For nearly three decades, bassist/vocalist Tom Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, and drummer Dave Lombardo have proven over and over, whether in the studio or on the concert stage, that there is Slayer and then there's everyone else. And they're about to do it again, first with the band's co-headline spot on this summer's Mayhem Festival, and then with the late summer release of their ninth studio album, World Painted Blood (American Recordings/Columbia Records).
Some dozen new songs comprise World Painted Blood which was recorded in Los Angeles over two time periods, during October 2008 and then between late January and March 2009. World Painted Blood was produced by Greg Fidelman, who's spent time in the studio with Metallica, the Gossip, the (International) Noise Conspiracy, Slipknot and others, and executive produced by long-time Slayer colleague, Rick Rubin, who suggested Fidelman for the project.
Recording World Painted Blood was a unique experience for Slayer who has historically begun the recording process with all songs written and fully rehearsed. This time, in part to make sure they could work with Fidelman, they had ideas, but did the bulk of writing and song development while in the studio. "Writing in the studio was a new idea for Slayer," said Fidelman. "I think the fact that the songs were still new and fresh to them, and they hadn't been playing them for six months in rehearsal, kept the vibe and excitement in the studio very high."
"There are two principal music writers in this band, so you're going to get a combination of speed and heaviness," said Araya. "Kerry's writing is really aggressive and fast, while Jeff likes things to be fast, but with melodies and grooves. In making this album, we seemed to share the same vision from song ideas to titles; when we get together as Slayer, it just happens, nothing is contrived, it's not thought out, we just do it, and we did that with this new album."
The band members agree that Hanneman set a tone for the album early on. "Jeff's coming in so early with three new songs really added an energy that got us all going," said Lombardo, "and combined with what Greg brought to the equation, everything just fell into place and moved quickly. We had a great chemistry.
"On this album," continued Lombardo, "Jeff's gone back to this great punk energy, especially with 'Psychopathy Red.'"
The track "Psychopathy Red" was inspired by the heinous Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, aka the Rostov Ripper, who confessed to brutally murdering 56 children. "Psychopathy Red" had leaked onto the Internet well before November 2008 and has been streamed more than a half-million times since; it was released as a limited edition, blood-red vinyl 7-inch in April for Record Store Day.
"The new music has an '80s vibe to it, and I think that's because of the way we wrote it," said King. We were together during the writing process more than we had been before, and while my name will be on the songs I wrote, and Jeff's will be on the ones he wrote, there was a lot of interaction between us while the songs were taking shape."
Adds Lombardo, "On this record, we worked a lot more collectively, we were more attentive to each other's ideas and willing to try them, which only benefited the album. I'm really excited about the new album because of its diversity, the different elements that all of us contributed to it. And that includes Greg Fidelman who brought the band out of its normalcy, he got a lot out of us. We tapped into some new drum rhythms and new guitar riffs, and some really exciting music developed in the Slayer camp."
King, a close friend of the late "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, had the guitarist's guitar in the studio during some of the recording (although he didn't use it it during the sessions), still with the same strings that were on it the last time Dimebag played it. "The one thing that made me look at my lead playing a little differently was when Dimebag passed away," revealed King. "Not that I'm going to fill Dime's shoes because nobody can do that, but I paid more attention to my leads while recording this album. I wanted to make them more memorable in memory of Dime."
As World Painted Blood is a Slayer album, it deals with topics such as death and destruction, war, serial killers, and the Apocalypse. In addition to "Psychopathy Red," other tracks on World Painted Blood include "Beauty Through Order" (King: "one of Jeff's songs, it has a very heavy 'do me' intro to it then explodes with a really cool vibe,") "Unit 731," "Playing With Dolls" (Dave: an awesome track, great song structure, great vibe"), "Public Display of Dismemberment," and "Americon," a King composition. King explains, "It's about what I think the rest of the world thinks of America. We may not be big on a lot of people's lists, but I don't care what you think of my government, of my economy, or whatever. I live here and this is one of the best places that I've ever found to live. So f*#k you if you don't like it."
This summer's Mayhem Festival will mark the second time that Slayer and Marilyn Manson have co-headlined a tour together. "I had fun when we toured with Manson two years ago," said King. "Manson's a friend of mine and Twiggy's [Ramirez] back in the band, so it can only be that much better. We'll probably play two new songs, 'Psychopathy Red' being one of them - not sure what the other one will be. And, I'm curious to see Manson's set, I love watching him play because there's always something going on. It's going to be a great summer tour, a lot of fun for everyone."
Six Gold albums, three Grammy nominations and two wins, and countless other awards including being named "Best Live Band" in Revolver, SPIN, and Metal Hammer...after nearly 30 years, what is it about Slayer that continues to connect them with consecutive generations? Fidelman explains it this way: "Each guy has to be here for this to be Slayer. Individually, they are all really good at what they do, but when you put them in a room together, it creates something really unique - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What those parts are, I'm still not sure, but when when you hear it, you know it."
Tour dates for the Mayhem Festival are as follows:
10 Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Sacramento, CA
11 Shoreline Amphitheatre, San Francisco, CA
12 San Manuel Amphitheatre, San Bernardino, CA
14 White River Amphitheatre, Seattle, WA
17 Cricket Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ
18 Journal Pavilion, Albuquerque, NM
19 Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, Denver, CO
21 Capitol Federal Park @ Sandstone, Kansas City, MO
22 Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, St. Louis, MO
24 Lakewood Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA
25 Verizon Wireless Music Centre, Indianapolis, IN
26 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL
28 Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, ONT CANADA
29 Toyota Pavilion, Scranton, PA
31 Blossom Music Center, Cleveland, OH
1 Post Gazette Pavilion, Pittsburgh, PA
2 DTE Energy Music Theatre, Detroit, MI
4 Comcast Center, Boston, MA
6 Virginia Beach Amphitheatre, Virginia Beach, VA
7 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ
8 Comcast Theatre, Hartford, CT
9 Nissan Pavilion, Washington, D.C.
11 Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa, FL
12 Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach, FL
14 AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
15 Superpages.com Center, Dallas, TX