it is heard live. The first time Slayer made a particular focus to include melody into their music following the destruction of ‘Reign in Blood’, the songs on ‘South of Heaven’ maybe are not as memorable to most, but tracks such as “Mandatory Suicide”, the legendary title track, and especially the sadly forgotten “Ghosts of War” are great examples of why ‘South of Heaven’ is definitely up to par with the albums released before and after it. Plus, the band’s take on Judas Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor” is an interesting inclusion.
- ‘God Hates Us All’
The day ‘God Hates Us All’ was released will never be forgotten for obvious reasons, which makes its hateful anti-religious rhetoric even more potent. “Disciple”, “God Send Death”, “Bloodline” and “Warzone”, among others, mark Slayer’s emergence into the 21st century with such force that the album is definitely the band’s best release of this new millennium. Departing from the traditional lyricism of hell, Satan and the like, Slayer’s new perspective on the world was that of the dark and taboo corners of society – things that shouldn’t be discussed, but at the same time need to be. That is what makes ‘God Hates Us All’ a landmark album in the entire discography of the band.
- ‘Hell Awaits’
The name says it all. Upping the ante from ‘Show No Mercy’, Slayer managed to distance themselves from being viewed as a Venom clone and made clear their intentions musically and lyrically: SATAN. The title track “Hell Awaits” could potentially be viewed as the perfect song to introduce Slayer to an unfamiliar listener. Songs about vampires and the depths of literal hell indicated the direction Slayer would take in their future as a band, and especially the albums that would directly follow.
‘Repentless’ was released almost a year ago now, marking the first time Exodus guitarist Gary Holt had played on a Slayer record, and the band’s first album without half of the original line-up. Nonetheless, ‘Repentless’ definitely has its positives, with Tom’s surging roar still present even though it has definitely diminished somewhat in its savageness. Tracks such as ‘Take Control’ and ‘Vices’ imply that King is a solid songwriter, despite his best material not being up to par with that of the late great Hanneman. To many, however, ‘Repentless’ is the best Slayer album in 15 years, which proves it to be a success.
- ‘World Painted Blood’
‘World Painted Blood’ marked the last time the original Slayer line-up would perform on a Slayer record, due to the dismissal of Lombardo and the passing of Hanneman. And while the album is not the greatest release the band has put their name on in the 21st century, ‘World Painted Blood’ contains some solid material worthy of the band’s high-quality title, namely “Hate Worldwide”, “Unit 731”, the title track and others. ‘World Painted Blood’ is an underrated thrash metal album in my opinion, and one that definitely deserves your attention.
- ‘Divine Intervention’
Hard rock music was in a strange place in the year 1994, as the Nirvana-driven explosion of grunge was dying down and nu-metal was gradually on the rise. In the midst of all of this, Slayer released ‘Divine Intervention’, their first album featuring former Forbidden drummer Paul Bostaph. The highlights in terms of songs are “Killing Fields” and “Serenity in Murder”, making the album a decently strong effort while failing to maintain the bar established by the group’s previous handful of records.
- ‘Christ Illusion’
Following on from the sheer savagery of ‘God Hates Us All’ and the political, social, financial and cultural changes in society post-9/11, Slayer’s album ‘Christ Illusion’ was released into the world in 2006 and contained more songs with strong religious or anti-religious lyricism. The song “Jihad” and the controversy surrounding its topics marked the first time Slayer had experienced that level of backlash since ‘Angel of Death’ twenty years prior, but despite this attention the record is one of Slayer’s weakest, even though it is still perfectly listenable.
- ‘Diabolus in Musica’
As well as being the weakest link not only of Slayer’s releases in the 90s, it is also the weakest effort across their entire discography. While the album cover itself is one of the band’s best, and “Bitter Peace” is a great opening track, the fact that it follows ‘Divine Intervention’ and comes before the far superior ‘God Hates Us All’ is a strong enough testament to explain its position on this list. Nonetheless, ‘Diabolus in Musica’ has positives, just less than the other albums in Slayer’s brilliant catalogue of work.