This year marks thrash metal's 30th anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than watching one of the Big Four bands that helped to bring it to the masses?
Tonight, Slayer will bring their pulse-pounding metal to the South Side Ballroom at Gilley's in Dallas. It's their first tour since guitarist Jeff Hanneman's death early this year from complications due to liver failure. They planned a memorial to their legendary bandmate, but plans for that element of this tour fell through.
"We had put together a nice stage setup and management dropped the ball on it," says frontman Tom Araya of his band's memorial to Hanneman in a recent phone interview. "It was something we wanted to do, and they dropped the ball. And I'm throwing them under the bus for it. They messed up. It was something I felt was really important to do."
In an email, management told us they wound up canceling because it was going to cost too much.
See also: Jeff Hanneman of Slayer is Dead
Earlier this year, Hanneman was in a California hospital recovering from necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease people who suffer from chronic liver disease are susceptible to contract. In 2011, he was bitten by a brown recluse spider. "Didn't even feel it," he later told Classic Rock magazine. "But an hour later I knew I was ill." The spider's bite had become infected.
At their upcoming show in Dallas, Araya and the rest of the band -- Kerry King, Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt (formerly of Exodus), who filled in for Hanneman when he fell ill -- had originally planned to honor their fallen brother's memory with a special tribute. Now it's just a backdrop with Hanneman's Heineken logo.
"But the fact that we're playing Slayer music, that's a memorial in itself," Araya says. "Like I said, the majority of the stuff that we play live is all Hanneman's music." It was the ball-crushing sound of hard rock acts such as Iron Maiden, Venom and Queen that influenced Hanneman to combine elements of punk rock with the growling rhythms of Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi. He not only wrote the songs, but he also helped other band members like King put together ideas.
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Araya's been fronting Slayer since its early beginnings. Hanneman was a telemarketer and had met Slayer's other guitarist, King, when they auditioned for the same band. Araya had jammed with King in another band called Quits. Former drummer Dave Lombardo was delivering pizza to the guys and later asked to join their new band.
In 1986, Slayer released their third album, Reign in Blood, and critics hailed it as the best thrash metal album of all time. Their fourth album South of Heaven produced two of their most influential songs -- "South of Heaven" and "Mandatory Suicide."
Thirty years later, Slayer is still dominating stages with their mind-crushing metal.
"Dude, earplugs, I recommend them," Araya says. "I wear hearing aids. Thirty years of playing loud music on stage. Thirty years of not making any effort to protect them. I lost 10 to 20 percent of my hearing. One side is worse than the other."
Araya wears his hearing aids at home, but as soon as he hits the stage with his band Slayer, he takes them out. "Everything is loud enough as it is," he says and laughs. "My hearing's not that bad that I can't hear the music we're playing."
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And it was at home where Araya learned that his friend and bandmate had passed away. He'd been sending him text messages about Hanneman's new song.
"He shared it with everybody," Araya says. "I listened to it and thought it was great. I knew exactly what he wanted. I could hear it, and I talked to him about it. He was like, 'Yeah, that's what I'm trying to do. I want to beef up the guitar sound and do more guitar chord harmonies.' He was just explaining to me the song, and I told him I'd listen to it and come up with something as far as lyrical and melody ideas."
The guys are working on a follow-up to 2012's World Painted Blood, and plan to include Hanneman's final song on the album.
"Before, when we were playing and doing these shows without Jeff, there was hope that he would come back," Araya says. "I always felt that he would come back and be part of what we do."