Criminally Slept-On: Slayer

Posted by on August 27, 2015

slayerIn Criminally Slept-On, Schuler Benson takes a look at some of the most underrated tracks from his favorite prolific bands’ back catalogs.

Slayer’s importance in the history of metal cannot be overstated. They pioneered a style that went on to sire nearly every dominant sub-genre in heavy music today. They achieved a level of commercial success most bands that played their brand of extremity wouldn’t even entertain. They’ve weathered the changing music industry, continuing to maintain themselves as a band and brand with a dominating presence in the modern touring scene. Dudes scream out Slayer at other bands’ shows. Isn’t that pretty much the pinnacle?

As a lifelong Slayer fan, there’s a pretty major milestone coming up for me (and probably for you, too): in September, Slayer will release Repentless, their first album without founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died in 2013. They’ve released three tracks from the album so far; some sound like vintage Slayer, others feature some of the more plodding qualities reminiscent of the valleys on Christ Illusion. This is gonna sound shitty, but at the end of the day, it’ll be tough to judge these new tracks simply on their merit alone. With each new release, a band as massive and influential as Slayer faces as many detractors as they do welcoming fans, and there’s so much more than just craftsmanship that’s shaped the expectations for Repentless. Between Hanneman’s death, Kerry King’s ever-polarizing public persona, the neverending Lombardo/Bostaph debacle, and Tom Araya’s seemingly open admission that Slayer’s basically a business investment he’s stuck in for life, there’s a political climate surrounding the band’s future. Regardless, many of us have waited patiently for this record for a long time. Personally, I can’t wait to spin it… not the eight-pound metal eagle edition, though. We’ve all got our limits.

This week, Criminally Slept-On takes a look back at some of the songs in Slayer’s history that may have, for whatever reason, slipped under the radar. Even if the future ends up bleak, at least we’ll always have the past.

1) “Snuff”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILj-q3fRy-w]
This is one of my favorite tracks from 2009’s World Painted Blood. There weren’t too many King-penned songs from this record that clung to me, but this one’s got enough shifting dynamics combined with a killer chorus vocal hook that I don’t see how they can’t play it at every show. Plus that old-school solo opening, son. If every Slayer track opened with a shredfest, I’d be cool with it.

2) “Black Serenade [ALTERNATE VERSION]”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsfMEUSta_A]
Almost a year after Christ Illusion’s initial release in August of 2006, Slayer re-released it with some extras. One of these bonuses, a track called “Final Six,” actually won a Grammy, which proves just how steeped in irrelevant, political bullshit the Grammys are… it’s one of the album’s weakest tracks. The other was an alternate take on “Black Serenade,” one of Christ Illusion’s most lyrically sadistic offerings. There’s about 17 seconds of difference between the two versions, but I prefer the one from the re-release. While the differences are subtle, trimming a little fat keeps the song’s tempo up and makes it more memorable. Ultimately, I’d include “Black Serenade” in this list either way. It’s one of my favorite songs from this album.

3) “Scarstruck”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztdgmrwPUGk]
September 11th, 2001 was my first day of college. That morning was so scattered and confusing for the whole country; in the early hours, there were different reports of what had actually happened in New York, and the shock of it was so surreal, especially as an eighteen-year-old, that I couldn’t really comprehend it. All I could think about was bumming a ride to my new college town’s record store to pick up God Hates Us All. The Hastings version (and other versions, as well, perhaps) came with a bonus single in a slipcase that contained two b-sides: “Addict” and “Scarstruck.” I remember enjoying both those tracks immensely, and to this day, I think “Scarstruck” is one of the better songs from the God Hates Us All sessions. It features some of the clunkier change-ups that made songs like “War Zone” and “Exile” good, but doesn’t churn too hard at the expense of distinguishable hooks. Tom just sounded so pissed on this record, and the verses of “Scarstruck” contain some of his most vitriolic performances.

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Categorised in: Columns, Criminally Slept-On