The Best Slayer Song From Every Album
The world of heavy metal was in shock today when it was revealed Slayer would be embarking on their farewell tour this year. While it's going to be a stacked affair and is sure to be an exciting last ride for the band, it's still an unbelievably sad loss for the heavy metal community. Since 1981, the group has stayed quintessentially Slayer, never going full hog into trends or lame attempts to get on the radio. Instead, they've built a new vocabulary of thrash metal for fans to latch onto, and to help show how evil yet fun heavy metal can be.
We looked back at their entire discography and picked the best song from each of their twelve studio albums. Throughout their career, even when approaching new ideas the band has brought heaviness and speed, and even in their darkest moments would go on to write songs that still hold up. Check out each song individually below, and take it with you in our Spotify playlist.
SHOW NO MERCY, "Black Magic"
If one song exemplifies why Slayer soon became one of heavy metal's most popular acts, "Black Magic" makes a pretty great argument why. The song takes a quarter of its length to build up drama, guitarist Jeff Hanneman summoning a triumphant riff to carry the song through. Drummer Dave Lombardo is equally as thunderous, an encompassing reminder of thrash metal's dominance in the 80s, and how evil Slayer can get.
HELL AWAITS, "At Dawn They Sleep"
In Slayer's earliest material, "At Dawn They Sleep" provides some of the strangest but most interesting riffage found from those first albums. What sounds like a series of disparate guitar parts in the song's beginning slowly connect, and result in a killer opening riff. The song keeps up its pace, until a tempo break at about the three-minute mark where the band slams everything to hell, the word "Beware" hanging over the song like a phantom.
REIGN IN BLOOD, "Angel of Death"
"Raining Blood" may be the most well-known song off of Reign In Blood, but the best moment from the record belongs to "Angel of Death." It brings the real-world atrocities of Nazi experiments on humans to song form. Vocalist Tom Araya's lyrics thus become more varied than the band's usual fare, and he's able to sing on these topics with a palpable fervor, the rest of the band following suit with their most aggressive material. The song's end descends into madness, Hanneman's guitar work devolving into pure chaos and noise.
SOUTH OF HEAVEN, "South of Heaven"
For much of Slayer's discography, the title track from each album is a foundation piece for the rest of the runtime. South of Heaven's title track opens the album with a very clear departure from their previous material with slow, atmospheric riffing. The sense of drama from other work is intact, but instead of leading to a faster segment of the song, it all leads to mid-tempo madness.
SEASONS IN THE ABYSS, "War Ensemble"
Slayer knows how to open an album well, and "War Ensemble" is an excellent firing call for the band's fourth record Seasons In the Abyss. Some of the speed that was missed from South of Heaven returns with glee, ramping up with Hanneman's guitar work going at full tilt. It's nasty and in your face, not wasting any time in getting to the chaos.
DIVINE INTERVENTION, "Dittohead"
Many consider Divine Intervention to be the mark of a downward trend in Slayer records, but songs like "Dittohead" proved the band was still spry with crushing tracks. Capturing some of the fastest moments the band has recorded (and feeling like a relative of "Raining Blood") the band packs in a lot of different ideas and sounds into a song that runs under three minutes.
UNDISPUTED ATTITUDE, "Spiritual Law"
For Undisputed Attitude, Slayer decided to take a break from thrashing and give tribute to their favorite hardcore punk groups. The best of the bunch is when they take on D.I.'s "Spiritual Law." They take on the ultra-fast tempo of the song with ease and imbuing their metal into the song. It also embodies the purpose of the record, which is to fully show how much hardcore influences the DNA of the band.
DIABOLUS IN MUSICA, "Bitter Peace"
Many look at 1998's Diabolus In Musica as Slayer's worst, but listening back it shows the band moving outside of their comfort zone into the groovier metal of the time. "Bitter Peace" features the great build ups Slayer is known for, used in a new context. In many ways, what resulted is an album that's reminiscent of their hardcore roots, resulting in something that resembles crossover thrash more than straight up music.
GOD HATES US ALL, "Bloodline"
For 2001's God Hates Us All, Slayer brought things back to the thrash metal leaning that fans had come to expect of them. They make a statement, a riff bursting with noise and venom, in many ways the band sounding as though they're well aware of their return to their roots. The song might be the closest the band has come to putting together a "pop" structure, putting together a verse, chorus and bridge but it still clobbers.
CHRIST ILLUSION, "Cult"
For Christ Illusion, Slayer enlisted Reign in Blood producer Rick Rubin as executive producer on the record. What resulted was the return of some of their hardcore-punk influenced material, complete with a renewed lyrical vigor from Araya who aims straight at Christianity. Even in their later career the band never softened, instead of going in on what they see as religious intolerance out in the world.
WORLD PAINTED BLOOD, "Psychopathy Red"
In Jeff Hanneman's final contributions to Slayer before his untimely death, he would not let anybody down when it came to World Painted Blood. Nowhere is this better seen than single "Psychopathy Red," which sounds like a swarm of hornets from how quick it hits, treading close to black metal thanks to its speed. It's a pissed off song and goes to show just how much Hanneman will be missed.
REPENTLESS, "You Against You"
Whether or not Slayer knew Repentless would be their final album, "You Against You" is one of the best singles the group have produced and went to show that there's excitement left in the band even without Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo. Gary Holt pulls off the riffs written by Kerry King, new drummer Paul Bostaph also sounding like a tornado of fury. A hell of a way to go out on.
Slayer Albums Ranked