The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony aired on HBO this weekend. And whenever those ceremonies show up on TV, or a new batch of inductees gets announced online, or anyone even mentions that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a thing that exists, it always gest me thinking about all of the artists that should be in, but aren’t.
You know … like Slayer. It’s an absolute travesty that Slayer has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Seriously. What gives? This is one of the most influential metal groups of all time. It should be a no-brainer.
Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, bassist/vocalist Tom Araya, and drummer Dave Lombardo started Slayer way back in 1982. They released their debut record just a year later.
That debut, Show No Mercy, sounded like Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All after an adrenaline shot to the heart, and the band has been making fierce, unapologetic metal ever since. Slayer’s sound has morphed slightly in the early years, getting progressively heavier and putting Lombardo’s drums higher in the mix, but its primary ingredients—brutal guitar riffs, blistering guitar solos, over-the-top lyrics, aggressive vocals, and lightning-fast drumming—haven’t changed one bit.
Reign in Blood, the band’s 1986 Rick Rubin-produced masterstroke, still stands as one of the best metal albums of all time. And by the time they had released 1988’s South of Heaven and 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss, Slayer’s legacy had been cemented; they were legends among mere mortals.
Here we are in 2016, and Slayer is still out there making new music, putting on concerts, and scaring parents everywhere. There have been changes to the lineup, specifically due to Hanneman’s tragic death in 2013 and Lombardo’s erratic behavior, but King and Araya have kept the spirit of the band unscathed.
But why is Slayer not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It doesn’t add up. They belong there, both to recognize the band’s importance and influence and to help educate fans who tour the hall in person and may not know much about the heavier sides of modern music.
Here are ten reasons Slayer belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Did I miss any?
- They can flat-out play
The low production values of those early pre-Rick Rubin albums may have made it a little harder to tell at first, but the guys in Slayer are masters at their craft. Whether he’s churning out ferocious riffs or soaring through rapid-fire guitar solos, King’s guitar work is always top notch.
Lombardo is an unbridled behemoth behind the kit, and he was dubbed “the godfather of the double bass” for his efforts. He’s been in and out of Slayer since the mid-90s, and the band always sounds at its best when Lombardo is in the mix.
Araya’s vocals are also worth a special mention, because they’re a huge part of the band’s sound. He delivers each line like he’s foaming at the mouth, and you never doubt that he means every last word. In the early days, he could even hit a high note that sounded like it could shatter glass.
More than 30 years after releasing Show No Mercy, Slayer is still going strong. Repentless, released earlier this year, was a heck of a record, and 2006’s Christ Illusion was the best record they had put out since Seasons in the Abyss way back in in 1990.
Slayer will also likely be around at least another 4-5 years, maybe even another decade. And don’t be surprised when their next album is another huge success.
Slayer has made 12 studio albums, as well as a handful of live albums and EPs, and there’s not a single real clunker in the bunch.
The closest thing to a flat-out failure the band has done is probably 1996’s Undisputed Attitude, a compilation of punk covers that was just a strange decision overall. Diabolus in Musica, released in 1998, is probably the Slayer album most fans like the least, but I personally really dig it. I actually did a bit of research online to see why fans dislike the album so much, and the most I can come up with is that a lot of it is “gay” and sounds like “crappy nu metal.” Me? I don’t hear it. Sure, the tempos are slower, and one or two songs might sound a bit like what bands such as Tool were doing at the time, but it still sounds just as unapologetically brutal as ever.
It’s not like Slayer changed up their sound with Diabolus in Musica. It isn’t the band’s Load or its Cryptic Writings. This thing still 100% Slayer, and that one-two punch of “Bitter Peace” and “Death’s Head” is especially impressive.
How many bands that made music for over thirty years don’t have a single dud? It’s a short list, and Slayer is most certainly one of the names on it.
- A refusal to compromise
Despite constantly being surrounded by controversy over their lyrical content and album art, Slayer has stuck to their guns over the years. They’ve ruffled a lot of feathers and turned off countless potential fans along the way, but they haven’t compromised or changed their ways in the least.
Yes, the band’s lyrics are often about death, torture, hell, and Satanism. Yes, they lash out at religion every change they get. And, yes, their album covers are severe enough to scare a small child. They want your attention, and they want to shock you. It’s part of Slayer’s D.N.A.
But it’s just like Alice Cooper in the 70s, or any number of hairspray-soaked hard rock acts from the 80s: Slayer is doing it all for show. Are you offended? Good! Mission accomplished.
The members of Slayer have said again and again that they aren’t actual Satanists, no matter how many times you might hear Araya shout “Hail Satan!” while King plows through another electric solo. They find the darker side of things both interesting and inherently ridiculous, so they often write about them.
Also: the band’s music is also the embodiment of rage. It isn’t like they’re about to start singing about fairies and unicorns, or read off some terrible poetry about breaking up with a girlfriend.
That isn’t what Slayer’s about, and if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.
- A lasting legacy
Slayer has been incredibly influential over the years, inspiring countless young musicians to pick up an instrument and start making as much noise as humanly possible.
You can hear traces of their sound in countless other bands, including In Flames, Strapping Young Lad, Lamb of God, Sepultura, Machine Head, System of a Down, Slipknot, Deafheaven, and about a million others I don’t have time to list right now.
As if that isn’t enough, in this 2014 interview with the Talking Metal podcast, Philip Anselmo said listening to Slayer and personally bonding with King helped his band, Pantera, change from its earlier, more glam-friendly sound to the Pantera we all know today. So it’s no stretch to say that, without Slayer, there’d be no “Cowboys from Hell,” no “Walk,” and no “Drag the Waters.”
Public Enemy even famously sampled the band on “She Watch Channel Zero?!” so the influence goes far beyond just metal.
- What’s in a name?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is for more than just rock and roll. I know it sounds clever to say, “It’s called the rock and roll hall of fame, not the heavy metal hall of fame,” but that ship has sailed. Metallica is in. Johnny Cash is in. Leonard Cohen is in. ABBA is in. Miles Davis is in. The Beastie Boys are in. Albert King is in.
At this point, any argument about the name of the place is dead on arrival.
So put Slayer in. And other metal acts such as Motorhead, Pantera, and Anthrax should be put in while the voters are at it. Just pull that trigger and embrace the dark side already.
- The recent tragedy
In 2013, Hanneman died after severe complications from a spider bite. He had been with the band since the very beginning.
Now don’t misunderstand me: I’m not advocating for artists to go into the hall of fame just because of death. But Lou Reed just got inducted soon after his death, and Linda Ronstadt was tragically inducted in when she was too ill to attend the ceremony in person. So the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters clearly consider tragedy when making their decisions, at least to some degree. And if that is going to play any sort of role for any band, ever, let it play a role for Slayer. Put them in while the rest of the band is around and they can put on the performance of a lifetime on that stage in Cleveland.
Just imagine the scene when the band tears into “Reign in Blood” on that stage with the rock and roll elite sitting at their little tables. It will be glorious.
For a band that never even came close to crossing over into the mainstream, Slayer sold a lot of records. I couldn’t find exact sales figures, and the closest I could come up with was a Billboard article that said they had sold 4.9 million albums sold from 1991 to 2013. So let’s call it 6-7 million records sold overall, shall we?
That sounds like an awful lot to me! I know that sales don’t equal greatness, and I know “Slayer sold a lot of records!” is a pretty lame thing to point out at all. But when I try to think of reasons why they aren’t already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I wonder if it’s because ignorant voters think they just didn’t have enough “hits.” They never had a bunch of chart-topping singles, sure, but their music still ended up in the hands of each and every member of their rabid army of fans.
- Grammy success
Slayer won two Grammy awards for tracks from Christ Illusion and has been nominated a total of five times. Again, like the sales figures I just listed, I’m not saying I personally think this should guarantee a band anything. I know you can find a lot of bad bands that have won a Grammy or two over the years, and I know they are pretty much a complete joke anyway.
But if a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voter is somehow still not convinced that Slayer deserves to be inducted, I would have no problem bringing up the Grammy wins as yet another reason they deserve some serious consideration. It isn’t the start of your pitch; it’s a little fact you throw in at the end when you’re going in for the kill.
- Green Day
Green Day is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Slayer is not. Let that soak in for a minute. This is like Mo Vaughn being in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but not Tony Gwynn.
Dookie is a legitimately good record, but nothing else Green Day ever did comes close. The band that did “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and “American Idiot” gets marched right into the hall, no questions asked, while one of the greatest metal bands of all time doesn’t even make the short list? This does not compute.
In other news: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. John Mellencamp is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lovin’ Spoonful is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now these are all great acts, and I have no separate issue with any of them being inducted, but if they get in, Slayer needs to be there right beside them.
Unfamiliar with Slayer? You’re in luck! The band’s entire discography is available on Spotify, and I made a small playlist to get you started. Listen below …