Vital Vinyl: Digging Deep Into the Slayer Reissues
A band that will forever be considered as one of the Big 4, Slayer have released a collection that should affectionately be known to fans as the Big 10: every release under the American Recordings label has been reissued on audiophile 180-gram vinyl. Not only reissued on vinyl, the music has been remastered from the original analog master tapes, breathing fresh life into the band’s vast, legendary catalog. In addition to the sound quality of the albums, Slayer pressed no more than 500 copies of each album on blood red vinyl and randomly inserted them among the standard reissues.
After weeks of spinning these records, we’ve finally put pen to paper to walk through each release. Whether you’re a long-time fan or just now discovering the brutality that is a Slayer record, listening to their metal through a turntable while holding their artwork and lyrics is an experience like no other. If you’ve only listened to Slayer on CDs or via digital downloads, it’s time to dust off the gramophone and take your love of these metal giants to a whole new level.
‘Reign in Blood’ (Originally Released Oct. 7, 1986)
Slayer’s third album and major-label debut is a metal masterpiece. ‘Reign in Blood’ opens with the blistering ‘Angel of Death,’ and less than 30 minutes later wraps up with ‘Raining Blood.’ The album’s intensity is amplified by the terrifying front cover artwork and simple red and white lyric sheet. For fans who have only held the CD version of ‘Reign in Blood,’ it’s a completely different experience to stare at Larry Carroll’s artwork blown up on a 12-inch jacket while listening to the record. If you have to pick one Slayer album to add to your vinyl collection, ‘Reign in Blood’ should be near the top of your list.
‘South of Heaven’ (Originally Released July 5, 1988)
Emphasizing the beautiful artwork — again designed by Carroll, this time partnered with Howard Schwartzberg – the cover of ‘South of Heaven’ features no text or labels (as opposed to the CD version). Compared to ‘Reign in Blood,’ there’s no denying that ‘South of Heaven’ has a slower pace, not just the sound but also the band’s attitude. Compare it with the back cover of ‘Reign in Blood’ and you’ll understand: whereas in 1986 the band’s photo was an all-out party, with ‘South of Heaven,’ the members take a more focused and serious approach. No matter the differences, though, ‘South of Heaven’ is a flawless follow-up to ‘Reign in Blood.’
‘Seasons in the Abyss’ (Originally Released Oct. 9, 1990)
Once again featuring artwork designed by Carroll, ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ boasts mind-numbing riffs from guitarists Kerry King and the late, great Jeff Hanneman. The album is full of dynamics, flowing between face-melting solos and more mildly paced rhythms, like what’s found on the second track, ‘Blood Red.’ This album marks the third of many collaborations between Slayer and producer Rick Rubin, and is the first in the American Recordings releases to not feature a band photo on the back of the jacket, but rather extending Carroll’s religious-themed art.
‘Decade of Aggression: Live’ (Originally Released Oct. 22, 1991)
‘Decade of Aggression: Live’ includes two records covering 21 tracks recorded from three separate but equally powerful performances: London, England on Oct. 14, 1990, San Bernardino, California on March 8, 1991 and Lakeland, Florida on July 13, 1991. There are no inserts in the jacket and both records are tucked in simple, white sleeves. It’s a straightforward album that strives to seize the intensity of Slayer in their live setting. It’s only one of two official live albums that Slayer have released in their career (the first live album is 1984′s ‘Live Undead’), thus it easily warrants a place in your record collection.
‘Divine Intervention’ (Originally Released Sept. 27, 1994)
‘Divine Intervention’ is Slayer’s first studio album with drummer Paul Bostaph (who received one writing credit for his contribution to the title track’s lyrics). While Rubin found himself helping with the production yet again, the band decided to join forces with artist Wes Benscoter for the cover art, a frightening and mysterious piece of art that will likely leave you a bit mesmerized. Luckily, ‘Divine Intervention’ is the first limited blood red vinyl in our stack of Slayer records. It seems to fit perfectly as there are two photos — one on the lyric sheet, the other on side B of the album — of a fan’s arm with ‘Slayer’ carved in it. On the back of the jacket, there is a collage of newspaper clippings that lay blame to metal acts for violent and murderous incidents. Scrawled near the bottom right of the jacket is the phrase, ‘Satan Laughing as You Eternally Rot,’ which simply conveys the band’s response to those silly accusations.
‘Undisputed Attitude’ (Originally Released May 28, 1996)
The band’s first covers album, ‘Undisputed Attitude’ is packed full of songs originally performed by punk acts like Verbal Abuse, Pap Smear, Minor Threat, the Stooges and more. With artwork again by Benscoter, ‘Undisputed Attitude’ is also packed with two glossy inserts, featuring the lyrics to the final track, ‘Gemini,’ the only original Slayer song on the album. Included on one of the inserts are quotes from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, describing each song. For example, in reference to Minor Threat’s ‘Guilty of Being White,’ Hanneman describes it as, “Simplistic, raw, in-your-face British punk. ‘Nuff said.” The same could be said about ‘Undisputed Attitude’ as a whole: it’s simple and straight-forward, but true to everything Slayer create, it’s raw and in-your-face. Fortunately, it’s the second album we’re lucky enough to have pressed on blood red vinyl.
‘Diabolus in Musica’ (Originally Released June 9, 1998)
‘Diabolus in Musica’ is Latin for ‘The Devil in Music,’ which seems to fit the career that Slayer developed up to this album. Always pushing their lyrics and records as far as they could, ‘Diabolus in Musica’ finds the band creating some of their darkest music yet. To compliment the music, the front of the jacket is one of the creepiest Slayer album covers, featuring a ghostly religious being of sorts. The image is instantly burned into your memory forever as the needle drops on the record. Dark lyrics, dark imagery and dark artwork make for a very memorable Slayer experience with ‘Diabolus in Musica.’
‘God Hates Us All’ (Originally Released Sept. 11, 2001)
You read the release date correct: One of Slayer’s most controversial albums — one that explores the idea that it’s easy to feel like God hates you on any given day — will forever be tied to one of the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States. ‘God Hates Us All’ is the first album in the American Recordings reissues that is housed in a gatefold jacket. With the simple and family-friendly cover art on the front of the jacket, the original design — a bloody Bible with ‘Slayer’ burned into it along with nine nails piercing the cover — is featured on the glossy insert. Open the gatefold jacket and you’re greeted by not only lyrics to the songs but also verses from the book of Job, an individual who might have identified with the notion that “God hates us all.” Marking the third and final album we were lucky enough to get on blood red vinyl, ‘God Hates Us All’ is a brutal record, and the last to feature Bostaph on drums.
‘Christ Illusion’ (Originally Released Aug. 8, 2006)
With the return of drummer Dave Lombardo, Slayer also brought back Carroll to handle the art duties of ‘Christ Illusion.’ The album’s artwork created much controversy as it features a dismembered and tortured Christ figure standing in what looks like a lake of blood, complete with floating heads around him. On top of that, etched in the body of the Christ figure are several symbols, including ’666′ and the word ‘Jihad.’ The controversy extended from the artwork to the music, most notably with the track, ‘Jihad,’ a song that examines the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 from a terrorist’s perspective. In spite of — or because of — the controversy, ‘Christ Illusion’ proves to be a true-to-form Slayer album. From the artwork to the glossy lyric sleeve to the music, ‘Christ Illusion’ is an intense experience that few other bands could create.
‘World Painted Blood’ – Originally released Nov. 3, 2009
As the final studio album released before Jeff Hanneman’s tragic death in 2013, ‘World Painted Blood’ should automatically be added to your collection as it is no doubt already a piece of metal history. The final record in the American Recordings releases comes in a gatefold jacket. On the front cover, you see a portion of a map of the world, complete with skulls and bones as the foundation for the continents. Open the gatefold and you’re greeted by the complete, grungy, blood-stained world map, designed by San Francisco art firm Morning Breath Inc. With the eerie artwork and savage metal pressed on the record, ‘World Painted Blood’ is one of many indications that Slayer still have plenty of surprises up their sleeves even after more than 30 years of rocking.