Guest Post by Mark Crook
It was June 28, 1991 and I witnessed what was probably the most memorable “metal” moment of my life. I was standing with my brother about 10 rows back center stage in Madison Square Garden during the “Clash of the Titans” tour and there was an evil sounding chant blasting through the arena…. “join us, join us, join us”… but in reverse.
It got louder and louder and concluded with a demonic shout of “Welcome Back!” followed by a crashing of drums and guitars with a blast of red light and smoke filling the entire stage.
It was the beginning of “Hell Awaits” and as the song continued, I remember my brother and I just looking at each other screaming “Oh my God”! I had goosebumps and just felt like I was going to come out of my skin. This, my friends, is the SLAYER experience.
When I last contributed an article for Jay, I had indicated other “metal” top 10’s would be coming. And with the recent tragic passing of Slayer founding member and guitarist Jeff Hanneman, nothing could be better than to pay tribute to his amazing talent with the TOP 10 SLAYER SONGS TO TRAIN TO.
As I mentioned when I posted my Anthrax list, there are so many great songs and my list may not include my favorite Slayer songs and is in no particular order. Rather these songs give me that blast of energy, heart racing, want to scream feeling I felt at Madison Square Garden back in 1991 or round out my training session if it were a Slayer only playlist.
But before I begin, let me share one more observation…. There is only one band on the planet that when one of their songs comes on, it is guaranteed that someone in the room will whisper, growl, speak or shout the band’s name. It is an involuntary reflex. That band is SLAYER!
I mentioned this song in the beginning of my post. For effect, I prefer a live version (ex: Decade of Aggression- one of my favorite riffs of all time is at about the 3:00 minute mark after the chants, etc.) and this song, intro and all, should be early in your playlist. I typically prefer it around song #2 after a moderate tempo song and just as I am completing my basic stretching, foam rolling, etc. and getting into the start of my warm up sets. Gets me in that frame of mind I seek.
Seasons In The Abyss
An example of Slayer’s ability to write a great song without the frantic speed and chaotic chord changes they are known for. For me, this is another great song to either play early in my training session or put it in the latter part of my session— I’ve run through the wall but still want to be a little amped up during my assistance work or near my finisher.
South of Heaven
Another one of what I’ll call “mid tempo” songs with a very evil and demonic tone and hook. Another one good for the beginning or end of your session.
The patented thrash speed that doesn’t take a breath. Come to think of it— a good song for hill sprints… it will make you run faster.
Besides another great riff, doesn’t get much more “Slayer” than Tom Araya screaming “God Hates Us All!”
***Interesting tidbit for any guitar player: My brother Paul is very good friends with Slayer and early in his career was Kerry’s guitar tech. Paul once told me a story that while he was hanging out just noodling Slayer riffs on his guitar, Kerry made it a point to tell him that there was no cheating on Slayer riffs– in other words it is blasphemy to cheat by picking/ strumming up and down on a riff that was written as strictly down picking/ strumming, no matter how difficult.
Kerry’s exact words to Paul were…“The notes are correct but play it like a man! Use all down-strokes!” It is true– the sound is totally different. So whether you are a guitar player learning Slayer riffs or watch other guitar players, look for and/ or practice the proper riff picking/ strumming technique.
Back to the songs…
Angel of Death
The song that contains the single best Tom Araya scream and one always ranked in the Top 5 “metal” screams of all time.
Typical hardcore/ old school hip hop playlist aside, probably the most popular metal song at Renegade Gym. This is easily the top song that gets played for those that love metal and are attempting a heavy 1-3 RM or PR attempt. From the crash of thunder and the first “bum-bum-bum”, there is great tension and anticipation for the opening riff. From there, we are off and running with the patented Slayer brutality.
Stain of Mind
I remember when Diabolus In Musica was released, there was a portion of Slayer fans that weren’t necessarily happy with where the band direction was going. Some people called them out for going “nu-metal” incorporating drop tuning, etc. I don’t know. It’s still Slayer to me and I actually like how Tom’s voice has aged– more raspy, angrier yet still so easily recognizable.
Early Slayer… young, raw and unpolished. Looking back on that time, you really have to be amazed songs like this were being written by a band– nothing like it.
This song, like Stain of Mind and Disciple have a different feel than early Slayer. Much of early Slayer, at least to me, was frantic and urgent and as their career progressed the songs, though still brutally heavy, contained more of a power pocket with Tom’s vocal delivery more deliberate and machine gun like. I think this is a great training song with a very heavy riff at a great tempo.
***Two final personal stories about Slayer…
Though their image is evil, the guys in the band are incredibly cool and have always been very nice to me as a result of their friendship with my brother. Two examples come to mind.
The first was when Slayer were touring with Ozzfest in 2004 and they had a stop in Camden, NJ. I had attempted to catch an earlier NY area Ozzfest show as a guest of Slayer but it didn’t work out. Satan, uh, I mean, Tom Araya remembering I lived in NJ, emailed my brother and wrote something like “I’d like to invite your brother to the show” and put me and a guest on the Ozzfest list for front row seats immediately behind the general admission pit in front of the stage, VIP parking by the buses, etc.
He didn’t have to do this but Tom showed just how cool and loyal a friend he is. (Note: this was a unique Ozzfest show and the one where Rob Halford filled in for Ozzy during the Black Sabbath set).
The other memory I have is my brother, a few buddies and I went to see a great Slayer/ Machine Head show in Philly many years ago. Slayer destroyed the place as usual and Machine Head actually earned the respect from Slayer fans that typically just boo or yell “Slayer” over any support band set. After the show, we head backstage and after they greet a few fans, Jeff and Kerry want to go have a few beers. So my crew, Jeff and Kerry all pile into my buddy Iggy’s family van (Slayer in a family van with kid’s toys all over, ha!), we end up at a local pub and just have a great time joking and laughing.
I’m very grateful I had a chance to meet and experience Jeff Hanneman as a “person” in addition to him as an incredibly important metal rockstar.
Thank you Slayer and thank you Jeff– R.I.P.