Slayer’s top 10 most iconic songs ranked from 10 to 1, in honor of the ‘South of Heaven’ 34th AnniversaryPaul Truscot
Slayer’s South of Heaven was released July 5, 1988. Slayer’s top 10 most iconic songs ranked from 10 to 1 and The album marked a turning point for Slayer and elicited a somewhat ambivalent response. Long after its release, “Silent Scream,” “Mandatory Suicide” and “Ghosts of War” remained fan favourites. Kerry King had just gotten married and was largely absent during the songwriting process. King also wasn’t thrilled with Tom Araya’s vocals, which he felt were too melodic.
“South of Heaven” was the band’s second Slayer’s top 10 most iconic songs album with Rick Rubin as producer. Araya was into the idea of doing a show that would incorporate songs with material from Seasons in the Abyss. King shot down the idea, arguing that Slayer’s set needed to feature both fast and slow songs.
Below are the band’s top 10 most iconic songs ranked from 10 to 1,
10. ‘Reign in Blood’ from “Piece by Piece” (1986)
Slayer’s top 10 most iconic songs, This song is a shining illustration of how Slayer developed by the time they released “Reign in Blood,” one of the most legendary albums of all time. They still exhibit the same ruthless, unrelenting grind that in the end defined their sound, but their arrangements show greater restraint and control. The lines “Bones and blood lie on the ground / Rotten limbs lie dead / Decapitated bodies found / On my wall, your head” seem to closely reflect Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s method of operation even though the song is obviously about dismembering the body of a murder victim.
9. Seasons in the Abyss, “Seasons in the Abyss,” (1990)
After the shockwave intensity of “Reign in Blood,” “South of Heaven” showed Slayer they didn’t need to rely solely on speed, but “Seasons in the Abyss” showed they could ooze utter evil even at a crawling pace. When tumbling drums and crashing chords take control of the music, the fog of eerie echo-drenched cleans over doom tempos lifts like a funeral mist. While completely ignoring the frantic pace, Slayer exploits every angle conceivable and even uses a sing-along chorus without any fans objecting. This trio was still breaking new sonic ground far into their fifth album, proving that they were far from a one-trick pony, Slayer’s top 10 most iconic songs.
8. “Jesus Saves” – ‘Reign in Blood (1986)
Slayer unloaded all their satirical rage on Christians who turn to religion for solutions to all of life’s troubles with “Jesus Saves.” On the one hand, lyricists Hanneman and King criticise blind Christians for their conceit in believing that salvation can be obtained by just confessing guilt rather than truly not sinning in the first place. However, they also attack the pointlessness of it all with piercing lyrics like “In an invisible guy you place your trust.” The destructive first half of “Reign in Blood” is brought to a boil and comes to an end as the band spends a whole minute battling with a series of gloomy, menacing riffs before dashing to the finale behind Araya vocals that are nearly incomprehensibly rapid.
7. “South of Heaven” – ‘South of Heaven (1988)
With “South of Heaven,” Slayer demonstrated their ability to play at any tempo as long as the riffs remained outstanding. Dave Lombardo is the hero of “South of Heaven,” timing the song masterfully and highlighting each major riff with unforgettable percussion fills. This is in addition to the song’s great guitar solo.
6. “Black Magic” – ‘Show No Mercy’ (1983)
That track! Even with the band’s abundance of guitar moments in the decades that followed, “Black Magic” is still a Top Five Slayer riff. It stands as the first truly outstanding Slayer guitar lead. The beginning of Slayer’s transformation into the heaviest band in the world, breaking away from their NWOBHM influences to become something far darker and more conceptual, can be heard.
5. “Hell Awaits” from “At Dawn They Sleep” (1985)
The highlight of “Hell Awaits,” possibly Slayer’s most overlooked album, is “At Dawn They Sleep.” The vampiric song features a timeless riff from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman as well as amazing duelling solos. It’s also one of Tom Araya’s best performances as a bassist because the mix frequently places the instrument front and centre. It has a wild drum break by Dave Lombardo that came before the well-known “Angel of Death” double-kick drop. You just aren’t a fan of Slayer if you can’t fling your fists to Araya’s cries of “Kill, kill, kill” and the song’s accompanying instrumental explosion.
4. “Die by the Sword” – ‘Show No Mercy’ (1983)
“Die by the Sword,” the highlight track from Slayer’s 1983 first album and a constant in the band’s live performances, laid the groundwork for the group’s rise to the top of the thrash metal food chain. The song, which was entirely written by guitarist Jeff Hanneman (as were many of the band’s best songs), was equally influenced by Venom and Judas Priest. It contains foreshadowing of Slayer’s future greatness, including vocalist Tom Araya’s rumbling growl, a minor-key twin guitar harmony, a killer chugging middle section, and strangled cat guitar solos. Araya also sings in a semi-melodic style that he later abandoned when the band issued the EP “Haunting the Chapel” a year later. Although there are some nice accents and fills, the song lacks the frenetic speed of many of the band’s later works since drummer Dave Lombardo wasn’t yet playing double-bass beats. Writing about “children killed in vain,” “raping the maids,” and “Satanas” sitting “upon the blood on which he feeds,” Slayer took Venom’s lead in terms of lyrics. “Die by the Sword,” one of Slayer’s earlier songs that is more overtly demonic, makes four references to “Satan” and “Hell.” However, who’s keeping score?
3. “Reign in Blood” – “Raining Blood” (1986)
The “Raining Blood” riff is without a doubt the greatest thrash riff ever. Hanneman’s lead continues to push the limits of frightening guitar work thirty years later, cursing the listener with something genuinely unsettling. Slayer’s top 10 most iconic songs, which also features one of metal’s all-time finest breakdowns and one of the genre’s most iconic lines, “Raining blood/From a lacerated sky,” is simply eternal and serves as the ideal epilogue to “Reign in Blood.”
2. “War Ensemble,” “Seasons in the Abyss” (1990)
After slowing things down on “South of Heaven,” Slayer instantly revived the intensity of “Reign in Blood” by kicking off “Seasons in the Abyss” with the explosive “War Ensemble.” Only Slayer could come up with a song about how sporty war is. King and Hanneman’s destructive double attack found a new definition of ugly in the song’s murky tones, adding some more muscle to their mid-tempo chugs that snake menacingly around the song’s second half.
1. ‘Reign in Blood’ – “Angel of Death” (1986)
It is the first track of “Reign in Blood,” which heralded the beginning of extreme metal. “Angel of Death” is the song that most hardcore Slayer fans first heard of the venerable thrash band thanks to its bizarre, unsettling, and incapacitating fast nature. The iconic song about the horrific Nazi physician Josef Mengele was written by Jeff Hanneman, who described his experimental practices with an uncompromising eye. Tom Araya’s vocal performance of “Angel of Death” is effective in further upsetting listeners. It’s one of the most radical and perilous songs ever composed, to put it simply.
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