Slayer vs. Slayer: When Two Bands Named Slayer Shared One Stage

Francis from Groningen, Netherlands, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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It happens more often than you might think. Depending on the kind of emotions the music is trying to project, there are a limited number of words that fit into the necessary aesthetic mold of an appropriate band name. This leads to multiple groups with the same name existing at any given time.

Believe it or not, there were two thrash bands named Slayer existing in the same orbit in the early 1980s, and they once played a show together.

The Slayer that we all know came into existence on the outskirts of Los Angeles in 1981. At roughly the same time, another thrash band called Slayer emerged in San Antonio, Texas. Both bands recorded new music in 1982. According to guitarist Bob Catlin of the San Antonio Slayer, the band had finished making their Prepare to Die EP six months before the Los Angeles Slayer released Show No Mercy. However, Prepare To Die went unpressed by San Antonio Slayer’s label, Rainforest Records. The reasons are unclear, but speculation is that Rainforest became aware of Los Angeles Slayer’s relationship with the much more powerful Metal Blade Records and feared legal reprisal.

After San Antonio Slayer finally secured distribution with another label, they were indeed served with a cease and desist by Metal Blade. Cautious of legal action, the band added the initials “S.A.” (for San Antonio) to their name. However, the damage was already done. S.A. Slayer would soon throw in the towel, but not before the two bands shared a stage on their home turf.

While on the Haunting the Chapel tour in 1984, a Texas production company called Omni Entertainment got both bands to agree to a gig they called “Slayer vs. Slayer: Battle of the Bands” during Slayer’s stop in San Antonio. Catlin, who worked at a Hastings Records location in a local mall, befriended Los Angeles Slayer during their in-store appearance earlier that day. He would tell the San Antonio Current in 2015: “Later [that] afternoon, Kerry King looks at his watch and proclaims to his bandmates, ‘Well, I guess it’s time to go downtown and meet this other fucking Slayer band,’ looks me right in the eye and goes, ‘What do you know about ’em?'”

“I said, ‘Well, I’m the original guitar player.’ Jeff Hanneman looks at me and goes, ‘But you’re cool.’ I said, ‘Man, we’re all cool. Y’all won, we lost, it’s over.'”

“So these guys kind of freak out because they were expecting all this aggro bullshit. But, the fact that I had spent the whole day with them kind of diffused all of that.”

The gig itself has gone down in heavy metal history. According to Catlin: “As we were walking off the stage somebody jumped on my back, licked my ear and yelled ‘You guys kicked ass! You guys kicked ass!’ … I threw off said person, all UFC-style… it was Jeff Hanneman from Slayer. I don’t know too many people that can brag about giving a suplex to the cool guy from Slayer.”

At their last San Antonio show in 2018, Tom Araya wore a shirt of the “Battle of the Bands” flier. Photos can be found on the S.A. Slayer Facebook page.

Who actually won that night? A bootleg of the event exists, so you can judge for yourself via YouTube.

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