Written By Jason Voorhees
Welcome to another edition of Top Album Lists here at Philly Rock Radio.
Since we already have covered 3/4 of the Big 4 of Thrash, it's only fitting that we complete the puzzle with Slayer. There have always been differing opinions on where Slayer ranks among the Thrash Metal greats. However; one thing that remains unquestioned is that this band is the heaviest and loudest of the bunch.
During their 40 years of existence, Slayer has carved out a pretty impressive catalog that stands the test of time. In that time, Slayer provided a benchmark for all future subsequent extreme metal bands. They are the archetypal thrash metal purists and their intensity, fearsome approach, and deadly precision remains unmatched.
With that being said, there are wide ranging opinions on which of their albums and how many approach greatness. We are here to settle the debate once and for all which ones remain at the top as well as which ones miss the mark. So without further ado, here is the best of Slayer's catalog from worst to first...
12. 'Diabolus in Musica' (1998)
Instead of staying true to their unrivaled formula, the band caved to external peer pressure while taking a dive into the nu-metal foray. While the album is certainly not terrible, it unfortunately doesn't quite meet the criteria that Slayer fans expect. Down tuned guitars and experimental vocals were what the Dr. ordered but the people were not buying. High points include "Bitter Peace", "Stain of Mind", and "Death's Head." Fortunately, this is the low point of Slayer's catalog.
11. 'Repentless' (2015)
After the untimely passing of lead guitarist Jeff Hanneman, the prospect of getting a solid record again were grim. However; one must admit, the band did their very best to replicate the classic style fans have grown to love. The album actually turned out pretty decent which was a pleasant surprise, and also a testament to the talent of Gary Holt who did his best Hanneman imitation. Unfortunately, the band could not duplicate the songwriting...good but not great.
10. 'Divine Intervention' (1994)
Drummer Dave Lombardo was out of the band. Enter Paul Bostaph. Honestly, Slayer did not miss a beat on the percussion side of things. However; they seemed to be lacking direction on this record. There are a few stellar tracks which show that this album has star potential. Songs like "Killing Fields", and "Sex, Murder, Art." followed the tried and true formula. Meanwhile, the title track lent creedence to the albums overall success. Unfortunately, there is too much filler present which hinders the albums flow. Decent but not a classic.
9. 'Undisputed Attitude' (1996)
Although most people would argue that a cover album has no business being included on a list such as this, the fact remains that this is not just an ordinary cover album. In fact, the band went totally out of their comfort zone in the process and for that they get high marks. It's a raw edgy punk rocking thriller that knocks the listener on their ass. Not to mention the fact that there are two tracks included from Jeff Hanneman's early solo projects as well as one original. Extremely underrated record and definitely worthy of it's place on the map.
8. 'Christ Illusion' (2006)
This marked the return of Dave Lombardo as the band was firing on all cylinders. It was also a return to the band's roots as they tried to recreate the magic of yesteryears. Although the album doesn't quite match classic era Slayer, it does match that intensity. The result is a fantastic mixture of in your face banter as well as solid musicianship. The record is littered with top end talent like "Flesh Storm", "Eyes of the Insane" and "Catatonic". However; it's hidden gems like "Jihad" and "Supremist" that clearly define the albums ear test. Solid effort not quite top tier yet though.
7. 'God Hates Us All' (2001)
Having been released on September 11, 2001, the album remains a haunting and chilling reminder of just how terrible that day was. Just read the album cover. However; the album was clearly an attempt from Slayer to recapture their magic of old. Although the album doesn't quite match classic era Slayer as far as greatness, it does indeed reach that same intensity. The album is littered with standout tracks including "Disciple", "God Send Death" and "Bloodline". Slayer had clearly embraced their roots as they pressed reset. Solid and inching closer to next level.
6. 'World Painted Blood' (2009)
Some of Slayer's best songwriting finds it's home on this record. The fearsome foursome was at the top of their game and the results paid instant dividends. The record opens with the title track which beckons "A" list material on any playlist as the hits keep coming. Tracks like "Unit 731" and "Snuff" hit harder than a wrecking ball. Then there's the haunting and ethereal "Beauty Through Order" and "Human Strain". However; the true gem for me is "Playing With Dolls" which would even scare the shit out of satan himself. We have now reached classic level and are ready to enter elite.
5. 'Show No Mercy' (1983)
The birthplace of Slayer took place on this thrilling debut. The band channeled traditional rock and roll roots and mixed it with a punky flavor which resulted in this stone cold classic. Much like Metallica's 'Kill Em All' it's an album that was clearly ahead of it's time. Raw and edgy with bombastic flavor that hits you at the core. And it foreshadowed the greatness of Jeff Hanneman's songwriting which clearly was approaching elite at this point. The record is full of timeless classics like "Black Magic", "Die By The Sword", and "Evil Has No Boundaries". Even the title track sizzles.
4. 'Hell Awaits' (1985)
Slayer shocked the world with the album cover and title. Nonetheless, it marked a huge leap forward both musically and stylistically for the band. Slayer was not about to wash their hands in a sophomore slump; instead staking their claim of the thrash metal musical landscape. This is a tremendous record that is often overlooked in the band's discography. Groundbreaking tracks like "Hell Awaits" and "At Dawn They Sleep" pace the album while songs like "Necrophiliac" foreshadowed that signature Slayer smash and bash energy. We have now reached elite.
3. 'South of Heaven' (1988)
It would be almost impossible to follow up a benchmark iconic record like 'Reign In Blood'. However; Slayer nearly pulled off just that feat here. In fact a coupe de ta was clearly in reach as they dialed it back in a 360 degree manner as far as intensity. While it's predecessor fed off of the fast and furious stab you in the heart type riffs, 'South of Heaven' featured extremely slow dialed back mid tempo killers. Littered with star power..."Spill The Blood", "Silent Scream", "Behind the Crooked Cross", "Mandatory Suicide" and the infamous title track hit harder than a Mark McGwire homerun. Meanwhile, their cover of the Judas Priest classic "Dissident Aggressor' absolutely nails the coffin.
2. 'Seasons In The Abyss' (1990)
This has always been my personal favorite Slayer record. It's like a cross between 'Reign In Blood' and 'South of Heaven.' The band took the best from both of these albums and created a dual threat combination. The results were a magnificent masterpiece of grandeur. The album flow is damn near perfect. The musical production and sound is pristine. Rick Rubin did his best Leonardo De Vinci impersonation here. Hits are endless as tracks like "Dead Skin Mask", "Spirit in Black", "Skeletons of Society" and more dominate the façade spontaneously. However, it's the bookend stalwarts that define the albums greatness. Top notch here and definitely elite material.
1. 'Reign In Blood' (1986)
The quintessential album of Slayer's catalog and quite possibly the greatest in thrash metal history. A 30 minute tour of hell's gates take place on this iconic roller coaster of fantastic musicianship. Stellar songwriting and composition the likes we may never see again happen. It's an all out assault of every musical adjective you can objectify. A bombastic and riveting masterpiece of art. Fast and furious, lightning full speed ahead dominance that strikes you at the core. Zero filler is present as the hits just keep on coming. Plug in sit back and it will all be over soon!! Hands down the best for Slayer and right at the top of the thrash metal Mount Rushmore!
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