Slayer is one of the heavy metal genre’s ‘Big Four.’ Along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax, Slayer helped shape the future of music with its brutal and fast thrash metal sound. Over the last forty-one years, the sounds of Slayer have influenced countless bands and entire generations of heavy metal music lovers. Despite the band’s canceled thirteenth album and 2019 breakup, Slayer is one of the genre’s giants, known worldwide for its incredible sound and stage presence. Here are the ten best slayer songs of all time.
10. South Of Heaven from South Of Heaven, 1988
South of Heaven is the title track on Slayer’s 1988 album. This hard-hitting thrash metal song lives up to its title. The lyrics are about hell, but more importantly, this is the song and album that gave the band its ‘evil’ reputation. As Kerrang puts it, “…with 1988’s South Of Heaven, Slayer officially became the most evil band in metal. By experimenting with tempo and writing lyrics with a more psychological approach to the horrors of both this world and the next, Slayer evolved from a burning tank with no brakes speeding across the battlefield to a sonic shadow spreading across the face of heavy music and plunging it into endless night.”
9. World Painted Blood from World Painted Blood, 2009
World Painted Blood is a dark tale. The end of days is a popular topic for heavy metal and horror, and this song is both. The central theme of the apocalypse rolls unrelenting from the first word to the last with lyrics like, “Slaughter governs law. The apocalypse begins. Pain becomes the norm. Seeking homicide.” World Painted Blood is purely a twisted description of how it would feel to witness and be a part of a series of incredibly bloody world-ending events.
8. Pride In Prejudice from Repentless, 2015
Pride In Prejudice is the perfect name for this superb song from 2015’s Repentless album. PIP is all about how people make excuses for their prejudice, but they should just call it like it is and not beat around the bush. It’s not about actually taking pride in being that type of person, but instead calling them out for sugar coating the way things are. The video is compelling. The incomparable Danny Trejo and the story’s protagonist have been kidnapped by Nazis who attempt to have Danny killed, but they fight their way free in a very gory battle scene.
7. Dead Skin Mask from Seasons In The Abyss, 1990
In the 1950s, serial killer Ed Gein was known for more than merely killing. Gein collected and wore the faces of his victims like masks and collecting their bones. His nightmarish legacy was so horrific that three of the most famous horror movies of all time, The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, were loosely based on his vile actions. Dead Skin Mask is about Gein, who makes a perfect subject for Slayer to make music about. Considering how well the band is known for its ‘dark and evil’ musical content, a serial killer’s story seems almost inevitable. Of course, that’s a limited view of the art involved, but most people never look beyond the surface. The thought and effort that went into composing this social commentary are lost on those who call a band like Slayer ‘evil.’
6. Black Magic from Show No Mercy, 1983
There are several ways to interpret Black Magic, and neither one is wrong. The singer in this song could easily be the literal victim of dark magics. An evil magician or wizard has captured them and held them in thrall against their will. However, according to Song Meanings, some fans say it’s about a girl who is a victim of sex trafficking, while others argue that it is the story of the exorcism of Emily Rose or playing with Ouija boards. Only the band members know for sure.
5. Jihad from Christ Illusion, 2006
Jihad from the Christ Illusion album certainly ruffled a few feathers and reminded fans and protesters alike that Slayer has something to say and they aren’t here to sugarcoat it for you. The song is told from the point of view of a terrorist who has participated in September Eleventh. The song ends with words left behind by one of the bombers. Slayer’s take on this tragedy upset many people, but they also shine a spotlight on what motivates people to commit acts of true evil.
4. Raining Blood from Reign In Blood, 1986
Raining Blood is one of Slayer’s most well-known songs and one of the band’s favorite songs to play. It was such a staple of their career that it was on virtually every setlist after the Reign in Blood album came out. The lyrics are about a lost soul cast out of heaven and landed in purgatory. The dead man still has so much rage he can’t rest, so he goes on a vengeful spree, ‘f–king people up.’
3. Repentless from Repentless, 2015
The stress of living gets to everyone. Even if you are a member of an epic Big Four heavy metal band, touring and living a life most people can only dream of, it doesn’t make everything easy. Repentless is all about how much the singer hates fame and the people it comes with sometimes. The frustration over ego struggles and other issues that arise is blatant, but so is the ‘repentlessness.’ The singer is not sorry for being who he is, doing what he does so well, or feeling how he feels about it.
2. Seasons In The Abyss from Seasons In The Abyss, 1990
Seasons in the Abyss is the title track from their 1990 album. Incidentally, Seasons In The Abyss was the bands’ first album to land in the Billboard Top 40. Additionally, this song was the first-ever Slayer music video. The song is lyrically introspective, talking about stepping outside of your body and how genuine self-reflection may drive you insane.
1. Angel Of Death from Reign In Blood, 1986
Angel of Death is Slayer’s biggest hit and most well-known song. Like many famous horrors, Slayer didn’t shy away from writing music about the holocaust. Unfortunately, naysayers and alarmists used much of their content to demonize the band. Rumors circulated more than once that they were Satanists (of the type you see on horror movies, not related to the satanic church) or supported white supremacy. However, anyone who actually listens to the lyrics or watches the videos can clearly see that these are expressions of horror and disgust and were never meant to imply that any atrocity is a good or desirable thing. Plus, the song is musically exquisite, with memorable riffs and a superb solo.
There’s good news and bad news for Slayer fans. The good news is that, if you loved these top ten songs there are twelve entire studio albums to enjoy. However, the bad news is that it seems unlikely that Slayer will ever reunite or tour again. There was some unconfirmed speculation that the band broke over political differences, but whatever the case, Slayer’s contribution to music will be around for decades to come.