Two years ago, 37 years after releasing their debut album, Slayer took their final bow. Here, Metal Blade Records’ Brian Slagel – who signed the band to their first record deal – introduces our deep-dive into the stories behind the setlist that soundtracked the thrash legends’ own apocalypse…
“I first encountered Slayer at a club in Anaheim, California in 1983. Bitch, who were one of Metal Blade’s bands, were playing, but I also wanted to check out some of the other bands on the bill, and as soon as Slayer came onstage I felt, ‘Oh, this is something different…’
“They were all dressed in black leather, had creepy eye make-up on, and they were doing mostly covers but there was an intensity there, and I thought they sounded amazing and looked great. Aside from Metallica they were probably the heaviest band happening in LA at the time. What set them apart was that their influences were classic heavy metal but also some punk, and that made for a sound that was a much heavier, more aggressive metal than a lot of us had heard up to that point.
“They’ve managed to stay relevant through staying true to who they are, and I have to give a lot of credit for that to Kerry King, who keeps it real and has his way of doing things. They survived the ’90s, a time that killed a lot of metal bands, and when a lot of bands went another direction, Slayer didn’t sell out. They didn’t try to write a hit single, they didn’t become more of a nu-metal thing, they just kept being Slayer, and they had a stick-to-their-guns attitude that a lot of people liked. You also have to give a lot of credit to their live show, which always draw fans in because you know what you’re going to get when you go to see Slayer. They’re playing Black Magic on this final run and that song live sounds like they wrote it a couple of months ago. They play it with the same intensity and to the same level that they did 30-something years ago.
“It’s hard to say what any band’s enduring legacy will be. I think not only are they going to be one of the top four or five metal bands that ever existed, but if you expand that out to include rock music, they’re certainly in the top 10 too. At this point in time they’re in a class of their own, and I hope someone will come along and rival them, but they’ve certainly set a very high standard to live up to.”