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Slayer look back on three decades of aggression

Slayer have been reigning for even longer than Metal Hammer has existed, and Kerry King says their success is down to them never doubting their talent

When Metal Hammer unfurled its sails in 1986, several time zones away in the sun-drenched beach towns of Orange County, California, the four-man rhythmic hurricane known as Slayer were about to change the course of metal forever with their third album – a dizzying, 29-minute bludgeoning known as Reign In Blood. Meanwhile, 30 miles north, the poufy-haired glam metal revolution had ravaged Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, drawing both big-label money and generous radio play – a reality that inspired zero concern among Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo. “Hair metal was remedial music to me,” Kerry tells us backstage before Slayer’s intimate Comic-Con show at San Diego’s House Of Blues. “When we started, Hollywood was more hair metal and we played more in Orange County, where there was more of a metal stronghold.” Asked whether Slayer might have felt even a teensy rivalry bit of rivalry with their spandex-clad colleagues up north, Kerry shakes his head. “Once our fanbase started growing, it got big fast. There weren’t any rivalries, because I felt superior to all of those bands. We were trying to be the opposite of what hair metal was.”

In an age where the internet, social media and mobile phones were still a decade away, Slayer were pounding it out on the road the old-fashioned way – four guys driving around the US in a small van, doing everything on their own. It can’t ever be overstated that while hair metal enjoyed generous coverage on MTV, Slayer received neither video nor radio support, grinding it out night after night in small clubs, and relying on fanzines and word of mouth to spread their unholy gospel to the uninitiated masses across the globe. Introspective and, dare we say, happy this evening, Kerry looks back on those early days with a visible mix of pride and fondness. “It was killer,” he says. “We were always really humble, and I say that because I’ve seen a lot of bands over the last decade or so get a record out and think they’re owed a tourbus. We drove ourselves in a Camaro, and a passenger van and U-Hauls. We did it all ourselves. We didn’t start to taste any fruits of our labour until Reign In Blood came out and we finally got a tourbus. We never expected it. It was like, ‘Really? We get our own tourbus?’ I think that’s something missing in bands. People just have a huge sense of entitlement when they haven’t paid any dues. We paid our dues, then we got some things that we were entitled to, and that’s the way it should be.”


From the archive

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From the archive

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