Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California, formed in 1981 by guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo. Slayer rose to fame with its 1986 release Reign in Blood, and is credited as one of the "big four" thrash metal bands, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Since its debut album in 1983, the band has released twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six music videos, two extended plays and a cover album. Four of the band's studio albums have received gold certification in the United States. The band has received five Grammy nominations, winning one in 2007 for the song "Eyes of the Insane", and one in 2008 for the song "Final Six" (both from 2006's Christ Illusion). Slayer has also played at several music festivals worldwide, including Unholy Alliance, Download and Ozzfest.
Slayer's musical style involves fast tremolo picking, double bass drumming, riffs in irregular scales and shouted vocals. In the original line-up, King, Hanneman, and lead vocalist/bassist Tom Araya contributed to the band's lyrics, and all of the band's music was written by King, Hanneman and Lombardo. The band's lyrics and album art, which cover topics such as murder, serial killers, necrophilia, torture, genocide, human experimentation, Satanism, hate crimes, terrorism, religion, antireligion, Nazism, and warfare, have generated album bans, delays, lawsuits, and criticism from religious groups and the public. However, its music has been highly influential, often being cited by many bands as an influence musically, visually, and lyrically. Between 1991 and 2013, the band sold 4.9 million albums in the United States.
Early years (1981–1983)
Slayer was founded in 1981, when drummer Dave Lombardo met guitarist Kerry King. Upon meeting, the two quickly discovered they had similar taste in music and in their aspirations. King soon introduced guitarist Jeff Hanneman and recruited Chilean-born bassist and vocalist Tom Araya, who had played with King before in the band Quits (previously known as Tradewinds). The band played cover versions of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs at clubs and parties in Southern California. Early shows relied on a Satanic image, which featured pentagrams, make-up, spikes, and inverted crosses. Rumors that the band was originally known as Dragonslayer, after the 1981 movie of the same name, were denied by King, as he stated: "We never were; it's a myth to this day." The band was invited to open for Bitch at the Woodstock Club in Anaheim, California, performing eight songs, six of which were covers. While playing a gig, the band was spotted by Brian Slagel, a former music journalist who had, at the time, recently founded the label Metal Blade Records. Impressed with Slayer, he met with the band backstage and asked them to record an original song, "Aggressive Perfector", for his upcoming Metal Massacre III compilation. The band agreed and the song created underground buzz, which led to Slagel offering the band a recording contract with Metal Blade.