Sunday, February 2, 2014
Contorted and Wormed
'Cuz, dick. Just do.
Ah, Slayer. The house band for my limbic system. How could anyone anywhere at any time disrespect a racket-gang that went from opening for Bitch to bitches opening for them? (And no, that's not a jab at Nuclear Assault.) The punk rock kids loved Slayer. They recorded their debut album in eight hours and the cover was total phantasmagorical frenzy. Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were the musical equivalent of Road Warriors Animal and Hawk. Vocalist/bassist Tom Araya sounded like he was laughing at your damnation (which he may or may not have had a left hand in). Drummer Dave Lombardo meshed a bold love of music with bolder talent that could not be quashed even by having to record the drums and cymbals separately on the debut album due to insufficient studio space.
As with Metallica, Slayer had to grow into their reputation. But their vigorously defiant spirit and unapologetic lust for the ugly pleasures of life (and death) still make for a thrilling listen.
"Evil Has No Boundaries"--The greatest "first" song of all the Big 4.
As soon as Tom lets loose the face-melting scream of the warrior who has just keenly realized his vicious purpose, the ferocity does not let up.
"Blasting our way through the boundaries of Hell!/No one can stop us tonight!" Why would they want to? I want to join you! I keep envisioning a lot of y'all on horses, is there room for foot soldiers still? 'Cause I can't ride a horse, drive a car, or swim a lap. But I can stab an angel in the heart like a boss.
The venomous spillage of anti-heroic misdeeds twice breaks to let the chorus shine. And "Evil Has No Boundaries" might boast my favorite chorus of any Big 4 song, if not of the entire metal genre.
My words defy!
Has no disguise!
Will take your soul!
My wrath unfolds!
The friend-assisted gang shouts (which are unique in the Slayer oeuvre) take it from a test of the Emergency Broadcast System to a nationwide address featuring a panicky President puking between sentences as he tries to explain to the people of America that things are officially, hopelessly fucked.
(It was also my ringtone for a few months. I only swapped it out because I never want to reach a point where I am unmoved by cartoonish super-villainy in any and all of its forms.)
Throughout, ears are bludgeoned furthermore with what would become a familiar weapon in the Slayer arsenal: the anti-melodic guitar solo. Showing up nude to a masquerade party; cracking open a can of beer in a hospital waiting area; making it rain Cinnamon Toast Crunch at the strip club--the Slayer guitar solo does all of these things, and so much more.
"The Antichrist"--And the white horse he rode in on.
A safe bet for the most notorious tune on the whole record, and without question the song title I'd use if ever I wrote about a fictional metal band named "Slayer." This also marks the moment all four guys realized Satan is a mythical figure of limitless interest and it would benefit them to revisit his realm repeatedly.
If "The Antichrist" were just a blustery aretalogy, I'd be bored a minute in. But that ruthless restless-leg guitar riff (odd accents, another Slayer sonic trademark) puts me amid the apocalyptic scene, drained of color and hope, possessed alternately by hysterical bloodlust and resentment towards a deity once-thought benign, who would surely salvage not only my soul, but those of countless others. The truth of it all freezes my spine.
Goddamn for real.
This song made your parents fear for your future, or they didn't love you enough.
"Die By the Sword"--If a blood jet can be considered poetry, Slayer are the incontestable bards of the Big 4. This is the first of three songs credited solely to Jeff Hanneman, and that he could erect such a grotesquely beautiful monument at such a young age (19!) is wildly impressive.
Check the chorus: it sounds just like a sword striking down multiple blows on its unfortunate victim. (Turns out you don't have to listen too hard for the steel.) There's a casual rape reference, but a girl who's into heavy metal is a girl who has learned to accurately rate her potential battles.
"Fight Till Death"--Another spawn of Hanneman, the first in an extended series of Slayer Songs Detailing the Devastation of Warfare. Nowhere are these junior killers sloppier than here, relegating the art of retaliation into a ramshackle ransacking. Some people don't believe in such a thing as collateral damage, anyway.
"Metal Storm/Face the Slayer"--Two! Four! No, wait. 6! 8! Yeah, that's the time signature we appreciate!
Music like this is for the Martin Plunketts of the world, those men who work out their minds and bodies with equal relish, leaving them with thick, corded muscles and impeccable game plans. All the better to snap your neck, my dear, because the game is death.
The super-dramatic stabs at the end of each verse are stupendously cheesy. They'd accompany a drastic zoom to the killer's face, snarling in demented ecstasy, were we in movie land. But we're firmly ensconced in music land, and it ain't a thing to bitch about; we can still shove buttery popcorn into our half-open face-holes, exclaim our myriad of half-formed feelings at each unfolding scene, and we even get to witness a self-cannibalization!
"Black Magic"--A caliginous view of wizardry, but wait. Lots of metal bands dive into those depths, but I have a bigger question. Are fade-ins punk? Are they metal? Are they punk-metal? No. They are simply cool. An achievement which is able to be unlocked by everyone.
"Laughing in sorrow/Crying in lust." When the body is pushed to the brink from a barrage of stimuli, all the buttons keep blinking, the alarms keep ringing--all it takes is a few mutilating curses thrown up into the air to turn it all around.
"Tormentor"--Choose the form of the tormentor! Hail Satan laughing as you eternally rot, purveyors of wicked unfathomable terror and nocturnal gore!
The least stirring of Jeff's offerings, but so what. Keep awares, 'specially when the sun sets, so you can keep your wares.
"The Final Command"--I knew, casually, one other girl in high school who admitted to liking thrash metal. She was my physical opposite: large frizzy hair, a thoughtfully-decorated face, and a thin body which she used to display an acute fashion sense. She told me that her mother once barged into her bedroom and caught her masturbating to "The Final Command" and ever since then, it had been her favorite Slayer song.
Wow. Late one night my mom caught me trying to sneak a half-full bag of Cool Ranch Doritos out of the kitchen.
The very words "the final command" were spat out in "Fight Till Death," and I give respect to Slayer for connecting their war stories. This one is told in a tighter voice speaking terser sentences, but the outcome is still predictable.
"Crionics"--The Maiden…she approaches. Her enchanting scent fills up the room. Her terrible secret--that the government is planning to turn its unsuspecting citizenry into igloos--will die with her. No one would ever believe such a preposterous tale, not from such a pretty face and anyway, she'll be one of the first frozen.
Bundle up. It's cold out there, have you noticed?
"Show No Mercy"--Make 'em say UNGGHHH! DIES IRAE, DIES ILLA!
The ending that could have signaled the beginning, but honestly, eternity doesn't have either, so don't sweat it. Most hummable chorus about the imminent punishment of the enemy I've yet heard. Enmity plus melody equals fuckin' metal.
The cataclysmic climax features a key change that the band can hardly hold onto. It's not Kerry King's most diabolical pet, but it is pretty evil for a baby.
I revisit Show No Mercy often--the most of any Big 4 debut, in fact--but it's a bit like looking over a lover's baby pictures. You can hardly believe someone so much a part of your life was ever so young. And so goofy-looking.
The Slayer of 1983 did not want to fuck you with your own spine; they wanted to get shit-faced on Devil's Night, puke while wearing their masks, and hurl empties at trick-or-treaters. While I feel that the proceedings would have benefited greatly from the use of the word "meretricious" somewhere in a lyric, a song titled "Punish the Artificer" and a cover featuring a photo of a blood-smothered child crying in its deceased mothers arms (instead of that goat-lord), hey, it's still a ghastly journey.
Metallica said "kill 'em all." Slayer just fucking did it.