There will never be another band like Slayer. With their blazing thrash riffs, their psychologically-horrific themes, and their unparalleled live show, the California thrash four-piece paved the way for any band who wanted to make tight, technical music that offended anyone who heard it. For almost forty years, the band left metalheads smiling in diabolic satisfaction with their raving anthems to serial murder, battlefield atrocities, and of course, the Devil.
Such a career means a massive back-catalog, littered with re-recordings, bonus tracks, and unsung gems buried deep in classic albums. So as Slayer superfans, we decided to tackle the unthinkable, and went all-in ranking every single track throughout the band’s storied career. Here is a definitive ranking of all 139 Slayer songs we could uncover, including bonus tracks, one-offs — all of them.
Raise a glass to Satan, you spirits in black, and take it all in…
141. “Desire” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
Look, there has to be a worst Slayer song, and it’s “Desire.” Not only is the track a tiresome attempt to summon up the attitude of songs like “Dead Skin Mask” and “Divine Intervention,” but Tom Araya’s lyrics are also just limp, more sexual than psychopath. The listener just keeps waiting for the kick, or the turn of phrase that’ll elevate this song to something evil and interesting. Instead they just keep getting this. So there you go. You wanted to know. It’s “Desire.”
140. “Born to Be Wild”
Who did this?! Who suggested that Slayer should cover Steppenwolf? Who saw a biker in a Slayer shirt and urged Slayer to do a cover of the opening theme of Easy Rider? We need to find them. We need to find them and kick their fucking asses.
139. “I Hate You” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
“You walk around like a fucking dick/And every time you’re near, you know I get real sick…” Poetry. There’s no way around it, “I Hate You” sucks. The Verbal Abuse original is decent at best, and Slayer covering it just sounds like going through the motions and trying to sound angry for anger’s sake. The song teaches us nothing about Slayer other than that the ‘90s were hard for them. Pass.
138. “Americon” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
What would it sound like if Slayer wrote an AC/DC song? Unfortunately, it’s “Americon” off of 2009’s World Painted Blood. What the band were thinking writing this punchy 4/4 track with its terrible pun for a title is beyond us. There’s just nothing epic or dark or interesting about this song; the argument at its core reads like an angry Facebook comment. A song that elicits no reaction other than, ‘Fuuuck this.’
137. “Ddamm” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
“Drunk drivers against mad mothers” — how edgy. This Pap Smear cover feels a little too much like Slayer doing their best to be offensive even as they’re covering punk classics in the ‘90s, an era where punk had officially become heartfelt alternative music for most rock fans. The end product is a mid-paced track that sounds more confused and uninteresting than it does confrontational. Credit for trying? We guess?
136. “Human Strain” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
On World Painted Blood, Slayer rip through the brilliant “Public Display of Dismemberment” — and then go right into this bummer. Mid-paced but not delicious, topical but not vengeful, “Human Strain” is a huge nothing. Not even the lyrics save it — Tom saying, “Drink the tainted blood from the only child” sounds decidedly cheesy. Man, what happened here?
PFFFF, OKAY. For the soundtrack of the movie of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, Slayer decided to cover Cream’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” for some goddamn reason. While it’s interesting to hear Tom singing those classic lyrics, it’s also incredibly stupid and confusing, and not a track we ever need to hear again. Get out of here with this shit.
134. “Violent Pacification” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
Apologies for loading the bottom end of this list with so much Undisputed Attitude, but maybe that says more about the album than us. “Violent Pacification” is yet another song where Slayer go too fast to do anything interesting. The D.R.I. cover has its moments, and isn’t as bad as some others on the album, but it’s pretty forgettable in the long run. Moving on…
133. “Perversions of Pain” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
What’s going on here? “Perversions of Pain” sounds like four different beginnings of Slayer songs chopped up and Frankensteined together. It never picks up, nor does its chorus allow its mid-paced momentum to drive forward. Instead, fans are left with a song that feels like someone who didn’t know Slayer tried to write a song for them. Worth one listen, but only to understand what we’re talking about.
132. “You Against You” (Repentless, 2015)
The thrash section in the middle of “You Against You” is the only thing keeping it from landing at the bottom of this list. The track’s lyrics are painfully cringe-worthy, the opening tempo is tired and lame, and it once again feels as though the track is angry at all the wrong people. This song is salty and pissy when what Slayer need is that crimson, searing fury. You know when you bite into an apple and it’s all mealy inside? That’s what this song feels like.
131. “Catatonic” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
The claim that Slayer became “nu-metal” later on in their careers is just a salty way of saying they lost their speedy, satanic power. And while this isn’t always true, it sure is on “Catatonic.” The track feels, with lack of better words, lazy, never giving fans anything that they came to a Slayer album for. Even Lombardo’s enthused fills midway through can’t save this song.
130. “Take Control” (Repentless, 2015)
A song like “Take Control” officially heralds that Slayer are for old people. The track is all blunt force, no edge, and seems angry about societal issues…maybe? This is the sonic embodiment of a 40-something dude on social media calling people with political allegiance “sheep” and railing against “the media” without ever explaining what the issue is. Then he asks your girlfriend for nudes. Wack.
129. “Abolish Government/Superficial Love” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
Slayer covering T.S.O.L. is cool in theory, but in practice it feels like an exercise, not a rager. “Abolish Government/Superficial Love” is cool and all, but gives Slayer no room to be exceptional, and seems to exist solely to prove that Slayer can do punk. There’s an obligatory vibe here, the distinct sense that the ‘90s told Slayer they had to be punk because metal was uncool. As such, this song is all right, but easily forgettable.
128. “Implode” (Repentless, 2015)
“So is it just me, or can everyone see the world drowning in its own blood?” Fucking yawn. Repentless is in many ways an attempt by Slayer to recapture the career-reviving power of God Hates Us All, but “Implode” is an example of how that fails. The track’s lyrics want to be colloquial and human, and instead they just sound like a series of slogans one sees on shirts at Hot Topic. If we could take this song off of this list, we would.
127. “I’m Gonna Be Your God” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
This reinterpretation of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” isn’t awful musically — Kerry and Jeff do some cool, slow chugging that both references the original track and adds a bit of Slayer atmosphere to the song. But Tom’s “blasphemous” lyrics are so fucking wack, it’s sad. “Now it’s time to bury my face/Between your legs, with my tongue in that special place” is the kind of line a high-school freshman would write and consider subversive. Come on, guys, who needed this?
126. “Overt Enemy” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
To its credit, 1998’s Diabolus In Musica allowed Slayer to do a lot of stylistic experimentation that aided their later material. The downside? It it gave us songs like “Overt Enemy,” where the experimentation feels unnecessary and boring. The opening leads are all right, and the chugging central riff ain’t bad — but why does Tom sound like he’s underwater? Why this pendulous melody? Did we need these weak societally condemnations? What was the point of this song?
125. “Vices” (Repentless, 2015)
At least “Vices” is kind of brolic and heavy…but man, that’s all that it has going for it. Like many other tracks on 2015’s Repentless, “Vices” sounds old and chapped, the Slayer equivalent of a suburban dad online angry at young people for doing drugs. Tom’s scream of, “Let’s all get high!” is cringe as fuck. Proof that by the mid-2010s, the band had kind of lost their way.
124. “Crypts of Eternity” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
There’s a lot going on with “Crypts of Eternity,” but none of it ever really sinks its teeth in. The riffs are either too wonky or too typical, and the lyrics (about an evil mummy? Maybe? Not sure, but there’s definitely a crypt involved) feel like someone writing a Slayer parody song. Interesting on paper, but not a song fans have ever lived or died for.
123. “Richard Hung Himself” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
Once again, it’s D.I. that helps Undisputed Attitude rise a little above its mire of speed and confusion. “Richard Hung Himself” is at least slow and creepy, allowing for some of King and Hanneman’s tiptoeing chugs. But man, the song feels like an odd choice for Slayer, a track that worked better with D.I.’s starker, twanging, goth-oriented approach. A questionable choice from Slayer’s ultimate questionable-choice record.
122. “Consfearacy” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
On paper, “Consfearacy” has it all — really fast riffs, really pissed-off lyrics, solid Lombardo drumming. But in practice, it’s all a bunch of Greek salad. The lyrics are aimless, the riffs aren’t that catchy, and Dave’s percussion work just sort of goes along to get along. This isn’t a Slayer song so much as a bunch of Slayer parts stitched together, and it shows.
121. “Cast the First Stone” (Repentless, 2015)
Once more, Slayer’s later material is plagued by sluggishness. With a little more umph, “Cast the First Stone” could have brought some of the rage that the mid-paced middle tracks on God Hates Us All does. Instead, it just plooods along, making it ultimately forgettable. Only this high on the list because it isn’t outright terrible.
120. “Chasing Death” (Repentless, 2015)
“Chasing Death” is nestled next to “Cast the First Stone,” the track that comes before it on 2015’s Repentless, on this list. Why? Because they’re both the same mess. “Chasing Death” has the same problems as “Cast…” in that it’s listless, uninteresting, and angry at all the wrong people. It’s a waste of time, which in metal is the greatest sin any band can commit.
119. “War Zone” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
In a word, “War Zone” feels obligatory. It’s as though Slayer were writing God Hates Us All and thought, We have a Satan song, a murder song…wait, we need a war song! As such, the track comes off as standard but certainly not special, going hard to sound kinetic when it could’ve been something simpler and cooler. Sometimes, you don’t need to check every box.
118. “Guilty of Being White” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
Ho boy. “Guilty of Being White” is immediately a decent song, in that it’s a Minor Threat cover…but Slayer covering it feels questionable. Given their love of edgy Nazi imagery and themes, performing this song — and ending it with Tom shouting, “Guilty of being RIGHT!” — feels like Slayer either baiting the bear or making the indirect statement that metalheads have always dreaded. You can imagine a lot of ‘90s Slayer fans hearing this, grimacing, and doing the ‘cut-it-off’ throat motion at Slayer (or not — which is its own problem).
117. “Love to Hate” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
To its credit, “Love to Hate” has some great momentum. But this track feels the most like Slayer doing their best to appeal to nu-metal audiences. The production behind Tom’s steady verse chant is polished to a weird degree, and the backwards accent that opens the verse and is repeated throughout has a very Korn-ish vibe. Another moment where Slayer should’ve just written something fast and pissed-off about gutting someone.
116. “Not of this God” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
At least “Not of this God” contains some really driving momentum at times. But this is an example of how Slayer’s melody-less thrash riffs later in their career didn’t always land. This song needs more red in it, more of that pure, bloody outrage that made Slayer’s earlier stuff so powerful. Instead, it’s all camo, and as such just never gives the fans what they really desire.
115. “Point” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
“Point” feels like an obvious culmination of Diabolus In Musica, in that it’s got one or two glimmers of classic Slayer amongst a lot of middle-of-the-road material. The song could really be something good with a shot of Satan in the arm, but instead it’s sort of just Slayer being angry because that’s what they do. Fans who get far enough in the album to hear this track might find something to like, but if you don’t, that’s fine too.
114. “When The Stillness Comes” (Repentless, 2015)
The first single off of 2015’s Repentless saw Slayer doing their best to recapture the creepy-crawl of South of Heaven and “Dead Skin Mask.” Did they succeed? Not entirely. Though not an awful track by any means, “When The Stillness Comes” definitely feels like Slayer trying, and that automatically puts it below some of its mid-paced brethren. At this point in their careers, though, Slayer didn’t really need to be making hits any more, so who can blame them?
113. “Read Between The Lies” (South of Heaven, 1988)
The problem with “Read Between The Lies” is rooted in the approach Slayer took to South of Heaven — going slower and being more meaningful. The lyrics are ultra-wordy, and seeks to offer a carefully-constructed description of Slayer’s very real anti-religious feelings without too much satanic fantasy. Listening to Tom say T-shirt slogans like, “There is no heaven…without a Hell!” might have felt thoughtful in ‘88, but today, it’s kinda hackneyed.
112. “Piano Wire” (Repentless, 2015)
Midway through Repentless, “Piano Wire” feels refreshing with its malevolent opening riff and murderous lyrics. But maybe that’s just about how bad the songs next to it are. The track is still an example of Slayer trying hard, and failing, to reconnect with the mid-paced power of God Hates Us All. If this is your favorite Slayer song, that’s not the end of the world, but we’ve still got nothing for you.
Though it’s definitely forgettable in a lot of ways, “Addict” also shows how Slayer can pursue a lyrical theme to its fullest. The ‘addict’ of the track’s title is addicted to, get this, fear and murder, and the lyrics do a solid job of getting that across. However, the track is mostly a mid-paced chugalong, and doesn’t have anything that really sets it apart. Good on Tom for screaming his face off on this one.
110. “Atrocity Vendor” (Repentless, 2015)
When “Atrocity Vendor” opens, one hears that first riff and thinks, Finally, a THRASH SONG on this album! Then it trundles along, and Tom says, “In this chapel, I am your pastor/A fucking guarantee of your impending disaster.” And one thinks, God dammit, Slayer, why you gotta suck so much in 2015? This is lame. And that’s all you need to know!
109. “Hardening of the Arteries” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
To its credit, “Hardening of the Arteries” does go fast and loose, and its sonic callback to “Hell Awaits” at the end is pretty rad. But otherwise, it’s just a Slayer song, fast and angry and obsessed with death but bearing little other substance. As with many of its neighbors on the Side B of Hell Awaits, the track has potential, and shows a band ready to burst, but never goes the full distance.
108. “Supremist” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
While low on this list, “Supremist” certainly isn’t a bad Slayer song. The band show up with their guns cocked, with a really burly guitar tone and an epic closing breakdown. But it would be nice for those elements to go somewhere and do something; as it is, they sort of peter out. Definitely worth examining in relation to its neighbors on Christ Illusion, but not one you’ll blast at the metal party.
107. “Beauty Through Order” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
Aw man, Slayer finally wrote a song about Elizabeth Bathory, and it’s this? Back in ‘89, the band would’ve used this moment to pen an arch-evil track to the vampiric legend of this supposed female serial killer. Instead, we get this meandering, grunge-infused mid-pacer that’s more about her obsession with order and vanity than anything else. A massive lost opportunity for metal’s most evil band.
106. “Delusions of Savior” (Repentless, 2015)
The intro track to 2015’s Repentless isn’t great Slayer by any means, but it isn’t all that bad. The song hints at the looming-gym-rat vibe that the whole album seeks to lock down. And while many of the tracks don’t follow through, this snippet definitely hints at what the ones that land (or the one, honestly) pretty well. Not bad, but just a minute-plus of intro, so whatever.
105. “Sex. Murder. Art” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
It’s unclear if Tom Araya bought the shirt bearing this title on it, or if the shirt was made for him, but either way “Sex. Murder. Art.” feels sort of defined by the fact that Tom rocked the title on his outfit for much of the Divine Intervention tour cycle. With lyrics about fisting orifices and “raping again and again,” the track seems intent on replacing Slayer’s satanic themes with perverse ones, to…questionable ends. While refreshingly fast, the song just doesn’t have the heart that a Slayer classic needs.
104. “Screaming From The Sky” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
If “Screaming From The Sky” had been written in the ‘80s, its killer lyrics and anguished warzone vibe might have been matched with some bitching thrash licks. Instead, it was written in 1997, and as such it’s pulled down by these labored hardcore riffs and vocal effects. The end result is a track that’s equal parts interesting and about as boring as Slayer songs get. What can we say? They tried their damnedest.
103. “Skeleton Christ” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
Once again, Dave Lombardo’s drumming saves a track from 2006’s Chris Illusion from being typical. “Skeleton Christ” may have repetitive vocals and wordy lyrics, but it also has that double-bass roll that goes with the churning central riff. It’s telling that Dave’s drums sit high in the mix here — we might not have been the only ones who heard this track and thought Lombardo was its saving grace. Good on Kerry for making Tom yell, “Hail Satan!”
102. “Pride In Prejudice” (Repentless, 2015)
If Slayer are going to lumber, the least they can do is lumber HARD. “Pride In Prejudice” shows Repentless’ tragic mid-pace actually working for the band in a fist-swinging sort of way. More so, it seems to finally address Slayer’s Nazi fanbase with lines like, “Don’t gimme that power bullshit” — but it then takes a painfully both-sides-are-wrong attitude at the end. A shame, too — this could’ve been a huge turning point for the band’s image.
101. “Playing With Dolls” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
Reviled by the band’s fanbase, “Playing With Dolls” is really not that bad a song — it just sounds like it was written for Slipknot. With nine dudes and a bunch of weird drums and samples padding it out, the song would be a metal classic. Instead, it’s performed by the starkest band in metal history, and as such sounds more like a poorly-attempted single than anything else. Hopefully, we’ll hear the Iowan band cover this one at some point.
100. “Threshold“ (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
When old-school fans complain that Slayer went nu-metal on God Hates Us All, they’re really talking about “Threshold.” The track is a straightforward hardcore bruiser with a super-simple riff that obviously had thrash diehards feeling betrayed. The song’s lyrics and vibe are definitely more Hatebreed than Korn, but they still have nothing edgy or dangerous about them whatsoever. Not a terrible track, but, you know, it is what it is.
99. “Eyes of the Insane” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
Let’s be honest: Slayer winning a Grammy in 2007 for “Eyes of the Insane” was a lifetime achievement award. The song’s attempted menace and topical subject matter are stymied by its strange rhythm changes and sluggish pace. Nothing about the track has the crimson blaze for which the band will always be known. At least the Academy caught up with them, but man, for this song? This song?
98. “Here Comes The Pain” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
As a wrestling anthem — which is what it was written as — “Here Comes The Pain” ain’t all that bad. As a Slayer song, it’s…also not awful, but certainly not excellent. Like several other tracks on God Hates Us All, the song feels like it would’ve been better performed by a band like Slipknot. That said, for a certain type of weight-lifting session, this track provides excellent backing music.
“Wicked” ended up being a bonus track on Diabolus In Musica, so that’s one of the reasons you’ve probably never heard it. The other is that, well, it’s just not very exceptional. It’s not even amazingly bad or completely horrendous — it has some Slayeriffic parts, but none of them are terribly interesting. An example of how the band’s late-’90s experimentation often just resulted in boring moments.
96. “Cast Down” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
Of the many big, stomping hardcore tracks on God Hates Us All, “Cast Down” is one of the weaker ones. The mixed-up rhythms and chapped lyrics just don’t do the band’s rage on this record justice. It’s a song that would be really powerful if performed by another, more dysfunctional-sounding band, but for Slayer, it just doesn’t quite cut it. Not the worst, but not the best by a long shot.
95. “Metal Storm/Face The Slayer” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
It speaks to Show No Mercy’s credit that the worst song thereon is still pretty badass. “Metal Storm/Face The Slayer” sounds like its title looks — a little long, a little overly complicated, with nothing to shout in unison. Sure, there are lyrics like, “I’ll trap you in the pentagram and seal your battered tomb,” but there just aren’t enough timeless riffs to carry the track further up this list. Whatever, if this is the worst song on the record, we’ll take it.
94. “Serenity In Murder” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
Divine Intervention’s big single was “Serenity In Murder,” which even came with a confusing, tame-for-Slayer video to show on MTV. Tom’s new vocal technique keeps things creepy, but the way it’s countered with him doing a pretty standard Slayer shout isn’t entirely awesome. That, plus the track’s lack of full-on darkness — there’s no face-peeling butchery here, much less one done in Satan’s name — make it a mid-level track among Slayer’s catalog. Eh.
93. “Filler/I Don’t Want To Hear It” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
When you’re covering a solid track, it’s hard to entirely fuck it up, so “Filler/I Don’t Want To Hear It” stays higher than some Slayer songs just for being a Minor Threat song. The track also has enough space in it to allow King and Hanneman to show off their talents. That said, it’s yet another sonic blur from Undisputed Attitude, a track that never really gives fans enough time to be memorable. Fine, but just fine.
92. “Unguarded Instinct”
What’s interesting about “Unguarded Instinct,” a bonus track from Diabolus In Musica, is that you can hear the beginnings of Slayer as they’d sound on God Hates Us All. The song still has a lot of issues, but it has a really muscular power that was later refined and revisited to great effect in 2001. Maybe it’s a display of how Slayer weren’t yet confident enough in the material that would later revitalize their career. In any event, a solid if not stellar cut.
91. “Cleanse the Soul” (South of Heaven, 1988)
In a lot of ways, “Cleanse the Soul” is Slayer’s great death metal song — no big chorus, no topical commentary, just a scene of pure horror. There’s something about Tom’s angry but steady cries that give it a truly regal feel, making the listener see the unholy church where this atrocity is taking place. That said, next to the other songs on South of Heaven, it just kind of pales in comparison. A weird one, and cool in ways, but not the most memorable.
90. “Killing Fields” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
The opening of “Killing Fields” is a pretty perfect encapsulation of Divine Intervention’s whole approach. The steady double bass is up front, the guitars are chuggier, and the steamroller pace dominates all. When it picks up, the track is pretty rad, but getting through that opening involves a lot of Slayer finding themselves, and it’s understandable that some fans just weren’t into it. Evil never dies, but sometimes it needs to stop and catch its breath.
89. “Black Serenade” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
In a word, “Black Serenade” is confusing. It’s certainly not a thrash song, but it’s also not one of the sluggers that latter-day Slayer devotees were looking for. That said, the track does contain one massive saving grace: Dave Lombardo. While the song is questionable overall, those fills and cymbal dings that smack of Dave’s Latin roots are what makes it a Slayer track worth knowing. Bless and keep you, you brilliant skinsman.
88. “Verbal Abuse/Leeches” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
This Verbal Abuse cover is in many ways an explanation of why Undisputed Attitude doesn’t entirely work. Sure, hearing Slayer cover a breakneck punk track is rad, but there’s just no room here for the band to show off their looming metal aspects. The result is a fine punk track, but not a great Slayer song, and not an awesome punk song anyway. Not bad, but just kind of a blur.
87. “SS-3” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
Like much of Divine Intervention, “SS-3” feels constricted by what Slayer were telling themselves they could and couldn’t do. The track is a fine World War II-themed mid-pacer, but it begs for more — a cooler, more melodic chorus, or maybe some sort of excellent solo somewhere herein. Instead, you have Tom shouting lyrics like, “Wade through blood and bleed some more,” neutering the bizarre horror that made Slayer great. A missed opportunity.
86. “Disintegration/Free Money” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
The Verbal Abuse track that opens Slayer’s ill-fated punk covers album Undisputed Attitude actually suggests the record might be a blast. Fast and pissed-off yet still sounding distinctly like a Slayer track, the song does the record’s premise justice. That said, it definitely feels like Slayer covering a punk song, and so smacks slightly of disingenuousness. An interesting relisten, but nothing you’ll tell your friends about.
85. “Exile” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
Like “Cast Down” and “Threshold,” “Exile” is one part of the aimless middle of God Hates Us All. The difference, however, is speed — unlike those tracks, this song has an exciting punk gallop to it. That allows Tom’s lyrics like, “You self-righteous fuck/Give me a reason not to rip your fucking face off” to feel a little more believable and awesome than they might otherwise. Of this album’s belly, it’s “Exile” that feels most like a good ol fashioned Slayer song.
84. “Jihad” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
While the topical focus of the track feels a little forced in the post-911 world of Chris Illusion, “Jihad” has plenty going for it. The rhythm is just rad, adding an excitement bordering on panic. Meanwhile, Tom’s sharp, high vocal that is sometimes overdone on other parts of the album actually enhances this track. While the record is a crapshoot across the board, this is an example of Slayer doing something really right.
83. “Haunting The Chapel” (Haunting the Chapel EP, 1984)
The steady, hard-hitting malevolence of “Haunting The Chapel” was a solid portent of things to come for Slayer. Its production value and vocal patterns definitely sound like a bridge between the raging blast of Show No Mercy and the stark howl of Hell Awaits. But while an interesting moment in the band’s career, it’s not the best drinking song, and so often gets overlooked. And given how amazing the other two songs on its EP are, one can imagine why.
82. “Temptation” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
Other than its weird double-layered verse vocals, “Temptation” just doesn’t have a ton going for it. Sure, its gallops are in keeping with the other songs on Seasons In The Abyss, and it definitely adds some nuance coming between “Skeletons of Society” and “Born of Fire.” But none of the lyrics seem as interesting as Slayer’s best, and the riffs just aren’t there. A track we’ll always leave on, but may never single out.
81. “Mr. Freeze” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
Undisputed Attitude is a rare album where speed is more Slayer’s enemy than friend. “Mr. Freeze” gives the band a moment to slow things down a little, and includes a Kerry King horse-whinny solo that puts it above many of its neighbors. Not only that, but Dr. Know’s lyrics make this track somewhat more appropriate for the band than those of some of the other songs. Even mixed bags have good stuff in ‘em.
80. “Memories of Tomorrow”
Though only 55 seconds long, this Suicidal Tendencies cover off of 1996’s Undisputed Attitude is pretty fucking rad. It shows Slayer going all-in on the punk side of thrash by honoring arguably the greatest punk-side-of-thrash band out there. That said, it ended up just being a bonus track on the record, maybe because the band were wary of the ‘thrash’ tag this close to the ‘80s. In any event, one of the album’s better tracks.
Oh man, why was “Scarstruck” only a bonus track on God Hates Us All? The song has a lot more energy and attack like some of the other tracks on the record, and Tom’s vocal patterns are both unusual for the band and super well done. This is the kind of song that shows how Slayer had reached a new plateau with their 2001 release, but that they might not have known it yet. We’ll take this over “War Zone” any day!
78. “Snuff” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
You know, “Snuff” isn’t so bad once you get over the hilarity of a song about snuff films where the chorus begins with someone screaming, “ACTION!” That said, this track feels at times like Slayer looking for whatever else is left in the subject matter bucket. What haven’t we done…snuff films! Not a bad track, but one of those songs that just feels like Latter Day Slayer and nothing more.
77. “Can’t Stand You” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
“Can’t Stand You” is an example of Slayer fully realizing the premise of Undisputed Attitude. While other tracks on the record attempt to honor important punk legends, this Pap Smear cover is just a fast, misanthropic blast of hatred. Hearing Slayer cut every inch of fat off their music is fascinating, and yields some pretty solid results. If you’re gonna go fast and loud, go fastest and loudest.
76. “In The Name of God” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
“In The Name of God” might not be the most nuanced or technically-brilliant Slayer song on earth, but it’s got a churn riff the likes of which most bands only dream of. More so, the song’s vocal patterns and layering works really well for late-’90s Slayer. There’s a strong vibe here, a sense that even if they’re trying something more than thrash, Slayer are still very much Slayer. Hey, we all need workout music.
75. “Dissident Aggressor” (South of Heaven, 1988)
To some, Slayer’s armor-plated warlust must have seemed like the next step in the evolution of a band like Judas Priest. “Dissident Aggressor” wasn’t a Priest song your average headbanger screamed knew well, but it obviously had an impact on young Kerry King. The cover definitely brings a new level of menace to the original, and the replacement of Halford’s high background vocals with squealing guitars saves it from betraying the thrash titans’ MO at a pivotal point in their career. Stand! Fight!
74. “Spiritual Law” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
“Spiritual Law” is one of the few moments where Undisputed Attitude shines. The song’s tempo shifts and themes give Slayer room to be Slayer while still trying some interesting things. Though still not Slayer’s brightest moment — by a long shot — this D.I. cover at least opens up the possibilities of what this at-times-poorly-conceived-sounding record can be. An interesting moment on an otherwise questionable record.
73. “Scrum” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
No one asked for a Slayer song about rugby, but guess what, they wrote one. That said, if you can get over the subject matter, “Scrum” is actually a pretty rad track, full of both the grinding latter-day hardcore riffs and the speedy metallic licks which made ‘90s Slayer cool. That they buried the song on Diabolus In Musica perhaps speaks to the band’s focus on more listenable tunes. Or maybe they were a little red-faced to admit they’d written a song about fucking rugby.
72. “Darkness of Christ” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
It may only be an intro track, but “Darkness of Christ” still marks the moment when Slayer returned to form. The frantic, blurred noise thereon, along with the intense screed by both Tom Araya and an unnamed female speaker, show just how ready Slayer were to once more embrace both darkness and sonic vengeance. The song will forever be legendary among fans of all ages, having been used to introduce the band’s live show since its first recording. Only Slayer could write a minute-and-a-half intro track that outshines most other metal songs.
71. “Expendable Youth” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
On the one hand, “Expendable Youth” adds a much-needed dose of humanity to Slayer’s battlefield tales, confronting how many young men are senseless victims of war. On the other hand, the track feels a little listless, with a pace that could be best described as ‘galumphing.’ In the end, it provides solid texture to the band’s most complete album and is a reminder that Slayer can do more than just rage — even if those are the only things it does.
70. “Reborn” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
It’s fast, it’s ruthless, it hits hard — “Reborn” could come from no other album than Reign In Blood. But unlike the other tracks on the record, the song just doesn’t have the nuance needed to elevate it beyond its anger. Sure, the track is rad, but it never opens up into an ultra-satanic breakdown, or gives the listener one of Dave Lombardo’s echoing-drum breaks. As such, it’s the lowest-ranking track on this list from Reign — which, more than anything, says something about that album.
69. “213” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
With Ed Gein covered via “Dead Skin Mask,” it was inevitable that Slayer would soon turn to Milwaukee cannibal Jeffery Dahmer. In this way, “213” has a leisurely pace and a melancholy psychological bent that go well with Dahmer’s poor broken mind (Tom’s echoing freak-out at the end is especially compelling). At the same time, the song definitely plods along at times, and as such never became the ghoulish anthem that “Dead Skin Mask” did. Probably the most Slayer say ‘love’ in any song.
68. “Flesh Storm” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
2006’s Dave Lombardo reunion album Christ Illusion is a mixed bag overall, but you have to give it to Slayer for coming out of the gate with all guns blazing. Opener “Flesh Storm” is undoubtedly evil and forceful, and assures fans that the album will bring the thrash chops. Lombardo, meanwhile, is utilized well, though in a slightly too-straightforward manner. That said, given some of the other material on this record, this track’s a certified banger.
67. “Public Display of Dismemberment” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
Smack-dab in the middle of 2009’s World Painted Blood, “Public Display of Dismemberment” shows just how much fun Slayer are when they don’t give a fuck. The track is a beautiful one-two of rabid speed and bloody-knuckle swing that does the boys’ legacy proud. Kerry’s solo sounds entirely unhinged, and leads to a blastbeat-infused surge that modern metal fans ache for. Absolutely fucking awesome.
66. “Crionics” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
While Show No Mercy added a layer of spiked leather to heavy metal as a whole, “Crionics” is definitely the track where the band pay homage to their forefathers. The climbing melody of the chorus harkens back to Judas Priest and Dio even as it sings about being frozen alive by scientists (or whatever). While this may be why it’s not often remembered among the album’s tracks, it’s also what makes the song unique. Cool in an old-school way.
65. “Praise of Death” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
What “Praise of Death” has going for it is its speed and central riff — both are indicative of what Hell Awaits did for the band’s career, sonic evolution, and legacy. What it lacks is a big hook, making the song’s catchier moments feel a little too drawn-out; if the listener wants to scream along to this one, they have a mouthful of lyrics to memorize. A growing-pain moment for Slayer, but at least a fast and morbid one.
64. “Gemini” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
If 1996’s ill-advised Undisputed Attitude has any truly excellent moment, it’s original track “Gemini.” The track definitely isn’t ‘true’ Slayer — one can hear attempts to connect with the grunge audience in the vocal layering — but the lyrics and vibe are spot-on. It also heralds Slayer’s upcoming future of mid-paced, atmospheric tracks that would be so much a part of Diabolus In Musica and God Hates Us All. At least there’s one track on this album that rules. Kinda.
63. “Jesus Saves” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
Without a doubt, “Jesus Saves” is as fast and kinetic a Slayer song as you can find. The problem comes with the fact that it doesn’t have any solid hooks, both lyrically and musically. More so, its anti-Christianity is a little more face-forward and less nuanced than one can find in some of their other tracks. Ripping, yes, but Slayer have done way better.
62. “Fictional Reality” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
In many ways, “Fictional Reality” is an embodiment of what Slayer were doing right — and wrong — on Divine Intervention. The track has an undeniable momentum, and Tom’s vocal rhythms are more interesting than those on your typical thrash anthem. But the song is always a little slow, a little wordy, and never gives fans the delicious riff they crave. As such, it falls squarely on the middle of this list, a rad song that doesn’t quite get our fires raging.
61. “Cult” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
On the one hand, when “Cult” came out, it was refreshing to hear Slayer fully embracing their heretical side again. On the other, it’s a little on the nose to have Tom yelling, “Religion is hate! Religion is fear!” New-school heads rejoiced, but classic fans probably sensed the cringe at Slayer saying, “Look how fucking Slaaaaayer we are!” All that said, goddamn, what a rad opening. No denying that.
60. “Catalyst” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
2006’s Chris Illusion was a mixed bag for Slayer, but “Catalyst” felt like Kerry King expressing his true self in fine form. Opening line “Attitude is my addiction/I live life with no regret” is a balls-out declaration of what Slayer were about by the mid-2000s. The song also has a patented tiptoeing riff in the middle “I live it every day” sections, keeping it an evil thrash number even with its camo-bandana vibe overall. Not a bad song to throw on a pissed-off playlist.
59. “Dittohead” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
On the plus side, “Dittohead” proved that Slayer could still go fast as fuck on Divine Intervention. The song is a whirlwind, chomping at the bit, and served as an entry point into the love of hardcore that Slayer championed on their Undisputed Attitude covers album. That said, well, it led to Undisputed Attitude — not Slayer’s best received album — and fights so hard to move away from blood and Satan that it feels forced. A nice, quick, rabid bit of commentary.
58. “Deviance” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
Among the many killer tracks on God Hates Us All, “Deviance” is often unfairly overlooked. Sure, the song isn’t a throwback banger or a groundbreaker; it could have believably been written by Slipknot, whom many of the tracks on this record suggest that Kerry King had in mind. That said, as far as creepy Slayer songs about the mind of a sex murderer go, this one’s pretty powerful, and showcases how slow Slayer can still win the arms race. Get into it.
57. “Sick Boy” (Undisputed Attitude, 1996)
So, why the fuck wasn’t every single track on Undisputed Attitude this good? Why did Slayer do all these other aimless punk covers when this blazing G.B.H. cover is so fucking great? Why didn’t the band just pack this album with old-school speed-metal bang-along hits like this one? Why’d that album have to be such a trial for fans when it could’ve been this? And why the hell was this only a bonus track?
56. “Repentless” (Repentless, 2015)
Arguably the last great Slayer song put to tape, “Repentless” is the boiled-down reduction of the band’s second act. The satanic themes are couched in real-world anger, and the main line of the chorus has a Motörhead-ish gambling reference. These things point to the unexpected phenomenon that was Accessible Slayer, when metal’s most evil band became a household name. Let it ride.
55. “Live Undead” (South of Heaven, 1988)
“Live Undead” is a mixed track, with Slayer doing very interesting things that don’t always land well. The song embodies the let’s-try-slow-this-time ethos behind South of Heaven, moving at a pendulous pace up until the thrash part at the end. It also tells a story from the point of view of someone becoming a zombie, which is cool and uncommon. That said, there’s no section of the track that’s memorable enough to sing along to, making it a rad experiment, but only that.
54. “Bloodline” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
One might not think Slayer had a great song about Dracula in them, but “Bloodline” — originally premiered on the Dracula 2000 soundtrack — delivers like hell. Instead of getting too caught up in the Victorian ruffles that, say, Ghost do, the band focuses on the menacing presence and diabolical legacy of the kings of the vampires. The result is a looming, riffy track that adequately honors the most ancient of evils. The blood is the life, motherfucker.
53. “Final Six” (Christ Illusion, 2006)
Now this is more like it, Recording Academy! “Final Six” is an example of the strange rhythms and song structures of Christ Illusion working to the band’s advantage. With powerful lyrics, awesomely unorthodox Lombardo drumming, and perfect kicks after each chorus, this track is where modern Slayer outshine many of their peers. Definitely worth the Grammy, even if the Academy were showing up two decades too late.
52. “The Final Command” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
Given the Venom-ized catchiness of its neighbors, “The Final Command” is perhaps the most ripping thrash track on Show No Mercy. The song surges forward with real pointed momentum and has a cool, wily riff at its middle. That said, compared to the other songs on the album, it’s just fast and loose, and never quite becomes the earworm that, say, “The Antichrist” does. Still good for kicking in a door and throwing the horns, though.
51. “Divine Intervention” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
The title track of ‘95’s Divine Intervention features Slayer going doomier than ever before. In the vein of “Spill the Blood,” the song is drawn-out and agonized, focusing on spiritual destruction rather than infernal damnation. While surely a little murkier than the band’s old-school fans are into, the believable anguish in the track’s bridge is definitely still the stuff of Slayer legends. No mercy, no reason, just pain.
50. “Seven Faces” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
It’s widely acknowledged that “Seven Faces” is the turning point on God Hates Us All, moving the album from fast, punchy tracks to slow, malevolent ones. The song’s focus on the seven sins might feel kind of goofy to some, but it displays Slayer’s shift towards satanic reality over satanic fantasy, and the track’s grinding pendulum riffs definitely showcase the album’s dynamics. A great song, and one that shows that slow has always suited Slayer just as well as fast.
49. “Death’s Head” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
A lost-to-time gem from 1998’s Diabolus in Musica, “Death’s Head” is both unexpectedly catchy and on-brand with metal’s most hostile crew. The track doesn’t really have a chorus, but is carried by the bounding momentum of its verse and central riff. As such, it’s a perfect between-singles song, memorable while not a hit (Slayer have a talent for this — their Track 2’s are consistently weird and cool). Do yourself a favor and get back into this one.
48. “Blood Red” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
While only one of many Slayer songs about warfare and human horror, “Blood Red” has a dark, arcane sort of vibe that elevates it. Lyrics about “stain[ing] the primitive sickle” make it seem as though Slayer are the gods on their thrones, watching humanity’s folly. Though at times a little sluggish, the track still chugs along dutifully, and contains some odd jazzy fills courtesy of Dave Lombardo. A weird classic that either hit you hard or didn’t at all.
47. “Piece by Piece” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
“Bones and blood lie on the ground/Rotten limbs lie dead/Decapitated bodies found/On my wall, your head!” Ah, the gospel of Araya. “Piece by Piece” has hard work following up “Angel of Death” on Reign In Blood, but the track’s sheer speed and rancor make up for it. This is a Slayer death metal song, a frenzy of rage and mutilation that doesn’t end so much as wakes up covered in blood. There’s only one way out of here…
46. “God Send Death” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
“God Send Death” is God Hates Us All in a nutshell — catchy, darkly malevolent, full of classic Slayer riffs which are oddly-placed and strangely-rhythmed. For fans of the band’s eerier tunes, it was a full-force single, announcing that the album would be enjoying Slayer’s creeping-evil rather than its high-octane sprint. It’s also a song that would go surprisingly well at a strip club, thus signaling the eventual transformation of Slayer from underground phenomenon to every tattooed dude’s favorite band. Kinky!
45. “Mind Control” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
“Mind Control” often gets forgotten because it’s the last track on Divine Intervention, an album that many Slayer fans don’t love. But damn, this song slaps — the momentum is furious from the get-go, and the structure makes it so that even the slower, more muscular riffs don’t break up the thrash fury. The lyrical themes also stay in the realm of twisted psychology that make Slayer so special. If you don’t remember this one, listen to it now — you’ll be happy you did.
44. “Fight Till Death” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
Whatever you think about Slayer, you can’t hate on this opening riff. “Fight Til Death” is how trad-metal dudes like to remember Slayer, its charge, catchiness, and simple themes keeping them firmly rooted in the night soil that Venom once laid. At the same time, the track’s sheer thrashiness definitely makes it the kind of track that sinks its hooks into new listeners right from the start. When they brought it back out for the Show No Mercy shows, this track brought the house down.
43. “Circle of Beliefs” (Divine Intervention, 1994)
Of all the tracks on Divine Intervention that showcase Slayer’s new mixture of thrash speed and muscular grind in 1995, “Circle of Beliefs” might be the most effective. The song opens as a steamroller, but quickly warps into one of the band’s most bizarre and satisfying thrash metal numbers. The return to the opening vocal part at the bridge is brilliant, giving fans a moment to headbang a little slower, a little harder. Sounds especially good at a skatepark.
42. “New Faith” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
From its very kick, “New Faith” is a bit more of a hamburger than Slayer’s traditional bloody steak, what with its catchy biker-ish Motorhead chugs (rumor is that Jeff Hanneman hated the song initially). However, the track definitely heralds the new era of the band kicked off by 2001’s God Hates Us All, and it still includes Tom screaming, “I keep the Bible in a pool of blood so that none of its lies can affect me!” While a little more typical than other Slayer material, it’s undeniable that this one kicks ass.
41. “World Painted Blood” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
In a lot of ways, “World Painted Blood” is Slayer’s last great song about themselves. The track’s broad themes of carnage, corruption, and the end of the world feel like a grand declaration of everything the satanic thrashers have always been. Tom’s spoken-word bridge before the last verse seems to coin the band’s core themes line by line: Satan, the ongoing apocalypse, the abyss inside, and human cruelty. A huge opener to an album that helped Slayer stay legends within the scene.
40. “Tormentor” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
“Tormentor” is a track with its tongue out. It’s the kind of song that instantly transports you to backyard party in 1983 involving a bottle of whiskey around a burning trash can. On an album full of cornball thrash, it somehow manages to be the cornballest, making it the belle of the gaudy, leather-shin-guard-clad ball. Any song that prominently includes the lyric “Are you afraid of the night?” is a gift from Satan himself. Get drunk, cut your fingers off, die.
39. “Bitter Peace” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
Plenty of old-school fans hate on Diabolus In Musica, and that’s not without merit, but it’s hard to argue with “Bitter Peace.” Yeah, the track opens with kind of a toned-down hardcore riff, but it quickly launches in a really rabid thrash song with some classic King/Hanneman riffs behind it. Tom also sounds especially malicious, with a little bit of that self-aware punk-rock thing creeping into his vocals. Hate the album all you want, this one fucking rules.
38. “Show No Mercy” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
Man, ’80s heads must’ve heard the opening drums on “Show No Mercy” and lost their shit. Though tracks on Slayer’s debut are normally memorable for their wwailing riffs and cheesily satisfying lyrics, this one’s all Dave. The fills and accents of the song are all tinged with Lombardo’s Latin music-infused unpredictability, which made even the most straightforward of early ‘80s black thrash songs sound like an absolute fucking monster. What a drummer, what a song.
37. “Born of Fire” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
While Seasons in the Abyss saw Slayer edging away from straightforward satanism, it’s as though the band figured the album’s one song about the Devil would be the ultimate one. “Born of Fire” is as on-the-nose in its dedication to Lucifer as songs come, with the narrator screaming about being Satan’s son outright. The track could easily be about how Slayer fans feel inside, but it could also be about some reptilian demon with a barbed tail and septum ring. And that’s why it rules.
36. “Kill Again” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
The beauty of “Kill Again” is its franticness. The track feels genuinely unhinged, racing forward and never stopping. That it lasts over four minutes might surprise some fans given just how speedy it feels. On top of that, the song includes Tom getting to repeatedly shout, “Homicidal MANI-AC!” which feels like a gift from the universe. Fast, crazed, and to the point — Hell Awaits in a nutshell, basically.
35. “Hate Worldwide” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
On this riffy neo-classic from World Painted Blood, Slayer celebrate the most satanic thing of all — themselves. While one could argue that every Slayer song is about Slayer, this one makes a real point of it, referencing the band’s long, storied career and the glee it brings them and their fans. That, plus the song’s epic core riff, automatically made it a song for the ages. Unforgettable, even as one of the band’s lesser-known classics.
34. “Hallowed Point” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
The mixture of ultra-fast and atmospherically slow tracks on Seasons in the Abyss is what makes it great, and “Hallowed Point” is an example of just how fast and angry the record gets. Unlike the other speedsters on Seasons, this one doesn’t feel bound by a narrative or topic — it’s just a flurry of battlefield imagery that actually sounds like the panic one must feel on the front lines. That it lands right in the middle of this nuanced album — right after “Dead Skin Mask,” no less — only elevates its raw, timeless power.
33. “Altar of Sacrifice” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
It’s hard to sound brutal surrounded by some of the most brutal thrash songs of all time, but “Altar of Sacrifice” stands out on Reign In Blood for its sheer savagery. Between the jagged opening accents and the blistering central riff, the track is like a whirlwind of razors and glass. Of course, there’s also the bridge, including the line, “Enter to the realm of SA-TAAAAN…” which makes this a stygian banger of epic proportions. A track without which we might not have death or black metal as we know them.
32.“Stain of Mind” (Diabolus In Musica, 1998)
Hate 1998’s Diabolus In Musica all you want — every critic did when it was released — but don’t act like the opening riff of “Stain of Mind” doesn’t rule. The track has a glorious pit-launching bounce to it that displays how Slayer had begun to understand why fans were coming to their shows in the first place. Sure, one could say it heralds the band’s shift from thrash to brolic occult hardcore, but that doesn’t make that chorus kick any less powerful. No guilty pleasures.
31. “Aggressive Perfector” (Haunting the Chapel EP, 1984)
The obvious strength of “Aggressive Perfector” is its speed — the song is as fast and pissed-off a Slayer track as one can find. But the true power of this track is in its accents. The guitar-drum combo that comes at the end of each “fatal game” in the chorus is awesome, while the isolated riffage on the bridge part adds Lombardian jazziness to this rager. For the diehard fan, this song has all sorts of gems to uncover; for the complete and total thrasher, it’s still just as fast as one can go.
30. “Behind The Crooked Cross” (South of Heaven, 1988)
Sure, Slayer played with a lot of edgelord Nazi themes and imagery, but “Behind The Crooked Cross” proves that they were actually thinking about them, too. The stomping track’s lyrics are from the point of view of a German grunt during the Third Reich who’s “trapped by a cause that [he] once understood” (FYI, the ‘crooked cross’ is a swastika). That human element — the dawning horror of a soldier realizing he’s one of the monsters, not the victims — is what has always set Slayer’s evil apart from that of their peers. Definitely worth a re-listen.
29. “Captor of Sin” (Haunting the Chapel EP, 1984)
When most bands write a sex song, they go slow, heavy, sultry…but not Slayer! No, for their sex track, Slayer perform a ripping thrash number which bids the “harlots of hell” to accept the narrator’s “demon seed.” The track might be a heavily-doctored tribute to Slayer’s groupies at the time (man, imagine being an ‘83 Slayer groupie!), or it might just be a Heavy Metal Magazine-esque homage to naked women with bat wings. We’re down either way!
28. “Spirit In Black” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
“Spirit In Black” is a lot of things — a track with an insane main riff, an Easter egg hunt for diehard Slayer lovers — but more than anything, it’s an awesome tribute to the Slayer fanbase. The song seems to sum up how someone who only feels whole listening to Slayer feels deep down in their souls. As such, it’s both one of the band’s more killer tracks and a rad-ass nod to all of those who live and die by the sword.
27. “At Dawn They Sleep” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
If Slayer are going to write a track about vampires, there ain’t gonna be no ruffly cravats. No, “At Dawn They Sleep” really goes for the ‘80s comic-book nosferatu, horrific undead parasites that blacken the sky on black, leathery wings. That the track includes a chant of “KILL!” speaks to how stark and unholy the band perceives the creatures of the night. Sorry, Cradle of Filth, but we’re here for blood, not absinthe.
26. “Silent Scream” (South of Heaven, 1988)
The frantic pace of “Silent Scream” immediately sets it apart from the other tracks on South of Heaven. Even if it’s not a typical punk-oriented thrash track, the opening riff and double-bass drums bring a sense of panic and death metal intensity to the song. That, coupled with its lyrics about infanticide (and maybe some twisted fantasy of abortion?), make it one of the album’s more hard-hitting cuts. Panic, pain, and horror — nobody does it better.
25. “Necrophobic” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
There might be no Napalm Death without a track like “Necrophobic.” The song is only a minute and forty seconds, but it feels even shorter, only letting up from its totally unhinged pace during a brief bridge moment midway through. Tom’s lyrics are a flurry of bizarre syllables — sitting in the chair? What? — and increase the panic of and confusion of the song, leaving the listener knowing only that whatever’s happening is happening very fast, whether you want to or not. This one’ll leave you gasping for air.
24. “Psychopathy Red” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
When “Psychopathy Red” was dropped as the first single from 2009’s World Painted Blood, fans knew that Slayer were onto something special with this one. Wiry, stark, and focusing on the hard-to-fathom crimes of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, the song was a massive return to form after Slayer’s explorations in the world of muscular groove metal. To this day, “Psychopathy Red” remains some of Slayer’s best post-’90s material, a furious paean to the psychology of murder. You might throw a beer to this one.
23. “Epidemic” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
You just gotta love that jaunty central riff from “Epidemic.” While still a fast-as-fuck thrash song, the track takes its time more than most of the others on Reign In Blood, trundling along at a steady, malevolent tiptoe. The swells and crashes around its chorus also bring a certain power which make things a little more epic than its stark neighbors. Not a track that every Slayer fan always remembers, but when those Lombardo fills kick in, it’s fucking go time.
22. “Skeletons of Society” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
Slayer are often hailed for their ultra-speedy or slow-and-murderous music, but “Skeletons of Society” proves that they can still smash heads at a perfect mid-pace. The track is a painting of the post-apocalyptic landscape that most metalheads feel they live in, with Tom’s vocal echoes on the chorus sounding like the ghosts of the old world moaning as one. The song works perfectly on Seasons In The Abyss, the album on which Slayer graduated from crimson satanism to camo-colored modernism. Detrimental to neck muscles the world over.
21. “Disciple” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
After the underwhelming response to Diabolus In Musica, Slayer needed to kick off 2001’s God Hates Us All with something tremendous, and “Disciple” was exactly what they required. Though it has a speedy section in the middle, the song’s opening riff is a muscular churn that immediately endeared fans of emerging acts like Hatebreed and Slipknot to Slayer’s cause. The move to relatable lyrics also made this a song that newfound fans could chant along to without feeling like spandex-wearing throwbacks. The band’s biggest new classic.
20. “Necrophiliac” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
Sure, Slayer weren’t the first band to write about cracking open a cold one — Alice Cooper has at least two tracks about it — but they were the first ones to confront the topic with unabashed ghoulishness. “Necrophiliac” is a spasming frenzy of demonic lust, emulating the frantic horror of someone deciding to finally go through with the most unthinkable act of all time. Of course, it also ends with a devil baby growing within the fucked corpse, because it’s an early Slayer song, and why not? Make sure the DJ at your kid’s bar mitzvah has this one cued up.
19. “Seasons In The Abyss” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
Not only was “Seasons In The Abyss” a perfect closer to the album by that name, it was also an excellent tombstone at the end of Slayer’s famed three-album cycle. The track is all about looking inward and examining the horrors of one’s self, and after the decade the band had just had, they needed it. That’s what has given the song such staying power — it’s a somber, thoughtful track that’s nonetheless a hard-hitting Slayer classic. Turns out you have a soul, even if it’s damned.
18. “Evil Has No Boundaries” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
There might be no metal song more metal than “Evil Has No Boundaries.” It has everything you’ve ever dreamed of — a bitching central riff, an opening scream, lyrics about axes and the leather being strapped on at midnight, and chorus involving a gang vocal of the word “EVIL!” With this opening track off of Show No Mercy, Slayer let the world know they weren’t here for the nuance — it was pure metal, all the time for them. The perfect soundtrack to blasting your way through the boundaries of Hell.
17. “Unit 731” (World Painted Blood, 2009)
The sleeper gem on 2009’s World Painted Blood, “Unit 731” is a brilliant piece of furious speed metal. This track is Hanneman all over — a hardcore punk riff at its gut, lyrics about the atrocities of Japanese torture divisions in WWII, and a bridge with the line, “I WANT BLOOD!” The more one listens to this track, the more they realize that it’s easily one of Slayer’s finest moments, even twenty-plus years into their careers. An underrated moment of genius.
16. “Black Magic” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
“Black Magic” is a perfect example of what set Slayer apart from other bands from the very beginning of their career. The song’s slow-build, its arch riffs, and its chorus-less charge are all masterful, even as they make up a totally rip-roaring blackened thrash track. That the song comes from the band’s 1983 debut Show No Mercy is sort of astounding, given the talent that went into it. One hears in “Black Magic” so many seeds of Slayer’s later reign; all they needed was hellfire and little blood to bloom into poisonous, predatory vines.
15. “Postmortem” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
The power of “Postmortem” is threefold. First, there’s the regal opening, the sonic equivalent of a demonic church rising from the ground. Then there’s the insane ultra-fast bridge, complete with the age-old question, “DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!” And finally, there’s the outro, moving seamlessly into the plasma storm that opens “Raining Blood.” All of these make this sometimes-forgotten track a vital part of Slayer’s sterling catalog. We’re only after death.
14. “Spill The Blood” (South of Heaven, 1988)
“Come walk with me through endless time…” One doesn’t usually think of Slayer as being cosmic, but “Spill The Blood” sees them piercing the veil to great effect. The song is the ultimate thrash-doom epic, a serrated-edge journey through darkness and madness. That its menacing riffs close out an album where the band pointedly decided to slow down just shows how dedicated they were to the cause. No speed, but plenty of demons.
13. “The Antichrist” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
Well, fuck yeah! There’s just nothing to dislike about “The Antichrist” — the central riff slays, the solos all slay, and the lyrics about being the fucking Antichrist slay. While the song is the most heavy-metal-vomit-party of Slayer’s entire discography, it’s just definitive proof that even metal’s most stone-faced deathmongers knew that this music was all about having a killer time. Kick over a table, pound a beer, and tell your Social Studies teacher to eat ass in Hell.
12. “Criminally Insane” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
Something about “Criminally Insane” sounds like the title’s subject matter. The track’s mid-paced intro with its isolated drum part is menacing in a very real-world, don’t-walk-home-alone kind of way. Meanwhile, the opening line of, “Night will come and I will follow” could easily sound trite in a song about, say, vampires, but in a track about a serial killer it smacks of soul-deep malevolence. Then again, Tom also screams the phrase, “TAKE YOUR FUCKIN’ LIFE!” So don’t worry, Slayer bring the Slayer here.
11. “Payback” (Gods Hates Us All, 2001)
While 2001’s God Hates Us All was packed with songs that would become live staples for Slayer, it was closer “Payback” that embodied why the album was so important for them. Still fast and punkish, but with the band’s typical satanism traded for a profanity-laced tell-off, this track made even Slayer’s thrash stuff easy for modern fans to relate to. This one takes away all of the band’s window dressing and gives listeners something to blast with the windows down after the shittiest day at work. A rabid, nasty, immature nugget of pure gold.
10. “Dead Skin Mask” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
There will never be another song that captures the story of Ed Gein like “Dead Skin Mask.” While it might be simply ghoulish fantasy on the surface, the track actually does a solid job of mapping Gein’s journey, with the “dead cold flesh” of the first verse becoming “dead warm flesh” by the end. Meanwhile, King and Hanneman’s increasingly powerful and hard-hitting guitar accents illustrate Eddie’s growth from isolated necrophiliac to full-blown killer. A chilling song that made one of America’s greatest horrors somehow more horrible.
9. “Hell Awaits” (Hell Awaits, 1985)
In a lot of ways, “Hell Awaits” is the ultimate grassroots Slayer track. The song is truly the first time where the band show their two sides in balance — the fast, bloody aspects, and the grandiose demonic aspects. Together, they form the ultimate metallic death march, a song whose unparalleled speed is excellently tempered by its stone-faced evil. This is the track that the armies of Hell will play as they march upon earth during the End of Days.
8. “Chemical Warfare” (Haunting the Chapel EP, 1984)
With “Chemical Warfare,” Slayer pretty solidly defined their core ethos and aesthetic. ‘Demons watching with glee as mankind kills itself using the modern technology of war’ is a perfect distillation of at least 90% of Slayer’s art and imagery. Meanwhile, the song itself feels like an apt description of their sound as well: stark and fast, but with a looming, Catholic understanding of evil that launches things to new heights. All of which is to say, if you want to listen to a Slayer song to really know what Slayer are about, this is the one.
7. “South of Heaven” (South of Heaven, 1988)
Until 1988’s South of Heaven, Slayer had proved they were fast, mean, and incredibly evil. But on the opening title track of that record, they proved they were huge. “South of Heaven” feels gigantic in its scope, the opening melody suggesting a darkness beyond the gory anthems of Reign In Blood. It taps into the gut-deep damnation behind Slayer’s satanic veneer; the lyrics of the track could describe some post-apocalyptic wasteland, or they could be about the world, right here, in front of you. A turning point that redefined metal.
6. “Die By The Sword” (Show No Mercy, 1983)
While so many of Slayer’s greatest tracks are known for their outrageous lyrics or ambitious themes, “Die By The Sword” is on here just for the fucking riff of it. That central guitar lick kills, with both a rip-roaring party metal vibe and a distinctly sharpened edge that makes this track equally deadly and fun as hell. Though Show No Mercy will always be a beer-chugging album at heart, tracks like these hint at the spiked, sneering attitude that Slayer would later define. Sometimes you just gotta be that guy who leaves the venue with a bloody nose and a big-ass grin.
5. “Angel of Death” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
Slayer will never write a song more iconic than “Angel of Death,” and for good reason. The track’s riffs and momentum are an instant introduction to extreme metal, taking fans out of the rock-derivative skip of thrash and thrusting them into a meat grinder unlike any other. Meanwhile, the lyrics focusing on the war crimes of Nazi scientist Josef Mengele illustrate how willing the band were to broach any subject matter. All of this comes together in a blistering affront to the delicate senses, a horrifying display of a reality that everyone needs to hear.
4. “Ghosts of War” (South of Heaven, 1988)
South of Heaven might have been Slayer’s attempt at writing a slow album, but “Ghosts of War” shows that they couldn’t help but stick a thrash rager in there. With its muted intro kicking into its blitzkrieg riffage, the song creates an unstoppable momentum from the very beginning. Even more impressive is the building sense of urgency that comes before each chorus and the epic death metal breakdown at the very end. Everyone loves this record, but the folks who really know it recognize this as one of its shining moments.
3. “War Ensemble” (Seasons In The Abyss, 1990)
The sheer speed and force of “War Ensemble” will forever make it an unfuckwithable metal classic. Slayer really trimmed every ounce of fat off this one, leaving a lean, explosive anthem to destruction. More so, the song was a philosophical statement for Slayer as they exploded out of the ‘80s and entered the strange new reality of the ‘90s, announcing that they’d moved beyond Miltonian diabolics and onto the battle of staying alive. This is the anthem for everyone who feels like they need to fight the world each morning, who know deep down that victory is to survive and death is defeat.
2. “Mandatory Suicide” (South of Heaven, 1988)
Scythe-blade riffs, war machine drums, and an eerie monologue about one’s bloody demise in the face of all odds — on “Mandatory Suicide,” Slayer not only got heavy, they got poetically real. The track proves that South of Heaven’s purposeful tempo shift in no way hampered Slayer’s unholy sonic might, while the lyrics’ merciless depiction of war in a soldier’s eyes roots the song squarely in reality. The result is a track that not only stands the test of time in the halls of metal, but remains a fascinating peek into the heart of a young soldier in the late ‘80s. Blood’s cheap, it’s everywhere.
1. “Raining Blood” (Reign In Blood, 1986)
With a peal of thunder and kinetic riff, Slayer cemented themselves in the annals of extreme music forever. The guitar part that opens “Raining Blood” is impossible to forget, searing itself into the brain of the listener so that every door knock leaves them singing along. On top of that, the track’s abstract psychological horror has a power that some of their straightforward devil worship never quite reaches. The swiftness, catchiness, and all-out darkness of this track easily elevates it to the top of the heap, making it the Slayer song against which all others will forever be compared, and arguably the greatest metal song of all time. Nothing even comes close.
Words by Chris Krovatin