Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
The metal community is still at a loss of words over the death of Jeff Hanneman. Fans and fellow musicians alike have spent the past 24 hours paying tribute to the deceased Slayer guitarist, both online and at last night’s Golden Gods. While words cannot do justice to explaining what Hanneman contributed to metal, we here at Metal Insider decided to take a moment to reflect our favorite memories attached to the almighty Slayer. So take a look below to see which Slayer moments Zach, Bram, Kodi and Matthew chose to share in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Zach: My first Ozzfest was in 2004 in Camden, NJ, the year featuring Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Slayer. It was also the year I almost got pissed on. Let me explain… I had been waiting in line for a stall in a bathroom full of drunk and sweaty dudes. I finally get into a stall, but before I could even unzip, a phallic looking object made its way through a crack. Luckily I realized what it actually was before it started spraying urine all over the place. When I got out of the stall and missed getting pissed on, I saw a shirtless bald guy, drunk out of his mind (duh), was using the wall as his personal urinal. “Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go,” said a bystander in line (though I doubt he would’ve said that if he had been in the stall).
After escaping what could’ve made the day shitty (or piss poor?), though, I made my way back to my seat to experience my first ever Slayer show. Before seeing Slayer live, I have to admit I didn’t really get what all the hype was (youthful ignorance, I suppose). However, I still remember being blown away by the sheer power Slayer presented onstage, and how the entire Tweeter Center (now the Susquehanna Bank Center) was at the palm of Tom Araya’s hand during “Season In The Abyss.” From that moment on, I was a Slayer fan.
Bram: It’s hard to narrow down a Slayer moment. The band’s been a staple of my life ever since I started liking heavy music. I remember that when I first joined my radio station at college, it wasn’t that long after South Of Heaven came out. It was in constant rotation, and I remember endless debates about whether or not they’d gotten softer because the album was slower in tempo than Reign In Blood.
Another memory I have of the band was watching System of a Down open for them in 1998 at the Trocadero in Philly. Anyone opening for Slayer was in for it, let alone a strange, relatively-unknown Armenian band. There were so many heckles that the band started inserting “Slayer” in their songs. I particularly remember them yelling “Slayer!” instead of “Sugar” during that song, and eventually winning the crowd over.
And seeing Reign In Blood performed in its entirety in 2003 at the Roseland Ballroom was definitely an amazing memory, especially watching the “wall of blood” (aka sprinkler system). And really, there’s nothing that can sum up the band, or Hanneman, better than “Angel of Death.” That riff and breakdown is one of the most iconic guitar riffs in history. It’s been sampled by everyone from Public Enemy to KMFDM, and is an instant rallying cry that’s shorthand for what heavy metal is all about.
Kodi: I don’t know what’s up with Zach and phallic objects making their way through his crack, but my favorite moments with Slayer were a lot lighter on the pee. Unfortunately, I never got to see Jeff Hanneman with the band, which will now forever be one of my white whales the way that Dio-fronted Black Sabbath also is with me. But their show as part of the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium in 2011 was an incredible experience, with Gary Holt doing commendable fill-in duties as the band tore through a classic-filled setlist. The band was trumped slightly that night by Metallica playing the most perfect setlist of the Trujillo years thus far, but Slayer had their vengeance on me at Mayhem Fest in Camden, NJ the following summer.
My first experience at Susquehanna Bank Center was a full-circle moment for Zach, as the show we saw together there in 2012 had Holt on rhythm guitar and was after both of us were past the fan curtain as industry metalheads. But something was just different about that show. Tom Araya had a smaller crowd to work with than he did at mammoth Yankee Stadium, and while he certainly has the presence to command an audience anywhere, watching his ability to demand attention live in an arena was immediately gripping. The show felt a little less tight than the Big 4 performance, but it was all the better for it, and Holt was much more locked in with Kerry King and Dave Lombardo at the time than he had been. And as amazing as that show was – still one of my top three performances of last year – I couldn’t shake the feeling that Jeff Hanneman needed to come back soon and help pilot the band with whom he helped invent one of the most unmistakable aural signatures in metal history. It’s still hard to come to grips with the fact that he won’t have that chance.
Matthew: I’ve never had the opportunity to see Slayer live, though I have yearned to for as long as I’ve been listening to them. Back in my high school days, they are one of a few bands that my fellow metalhead friends and I considered to be in a godly tier. At the time, we still had much to learn in the ways of metal, but we knew that you could always count on Slayer to give you a boost of energy that would make you forget all about all your troubles and stir yourself into frenzy.
I used to have a band back in the day and we always made attempts to play classics such as “Angel Of Death,” which would last up until I did Tom Araya’s infamous scream and blew out my voice on more than one occasion. We eventually did come to master the classic “War Ensemble,” but even then we could never resist attempting to play the thrashiest of thrash.
One particular event involving Slayer that stands out in my mind is a simple one, and that is when I heard the new track “Cult” released on June 6, 2006 (that’s 6/6/6 if you’re slow), which I considered the most metal thing in the world at the time. Even after all the years that have passed since then, I can still throw on Slayer and hear a sound that bands often copy, but never quite fully capture in as glorious a fashion.