Slayer are one of the big four of 80s thrash metal, and arguably the one of the four that has survived best into the 21st century. Their third album Reign In Blood is often named as the single greatest thrash metal album of all time - or is, by anyone’e standards, one of the best - and was hugely influential on the development of black and death metal. Slayer are a cornerstone of heavy rock, essential to anyone with even a passing interest in any type of metal music. They’re also well-known for having caused various controversies over the years, because of their imagery and lyrical themes, which have included Satanism, serial killers, warfare and the Nazis.

Dave Lombardo and Kerry King formed Slayer in 1981, after bonding over their shared musical tastes. They added Jeff Hanneman and Tom Araya and began by mostly performing covers of NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. After using their own personal savings to gather the money for a tour and a debut album, Show No Mercy (1983) was met with very mixed reviews, with some contemporary critics panning it. In hindsight it can be seen as stylistically innovative, if not of a standard that would suggest the style was anything to aspire to. They soon sorted that out.

Despite Show No Mercy’s mixed reception, it became the best-selling record of local label Metal Blade Records, so they were able to progress with another album, Hell Awaits (1985). Hell Awaits was more progressive and diverse, and was a big step forwards from their debut. But it was third LP Reign In Blood (1986), released on major Def Jam, that brought the band international fame, and established them alongside Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth as one of the “big four” of thrash metal. Reign In Blood was extra fast and extra heavy, with incredibly powerful drumming and a distinct, punchy production by renowned hip-hop producer Rick Rubin. It was an instant classic of thrash metal while widening the appeal of the genre itself, and even peaked at no.94 in the Billboard 200.

For South of Heaven (1988), the band wanted to ensure they kept developing, and didn’t want to simply repeat Reign In Blood, so they deliberately slowed things down. Not all fans were delighted with the results, Araya later admitted that "the album was a late bloomer—it wasn't really received well, but it kind of grew on everybody later". Seasons in the Abyss (1990) saw a return to top form - although no Slayer record could really be said to match Reign in Blood - and saw them reach the dizzy mainstream heights of No.40 on the Billboard 200 (Divine Intervention (1994) would later peak at no.8).

Over 30 years after being a founding member of the band, in 2013 guitarist Jeff Hanneman died of alcohol-related liver failure. In 2015 the band released their first album without him, Repentless, and embarked on another world tour. Read our career-spanning interview with Tom Araya.

Slayer discography
Show No Mercy (1983)
Hell Awaits (1985)
Reign in Blood (1986)
South of Heaven (1988)
Seasons in the Abyss (1990)
Divine Intervention (1994)
Undisputed Attitude (1996)
Diabolus in Musica (1998)
God Hates Us All (2001)
Christ Illusion (2006)
World Painted Blood (2009)
Repentless (2015)

Slayer current group members
Tom Araya – lead vocals
Kerry King – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums
Gary Holt – guitar

Tour Dates