King + Lombardo Planned to Form New Band Before Hanneman Died

Slayer officially retired after playing their final show on Nov. 30, 2019 and it was something Tom Araya had wanted to do for a long time, even going back to when Dave Lombardo was still in the band (he was dismissed in 2013). The drummer revealed he and guitarist Kerry King had intended to form a new band, knowing Araya was eyeing retirement. And this was all before Jeff Hanneman died in 2013.

Lombardo spoke about various junctures in his illustrious career as a guest on “The Ex-Man” podcast, hosted by Bad Wolves and God Forbid guitarist Doc Coyle. In the interview, the drummer noted Araya’s long-standing desire to get off the road for good, which prompted him and King to plot the formation of a new band and, it turns out, they had their eyes on Exodus axeman Gary Holt.

“When I was [still] in the band, I knew Tom wanted to retire. I knew he wanted to stop,” said Lombardo, who continued, “Actually, Kerry and I were gonna start a new band after Tom’s retirement. And we were actually scouting guitar players.”

Festival grounds are a natural spot to start scoping out potential band members and the two capitalized on the opportunity while playing Hellfest in France.

“We said, ‘Hey, let’s go see Exodus.’ And so Kerry and I walked over to the stage where Exodus was playing, and we stood on the side of the stage, stage left, and were watching Gary,” added the drummer, who clarified, “Jeff was still in [Slayer at that point], Jeff was still playing, Jeff was fine.”

“And I told [Kerry], I go, ‘There’s our guy right there,'” Lombardo said in reference to Holt. “‘That’s the guitar player we need,'” he recollected. Due to Hanneman’s untimely death, Holt was eventually tabbed as the guitarist’s replacement, remaining with Slayer from 2013 through their final gig last year.

Further detailing the idea to form a new band, Lombardo said, “We didn’t tell Gary — I don’t think we had told Gary that Kerry and I were going to start a new band, but he was the first choice when that moment came [to replace Jeff in Slayer]. And I agreed, everybody agreed. And Jeff agreed as well, because he knew — he knew.”

The lineup featuring Araya, King, Lombardo and Holt was short-lived as Lombardo was let go from Slayer in February of 2013 after raising questions about Slayer’s tour finances and band member payouts.

Although he didn’t get to perform with the band he was an original member of on their farewell tour, he has a rosy viewpoint. “As far as I’m concerned, I played the first show with the original Slayer, and I played the last show with the original Slayer, and I’m happy with that. It was a brilliant band. We made some history. And I wish them well. But there’s nothing, man,” stated the drummer.

With Slayer retired, King is intent on staying active musically and has said he has two solo albums worth of material already written. Time will tell if he and Lombardo ever link back up.

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30 Years Ago: Slayer Release ‘Seasons in the Abyss’

After releasing their speed-freak thrash metal manifesto Reign in Blood in 1986, Slayer slowed down their tempos for 1988’s South of Heaven. But it was on Seasons in the Abyss, which came out October 9, 1990, that Slayer found a confident middle ground between sheer velocity and malicious mid-paced chugging.

The band started working on the new songs almost immediately after getting off tour. Continuing from the war and real-life atrocity themes they successfully explored on South of Heaven, Slayer crafted songs about the horrors of the battlefield, nuclear war, street gangs and, of course, serial killers.

“I just think we just wanted to keep being Slayer,” guitarist Kerry King told me in 1994. “There were a lot of bands that had built careers by copying what we had done and we wanted to show everyone we could still do it better.”

Slayer, “War Ensemble”

Guitarist Jeff Hanneman worked on the music for seven of the 10 songs on the album (two with King), but only contributed lyrics to two songs, “War Ensemble” and “Hallowed Point,” which he wrote with bassist and vocalist Tom Araya. The singer wrote lyrics for four other songs on his own, while King wrote music on his own for three songs and lyrics for four.

“Back then we collaborated a little more on stuff,” Araya said. “I worked with Kerry on ‘Expendable Youth.’ Jeff, Kerry and I all wrote ‘War Ensemble’ together. We knew we had great songs and we wanted the lyrics to be as powerful as they could be as well.”

In March, 1990 Slayer entered Hit City West studio in Los Angeles with producer Rick Rubin. Over the next four months the band also worked at Hollywood Sound and Record Plant. “I don’t remember anything really special about the recording session,” King says. “We were all just excited to get these songs out there. It felt like the session went pretty smoothly.”

One of the highlights of the album, and a longtime staple of the band’s live show, was “Dead Skin Mask,” a song based on the nefarious deeds of Plainfield, Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who, in the 50s, made trophies out of his victim’s bones, skin and organs. “Jeff wrote the music and I took off with the lyrics,” Araya said. “I just pictured what it must be like to be in this guy’s head. You’ve got to be really f—ed up to cut up people’s faces and make masks out of them.”

Slayer, “Dead Skin Mask”

Seasons in the Abyss reached number 40 on the Billboard album chart, which, at that point, was Slayer’s highest position in their career. The album went gold in April, 1993. Slayer supported Seasons in the Abyss with a lengthy tour that included the legendary Clash of the Titans tour, which included Megadeth, Anthrax and Alice in Chains (a European version preceded the U.S. dates, but replaced Anthrax and Alice in Chains with Testament and Suicidal Tendencies)

“There might have even been talk of a ‘Big Four’ tour back then, but we probably couldn’t get Metallica onboard,” said King. “But it was a big to do, man, and people came out for it. At the time, that was the biggest tour we had been on and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends, co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.

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Ellefson: Mustaine’s Guitar Playing Changed Kerry King’s Life

In 1984, Slayer‘s Kerry King enjoyed a brief stint as the second guitar player in Megadeth, serving as one of the band’s live members. Megadeth’s David Ellefson looked back on this moment in the band’s history in a podcast interview with Todd Kerns (bassist for Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators), noting how Dave Mustaine‘s guitar playing in particular changed King’s life.

“Kerry King was incredible,” praised Ellefson, who reflected on those 1984 memories.

Explaining how King landed a role in Megadeth, Ellefson continued, “We were looking for a second guitar player to do these gigs when we debuted the band in 1984 up in San Francisco… There was a couple of guys around, and then Kerry was maybe referred to us by somebody. And he came in.”

By then, Slayer had already released their debut album, Show No Mercy, the year prior. Meanwhile, Megadeth were still gaining their footing, having released their Last Rites demo in March of ’84 after forming the band once Mustaine had been dismissed from Metallica in ’83.

“At that time, Slayer still had makeup. Slayer didn’t really have their indentity yet,” added Ellefson, who detailed, “They grew up in Southern [California], so there was a lot of influences [from Los Angeles]. So Kerry comes to play guitar with us. And he would stand there with just no expression on his face and watch Dave play some gnarly riff like ‘Chosen Ones’ or ‘The Conjuring’, and then Kerry would just stand there and then he’d put his hand on his guitar and play it back note for note. And you’re, like, ‘Holy hell! This guy really gets Dave.'”

Even before being recruited by Megadeth, King had idolized Mustaine from afar.

“[Kerry] always said… he goes, ‘I saw Dave play with Metallica opening for Saxon at the Whisky,’ and he said, ‘It changed my life. Watching Dave in particular, it changed my life.’ So [Mustaine] kind of became a mentor and a role model. So [King] was super happy to be in Megadeth,” Ellefson recalled.

It wasn’t long before Slayer made the decision to ditch the makeup either as the Megadeth bassist went on, “And then when we went up to San Francisco, [King] saw the thrash scene and met the Exodus guys and all that was going on, and Kerry saw the light. And he went back home to L.A. and wiped the makeup off of Slayer’s faces.”

Wacth Kerry King play with Megadeth further down the page.

More than 35 years later, Slayer may have retired, but King is still going and is said to have two full length albums worth of solo music prepared. As for Megadeth, they’ve long been at work on the successor to 2016’s Dystopia, which will hopefully be released in 2021.

David Ellefson Speaks With Todd Kerns

Kerry King Plays Live With Megadeth in 1984

See Megadeth + Slayer in the Top 50 Thrash Albums of All Time

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When Slayer’s Kerry King Was in Megadeth

Prior to scoring fame as a member of Slayer, guitarist Kerry King enjoyed a brief stint in Megadeth.

The tenure occurred in April of 1984, just a few months after the release of Slayer’s debut album Show No Mercy. The guitarist was in Northern California when a mutual friend connected him with Megadeth.

“We were looking for a second guitar player to do these gigs when we debuted the band in 1984 up in San Francisco,” David Ellefson, Megadeth’s bassist and co-founder, recalled during an appearance on Todd Kern’s YouTube channel. “And he came in. At that time, Slayer still had makeup. Slayer didn’t really have their identity yet.”

Almost immediately, the bassist was blown away by King’s prodigious talent. “He would stand there with just no expression on his face and watch Dave [Mustaine] play some gnarly riff like ‘Chosen Ones’ or ‘The Conjuring’,” Ellefson explained. “And then [King] put his hand on his guitar and played it back note for note. And you’re, like, ‘Holy hell! This guy really gets Dave.’”

“I was an admirer of Mustaine, ’cause I saw Metallica play with Mustaine,” King revealed in a 2010 interview with Artisan News Service. “I was blown away by how good that kid was.”

King played roughly five shows with Megadeth before returning to Slayer and his Southern California home.

Watch Kerry King Playing with Megadeth During a 1984 Performance

“It’s funny, because when Kerry played with us, he would still wear his Slayer colors. We didn’t, so we would be there with high-tops and sneakers on and Kerry would be there with nails for days everywhere,” Mustaine recalled. “We had a great time, man. He’s a really smart player and he was able to learn the stuff that I wrote really quickly.”

Despite their shared musical respect, the relationship between King and Mustaine went through trying times, with the rock rivals often airing their dirty laundry in interviews. Much of the animosity stemmed from 1991’s Clash of the Titans tour, a trek which featured Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Alice in Chains and a lot of behind-the-scenes tension.

For decades, the two traded insults. In 2005, following comments from Mustaine questioning King’s talent, the Slayer rocker referred to Megadeth’s frontman as a “cocksucker,” calling Mustaine a “miserable person.”

Despite these feelings, Slayer and Megadeth would join forces for the 2010 American Carnage tour, and later, the vaunted “Big 4” performances.

By 2015, things had lightened slightly. In a conversation with Loudwire, King fondly remembered his brief stint with Megadeth. “It was good time back then,” the guitarist admitted. “[Mustaine] was cooler back then. I think there’s been a lot of drugs and extracurriculars between now and then,” King went on to opine. The Slayer rocker then threw in an additional barb, saying that he didn’t understand “how anybody can be in Megadeth for more than a couple of hours, because that guy’s crazy.”

“We’ve had a very up-and-down relationship over the years, because, as you know, Kerry is very outspoken, and sometimes he’s joking about somebody and sometimes he’s not,” Mustaine explained in a 2018 interview with Rock and Roll Garage. “But he’s been a great friend, and I have tremendous respect for what Slayer’s done.”

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The 66 Best Metal Songs of the 21st Century

Since 2000, metal has shape-shifted drastically. From primal nu-metal and core anthems, to the zenith of tech-death and prog, to a revival of classic thrash and occult doom, and post-genre amalgamations filled with contrary dynamics, metal remains the most innovative and fascinating subculture on the planet.

Metal ain’t dead, folks. It’s just evolved at speeds never seen before in popular culture.

Looking deep into the 21st century, we’ve pulled metal’s most important and influential gems from Y2K to present day. While enough time has passed for tracks like Tool‘s “Lateralus,” System of a Down‘s “Chop Suey!” and Opeth‘s “Blackwater Park” to reach iconic status, we’ve also given love to more recent cuts which forced metal to expand its horizons. You’ll find tracks by genre benders such as Scarlxrd, Zeal & Ardor and Babymetal, who sprouted new branches on metal’s family tree to mass acclaim, setting themselves up for possible legendary status in the near future.

The 21st century has been a diverse and experimental one, so delve deep by checking out our picks for The 66 Best Metal Songs of the 21st Century in the gallery below.

The 66 Best Metal Songs of the 21st Century

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Slayer Albums Ranked

Are you ready for a fight?

Because that will be the inevitable outcome as we proceed to rank the 11 studio albums in Slayer’s incredible discography, which, despite the band’s occasional tinkering over the years, remains the living definition of thrash metal.

Of course, it was Slayer, along with fellow Big Four peers Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, who pretty much codified the style that took heavy metal by storm in the 1980s, spawning several worthy secondary bands and countless hopeless imitators, to say nothing of virtually every subsequent branch of extreme metal: death, black, grind, you name it.

And then, when thrash metal’s initial inexorable onslaught gave way to these ensuing musical innovations, beginning in the 1990s, it was the men of Slayer who remained steadfastly loyal to the cause, refusing to pervert their sound so as to fit in with the times (we won’t name names – hint, hint) and, thus, earning the virtually unassailable respect their recorded legacy still commands today.

Still fighting!

Slayer Albums Ranked

Every Slayer Song Ranked

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19 Years Ago: Slayer Release ‘God Hates Us All’

When Slayer released their eighth studio album God Hates Us All on Sept. 11, 2001, the band, like all of us, had no idea of the horrific events that would happen that day. And while the title of that album may have been very fitting at the time of the 9/11 tragedy, God Hates Us All was a merciless attack on religion, complacency and conformity that stands as one of the band’s most vicious, unrepentant releases to date.

The unrelenting barrage of the leadoff track “Disciple,” with its screamed chorus “God hates us all,” is indicative of the astonished and hate-filled reaction most of the world had to the events of 9/11. Viewed outside of the context of its release, God Hates Us All is a bludgeoning return to form following the underwhelming 1998 album Diabolus in Musica. Some critics even called it Slayer’s most inspired offering since 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss.

Slayer, “Disciple”

One reason the record impacts with so much urgency and energy is because the band worked on it for more than a year, and during that time they kept getting interrupted by touring commitments. Guitarists and songwriters Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King started writing songs for the album that became God Hates Us All in the spring of 1999. Their first major diversion was Ozzfest 1999, then came Tattoo the Earth.

“I was fed up with touring at that point and I really wanted to do another record,” Hanneman told me in 2009. “A lot of shit built up inside of me and I wanted to get it all out with something really heavy.”

In 2000, when Slayer were ready to start recording, producer Rick Rubin told them he didn’t want to work on another violent, aggressive album and suggested the band track the record with producer Matt Hyde. The band tried him out on the song “Bloodline,” which appeared in the film Dracula 2000. The collaboration went well and Slayer and Hyde entered Bryan Adams’ The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, in spring 2001.

“There was definitely no love lost between us and Rick,” King said. “We didn’t want to work with him again. We wanted a change. And when we tried working with Matt [Hyde] it seemed to go okay, so we did the record with him.”

King wrote seven of the songs on the album, including the ferocious “Payback” ( which featured the lyrics “For my own peace of mind I’m going to/ Tear your fucking eyes out, rip your fucking flesh off/ beat you till you’re just a fucking lifeless carcass”). Hanneman wrote four tunes and the pair collaborated on “Bloodline.” King wrote lyrics for nine of the songs and Hanneman and Tom Araya wrote the rest.

Slayer, “Payback”

“When I work with Jeff we tend to be pretty much on the same page,” Araya said. “Kerry likes doing everything himself so when he writes lyrics, that’s it. That’s what I’m going to sing. But with Jeff, he’s pretty open to my ideas. He does lyrics as well, and I’ll look at what he has and put my own thoughts in there and it will end up being a real collaboration.”

Soon after entering the studio, Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph tracked his drums. Then, Slayer recorded guitars, bass and vocals. “The sessions went smooth,” Araya said. “I really screamed a lot, maybe more than usual, but it seemed to fit the songs. Looking back at it later I kind of felt some of it was screaming for the sake of screaming, but no one else seemed to mind.”

Regarding the brutality of lyrics like, “I keep the bible in a pool of blood so that none of its lies can affect me” (“New Faith”) and “You make me want to slit my own fucking throat just so I’ll be rid of you” (“Exile”), King shrugged: “It’s Slayer, dude. It’s supposed to be brutal. If it didn’t piss some people off I think we wouldn’t be doing our job. I’m the first to admit Slayer’s not for everybody. If you don’t fuckin’ like it don’t fuckin’ listen to it.”

Once Slayer finished recording God Hates Us All they headed back on tour. The day before 9/11, the band was home in L.A. Unswayed by the fear of terrorism and the hesitance of many musicians to use commercial airlines, Slayer started touring for the album Sept. 18 in Leuven, Belgium. The band returned to the U.S. to play shows that began Oct. 29 in New Orleans.

Slayer Live — 2001

Bostaph suffered an elbow injury in late 2001, prompting him to quit Slayer on Dec. 7, after nine years in the band. “Paul did a fantastic job, but he told us he was having tendonitis in his elbow and he couldn’t play our stuff anymore because it was too fast,” King said. “The next thing I knew, he was playing in Testament and Exodus. I just thought that was weird because we got along and everything when he was in the band and we never had a falling out. He was out after the first part of the God Hates Us All tour, and we were up for a big, giant cycle. So Jeff brought up the idea of playing with Dave [Lombardo] again, and I said, ‘Well, fuck, if you’re into it, I’ll give it a whirl.’

For founding drummer Lombardo, who had left Slayer in 1992, returning to his roots was a natural evolution. So when the opportunity presented itself he jumped back into the fire. “Almost 10 years had passed since I had left, and I was excited and wanted to do it,” he said. “But I was also like, ‘Wait, what are the personalities like? Am I gonna get along with them?’ But as soon as we got back together everything from the past was water under the bridge. It was like, ‘You guys did your own thing, I did my own thing. We both proved to ourselves we could survive without each other. Now let’s go out and destroy.’”

Lombardo played the rest of the God Hates Us All tour, then worked with the band on the albums Christ Illusion and World Painted Blood. He parted ways with Slayer in 2013 and was again replaced by Bostaph.

Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends, co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.

Every Slayer Song Ranked

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