A couple of exits before Disneyland in Anaheim, California exists the Slayer lair a large warehouse amidst a complex of identical buildings in this vast suburban wasteland. Dry-mounted Hustler centerfolds glare lasciviously from the walls of the front room, and the bands former pentagram-of-swords logo looms from a large poster commemorating the release of their 1990 album Decade of Aggression.
Beyond a door emblazoned with the words, Caution Slayer, vocalist and bassist Tom Araya and guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman encircle drummer Paul Bostaph to rehearse some material for their upcoming tour. As volleys of militant beats and staccato riffs surge from a large PA and a pair of 100 watt Marshall cabinets, the primal noise ritual hits full throttle. King bobs his bald head, his coal-black eyes bulging from their sockets, and Hanneman, who resembles a blond-haired hippie love child gone bad, saws at his strings hard enough force to turn his guitar pick to dust. The unrepentant assault is enhanced by an equally dark setting. A single red lightbulb dangles above Bostaphs kit, casting a sinister glow across the room. The lack of illumination probably explains the abundance of cobwebs in the corners of the room and around the door, but how any creature could survive the constant barrage of sound is hard to fathom.
Through the early 90's, before artists like Cradle of Filth and Emperor spread their disease throughout the metal kingdom, Slayer were the definition of HEAVY. Their hardcore tempos and overdriven, Judas-Priest-on-crack riffs were as brutal as a pack of baby seal clubbers, and their malicious and graphically violent lyrics were literally unprecedented. Over the years, the members of Slayer have sat back and watched former peers like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax lighten up and change their tune, but with a new album looming, the dark lords of metal show no sign of fatigue.
Guitar.com: You've improved over the years and experimented here and there, but you're basically still playing the same kind of music you were making 10 years go.
Kerry King: We do it cuz we like it. I didn't get into this kind of music because I thought it was hip or hot at the time. I'm a true fan of this and personally that's why my music has stayed very similar. We like being the bad guys. We like this style of music, and I just like the aggression.
Guitar.com: You say you like being the bad guys?
King: Man, we've always been the bad guys. Lyrically we write about shit no one else will write about. We just branded ourselves the bad guys ages ago. I don't mind that. It's better than singing about posies. That's who I like in movies, the bad guys. Bad guys rule.
Guitar.com: Bad guys always get killed in the movies.
King: Yeah, but in real life they don't always lose. Sometimes they do horrible things and then get away. We'll have to start making our own movies.
Tom Araya: Even if the bad buys get caught they just put up their hands and go to jail and live forever. Look at Charles Manson.
Guitar.com: Onstage, you're absolutely brutal, but in person youre kinda mellow for bad guys.
King: It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Anyway, I think our music is an outlet for our anger. We are mellow, but only because we get all our aggression out in the music.
Guitar.com: There's a cinematic eeriness to your guitar parts thats almost wicked.
Jeff Hanneman: That's just something inside of me this kind of evil atmosphere. Every time I write something, it seems to find its way in there somehow. I just like the dark side of music that gives you a mood -- a certain sickness that makes you feel like hurting someone or doing something evil.
King: There have been times when either one of us come in with a new riff and well play it either by ourselves or with a drummer, and when you get done sometimes the hair stands up on your arms. That's when you know you did good.
Guitar.com: On July 20th Metallica played with you on the Tattoo bill. There was a time in the 80's when you were locked in a battle with them to see who could play faster. It seems you've won.
King: I'm wondering if they're really doing what they want. Why do you fucking make three great records, have a couple of OK records, and then all of a sudden say, Hey, I'm gonna wear black fuckin' nail polish and sound like fuckin' Depeche Mode? I don't buy it.
Hanneman: Yeah, you gotta admit that was a weird jump. That came from nowhere. You can't even say that was building up. But if they're happy, who are we to argue.
Guitar.com: At the same time, you're no longer the fastest or heaviest band on the planet. What do you think of black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Emperor, who wear their violence on their sleeves? Some of these bands have actually killed people and burned down churches.
Araya: That's certainly some fucked up shit. I do not understand that. Obviously they have their reasons, but it's some crazy shit.
King: I think it's a fucking pissing contest. When we were playing in the early days, people used to always see who could play faster. I think those guys just want to see who can fuck up shit worse.
Guitar.com: What do you think of their music?
King: I don't know any of those bands, but I didn't like the first wave of what everyone called death metal. The cookie monster vocals turned me away. If I cant get into a singer, it's hard for me to get into the music. You've got 50 bands out there right now who sound exactly the same.
Araya: Even in the early days, I wasn't literally trying to sing so you wouldn't understand what the fuck I was saying. We didn't grunt and growl and say those were our words. Over the years, I've tried to get more away from that, if anything. When we first started singing our songs, the other guys kept asking me to be more aggressive. Then I hit a perfect note with Reign in Blood. From then on, I said to myself, This is what Im gonna do. I'm gonna sing, not growl, but in my own way.