Slayer likes bad-boy image

JENNY FENIAK -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:44 AM ET

Nothing is ever quite as it seems.

For example, the most evil band in the world is really not that evil, after all.

Slayer's singer, Tom Araya, was raised Catholic, as was drummer Dave Lombardo. And since Slayer's inception in 1982 to Tuesday's show at the Shaw Conference Centre, "It's all about the cool factor - that's the main point," Araya insists during a recent phone interview before the band's show in Houston, Texas.

"If something we find is really cool and gory and graphic, we'll go with it."

The "most evil band in the world" is a loaded claim and even though June 6, 2006, was declared National Slayer Day, by global Hessians (metalheads), the Internet offers many "evil'' alternates, from Slipknot to Britney Spears.

Without an official vote, it's fair to say Slayer has proven itself high in the ranks over the last quarter century and through all the ups and downs of the genre, it's still at the top of its game.

"Our vision of how we see the band has been the same; that's never altered. We've never shied away from what we initially started this band as, but we have grown in all aspects of that," says Araya, who has his son, Tommy, and daughter, Ariel, along for the tour.

Araya's referring to what Slayer was when it first began playing and recording its own original material. Banding together a year before that, Slayer was performing everything from Iron Maiden to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath as a metal cover called Dragonslayer.

It wasn't long before Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, the group's primary songwriters, brought their first couple of original, evil creations to practice and Slayer was officially born.

Both King and Hanneman were 17 at the time, while drummer Lombardo was just 16 and Araya was 20 and working in a hospital as a respiratory therapist.

Kerry and Araya had been in another band that broke up a year prior and out of the blue, Kerry gave the call, saying he had an idea for a new band.

"It sounded amazing, so I was in. It was easy as that. They were into it; we knew the songs, you know. It's kind of hard to find a group of guys that serious about that," says Araya.

They decided the new band needed an image and, coming from Southern California, looked toward Hollywood for inspiration.

"We didn't want to look like all the hair bands that were coming out at the time.

"We didn't want to look like girls; we wanted to look like a bunch of guys putting on makeup like guys. That was a must," explains Araya.

"So we did everything completely opposite of that, which included the dark image, you know, that whole Satan vibe. And our first album being Side 6 Side 66, people were really freaking out over that."

Images of pentagrams, horned beasts and bloody pits of hell fire have always been associated with Slayer, visually and lyrically. But according to Araya, there are really no issues between his Catholic faith and the band's subject matter.

"Kerry's written some really far out s---," admits Araya. "If it's a good song, I'm not one that's going to go, 'This sucks because it's contrary to my beliefs.' To me it's more like, 'This is really good stuff. You're going to piss people off with this.'

"People have these heavy issues and ask, 'Isn't this a problem for you?' and no. I'm well-rounded, I have a really strong belief system and these are just words and they'll never interfere with what I believe and how I feel," he continues.

"People are not in good shape to where they have to question their own belief system because of a book or a story somebody wrote, or a Slayer song."

The tests of time have proven this fact for Lombardo as well. Although he's come and gone from the group a handful of times, he returned a few years ago to tour and eventually record material for Slayer's newest album Christ Illusions, due out August 8.

As the band is now enjoying its original form again, so is the genre of thrash metal and metal in general.

Although a lot of horrible bands surfaced awhile back, says Araya, he's seen and heard some fantastic things lately that are definitely helping the scene that will never truly die.

"(Metal's) like a serpent that comes up out of the water and you see all his ripples and his humps, and then he goes back down into the water to brood for a while and then he comes back up," explains Araya.

"I think right now it's at its momentum. It's above water and it's cruising for awhile.

"Give it a couple years and it'll go back down again and then it will become an underground thing, and then all the kids in the new generation will discover the bands that started it all, and then there'll be reunions ...."


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