Slayer is, in many ways, the ultimate metal band. Their lyrics are about war, murder and hell; their music is relentless, mosh pit-driving and (with the exception of "Dead Skin Mask" from 1990's Seasons in the Abyss) avoids melody like the plague. Their choruses are excuses to pump your fist and chant along, not raise a lighter and sway. The band's upcoming album, World Painted Blood, promises to deliver exactly what fans have come to love.
"It's a cross section of classic Slayer," says singer-bassist Tom Araya. "You will like it. I can guarantee it."
Glen Fidelman, who mixed and mastered Metallica's 2008 Death Magnetic, produced the disc. According to both Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo, Fidelman was a major force in pushing the band to do its best work in years.
"He was there every day," says Araya. "He would drive out to where we rehearse and record a demo of the songs we were preparing to record. Then he worked with them not only at the rehearsal studio but when we were recording — suggesting things, taking the song and building on it."
Indeed, many of the new songs were written in the studio — a first for Slayer.
"[Guitarists] Jeff [Hanneman] and Kerry [King] were continuously bringing new material, like, 'OK, this is my first idea,'" recalls Lombardo. "It became a collective effort on all sides. We would listen back and say, 'Why don't we put this part here at the end?' or 'Why don't we double up here? It feels like it should go a little bit longer.' Then, when the vocals and the leads came in, everything fit like a perfect puzzle."
Araya fully endorses this working method, claiming it overrides the band's usual self-critical nature. "It doesn't give you enough time to change. You just do it the way it is, 'cause it sounds great. Otherwise, you sit on it for a while and you're like, 'Oh, I don't really like this part, let's change this part,' [or] 'Oh, I don't like that part.' So you don't allow for that."
The lyrical content is bound to be more of the same gore and blasphemy. Song titles include "Beauty Through Order," "Public Display of Dismemberment" and the title track. Plus, there's "Psychopathy Red," the punk-inflected song about Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo that's been making the YouTube rounds for months. Araya doesn't write all the lyrics, and he's more religious than his bandmates, but he sees everything on every Slayer album as integral to their art and stands by all of it.
World Painted Blood won't be in stores until early fall. Meanwhile, the band is co-headlining the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival with Marilyn Manson, a pairing that seemed weird the first time, in 2007. Doing it again seems doubly bizarre.
Though Araya says Slayer will likely do a headlining tour after the release of World Painted Blood and will play more new songs then, the band's Mayhem set is similar to the one they played the past few times they toured — with one exception.
"We only have an hour, and an hour turns out to be about 12 songs," says Araya. "So we're gonna be very selective with the songs we play. We're more than likely gonna play 'Psychopathy Red.' It's the one song everybody knows, the song we've played all throughout Europe. I'm hoping we might do another one, but that's still up in the air."