List Of The Day

The Final Frontier: The Ultimate Slayer!

List Of The Day

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Jeff Hanneman [Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images]

Keep this date: The Jeff Hanneman Memorial Celebration will take place on Thursday, May 23 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles from 3:30 - 7:30PM.

The Memorial Celebration will be free and open to the public on a first-come, first-in basis (subject to venue capacity). All ages are welcome, and paid parking will be available around the venue.

Jeff Hanneman's death at 49 puts a serious crimp into the fortunes of his band Slayer. The band managed without him the past few years by relying on substitute guitar players for their live performances. However, with one-quarter of the band's militia down for the final count, it remains to be seen how the band will proceed. Surely, the 'songs about nazis' will see a serious drop. Also, the band's new material could become less frequent, as by most accounts and evidence, Hanneman was the main writer in the group, with Kerry King coming in a distant second and Tom Araya clearly third.

It's said that Slayer's first album Show No Mercy initially sold between 15,000-20,000 copies. If so, at least half of them sold to the young whippersnappers I knew growing up, as there weren't many dudes in my high school who didn't own a copy or two. I got to know Slayer through that second-hand osmosis and when Slayer became a serious mainstream entity as Def Jam released Reign In Blood in the fall of 1986, I wondered how my old school chums took the transition. They'd had the band to themselves since 1983.

For this project, I enlisted the two serious metal authorities who bring me suggestions whenever I come begging. Both John Chernack and Joey Leshko live and breathe this stuff and made me look smarter than I am, handing me a list of Hanneman-based Slayer that goes beyond what you see here.

Please don't get too hung up on the numbers, as the format forced me to go 25-1. Figure even a half-decent Slayer track is better than 90% of the competition and that it's impossible to consider one song better than another, especially when you get to the thrilling second half.

Now, let me write those stupid comments that everyone loves and that gives this Slayer tribute the Y! Music difference!

25) Postmortem: You'll notice a serious preference for 'early' Slayer. Most groups do their best work in their first decade of service. If I were to break Slayer's career down my way, the early period would be Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits, the mid-period would be Reign In Blood, South of Heaven and Seasons In the Abyss and everything else qualifies as "later."

24) Spirit In Black: I like to imagine that Kerry King had to write words because the band knew if Hanneman wrote them all it would be all about German Military History and the rest of the band preferred to be labeled Satanists over Nazis. A smart choice.

23) Darkness of Christ / Disciple: "Disciple" was nominated for a Grammy. Isn't it funny how Rick Rubin provides all of his cohorts with a s-layer of respectability? An entire generation loves Johnny Cash even more because of Ricky. And Slayer get to play metal and be respected! Isn't life predictable?

22) Born of Fire: Again, Kerry King to the rescue with more words for the mighty. Wouldn't you love to be there when the band discusses what works and what doesn't? Don't you wonder if there was a member of the band -- Dave Lombardo, I guess, since he doesn't have his name on anything -- who wrote really bad stuff that didn't fit the idea of the band? Kinda like how Peter Criss wanted to sing oldies in Kiss or how David Lee Roth did the same with Van Halen?

21) Altar of Sacrifice: Rick Rubin's tight production really punches on Reign In Blood -- what Forbes magazine calls the band's best known album that is "widely considered to be a thrash metal masterpiece." According to Forbes, Slayer are successful because a) they have a defined niche, b) offer consistent product and c) understand the importance of teamwork. Go Forbes!

20) Ghosts of War: I'm especially fond of the way the guitar solos rudely burst into the mix. And then there's the slow part where you're supposed to think about your life for a second before getting back to the matters at hand, which were scripted by Kerry King, who is a "vocal anti-drug advocate," again, according to Forbes, the ultimate metal authority.

19) Jesus Saves: If this were a Megadeth tune, it would be "Jesus Saves…But Who's Spending?" I'm really glad Slayer never got into ellipses. That would've been lame.

18) At Dawn They Sleep: Psst, psst…Araya! Ssh, don't wake Lombardo. You wanna get into this songwriting thing? You got a rhyme for "Cruciform"? Later, Lombardo calls this song his favorite because it was slow and grungy and "had that double-bass part at the end." Oh, Dave, you break my capitalistic heart.

17) Tormentor: I think I added this one to prove I listened to Show No Mercy's second side. Hanneman's got a credit on everything except the title track. Poor Dave Lombardo. Didn't anyone teach him about the money there is in publishing? Or did they just dangle Paul Bostaph's picture anytime he tried to speak up? Or Bob Gourley's? Or Tony Scaglione's? Or Jon Dette's?

16) Captor of Sin: I believe it was Bill Billoney of Facebook's "Atrocious Heavy Metal Album Covers (Bang Your Head or I'll Rip It Off)" fame who once told me pre-internet when people had see each other face-to-face that starting a song with a guitar solo already in progress was the greatest idea ever and that more bands should try it. If it cuts down on pesky "catchy choruses" I'm all for it!

15) War Ensemble: Leadoff tracks tend to be very popular. It makes sense, since wouldn't it be weird if the band and everyone around them had no idea what the good songs were? Or they thought it would be better if everyone sat through 20 minutes of nonsense just to get to the point?

14) Praise of Death: This falls under what Forbes magazine referred to as "defined niche" and "consistent product." No one had their niche down with such consistency as Slayer. You weren't going to see these fellas rocking out with a "Shiny Happy People" in their catalog. Not even a "Beth" for the ladies. Ladies? Whoa! You rarely see them in a record store, so what's the diff?

13) Fight Till Death: Yet another toe-tapper from their debut album Show No Mercy sounds pretty normal by today's standards. What metal band hasn't played at this tempo or with this amount of aggression? But in 1983, this was pretty much newness on display.

12) Necrophiliac: As they say, write about what you know. At this point we've established that Hanneman and Co. are very interested in death in much the same way that baseball players are interested in not using steroids and human growth hormone.

11) Raining Blood: This song is practically an epic at over four minutes, even if scary sounds are necessary to give it extra length, but on a ten-track album where seven of the songs are under three minutes, every second counts. Who would've imagined music being played this fast on purpose back in the early 1970s? Just goes to show what a decade used to mean and how far the "loud, blues-based rock 'n' roll" of early HM evolved in a hurry.

10) South of Heaven: The fellas said they weren't that jazzed with the South of Heaven album, which should've really annoyed Hanneman since he was the one picking up the slack by writing all the music while King was off getting married and moving to Phoenix, the city, not the university.

9) Seasons In the Abyss: For this album of the same name, Hanneman was working more with bassist Tom Araya. I guess guitar players insist on writing their own riffs or Araya really couldn't write for guitar. Either way, writing the opening cut and the title track is big league. Welcome aboard, Tommy boy!

8) Haunting The Chapel: I once convinced a non-metal dudess that the "chorus" to this song was "Haunt, Haunt, Haunt the Chapel / Grab, Grab, Grab the Scalpel." She was somewhat disappointed when she finally heard the song and that never happened -- though she did ask me why everyone played so fast. Ugh, woman -- go back to listening to your crybaby music, will you?

7) Hell Awaits: Who decided that opening an album with a minute of spooky noises or wind was a good idea. They obviously never intended to listen to a cassette over and over. With good ol' vinyl you could just drop the needle an extra quarter-inch to avoid the boring part, but everyone else was left dicking with the fast-forward and rewind buttons to get it just right. Oh, to HELL with it, just sit there for a minute with no music, OK?

6) Chemical Warfare: Personally, I like muddy productions where there's more will than way, more inspiration and determination than execution. Don't get me wrong, the Slayer band play their buttocks off, but the drums sound like they were recorded by a dude who liked drums more than the guitars which are sort of a bloody friggin' mess somewhere in the background until someone wakes up and realizes there's a guitar solo to overdub.

5) Die By the Sword: The only reason "The Antichrist" isn't on this list is because we have to allow some non-Show No Mercy options. I've already ignored about 2/3rd of their career because a hardcore fan still knows the early records are the best, even if you like everything. Does a Burl Ives fan add something from Christmas In the White House at the expense of something from Burl Ives Sings The Lollipop Tree, The Little Turtle and The Moon Is The North Wind's Cookie? I think not!

4) Evil Has No Boundaries: Oh dear Lucifer, I'm back into Joseph E. Caliguire's history class getting yelled at for air-drumming on the desk with two other guys who actually know all the words to the song. I just liked making noise. It saddens me when I see how those kids have grown up and no longer walk through town with their denim jackets painted with Slayer on the back. Or Cirith Ungol. Hanneman helped with the words, but King wrote the music, for those who aren't all that interested in my life. Sure, go ahead, USE ME!

3) Behind the Crooked Cross: Want to guess who wrote the words to this one? Same guy who wrote the music. Sounds like it could've been written as the theme song for the Hitler Channel's version of VH-1's Behind The Music. Except the Nazis don't mount a comeback after years of drinking and drugs. Thank G-d.

2) Hardening of the Arteries: Just like most of us like to say, "with cloven hoof begone!" It's not quite 'Gabba Gabba Hey' but I suppose it'll do. Just as opening tracks announce a band means business, the closing tracks show a band knows how to close. Always be closing! They didn't even need a seven-minute epic like some bands! No "Orion" to give the singer a break! Uh, we're all men in this band, OK?

1) Angel of Death: Music and lyrics written by Hanneman -- who else would tackle Josef Mengele? -- and a tune that took up about 1/6 of the entire Reign in Blood album, "Angel of Death" was a great introduction to Rick Rubin's production style that sharpened the band's focus without losing the thread. Even non-metal dudes can appreciate this stuff. Or they should. And non-metal dudesses, too!

 

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