Some call it speed metal. Others, death metal, thrash metal or black metal. But no matter what people think of Slayer's new album "Divine Intervention," bassist/vocalist Tom Araya considers it one of the band's best to date.
"I really like this record a lot," said the charcoal-haired frontman during a telephone interview. "But we can always do more. But it's a definite progression of what the band is capable of doing with the stuff and style we have now."The demonic grind of Slayer, consisting of Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and new drummer Paul Bostaph, will assault the rafters of the Saltair Pavilion, Saturday, Jan. 28. Special guests Machine Head, Corrosion of Conformity and Biohazard will open. The chaos will begin at 7:30 p.m.
"The new album came out of the past four years of hating life," Araya laughed. "We decided to take more time to bring this one together. We actually went in the studio with more written material than the past. We completed three out of the seven songs outside the studio. We all sort of felt it was important to do it slowly. After the last tour, we had every intension to take the break."
The darkened sounds of Slayer, which many consider the father of grindcore thrash, began in 1982, the same time fellow metal maniac Metallica formed. But Slayer sounds somewhat darker, sinister and hateful. It rose to infamous status because of its aggressively controversial lyrics depicting death, war, destruction and symbolism.
"I never thought I'd be in a death metal band," Araya confessed. "In fact, when I was growing up, the radio stations played what was called Top 40. Any hit song - whether it be country, pop, rock or funk - was all played on the same station. There wasn't this categorical radio dial. During the latter part of the 1960s to early 1970s, when Led Zeppelin was big, I listened to everything. Then I stopped because of disco."
In the late '70s, Araya got a phone call from King.
"He told me about this new sound of heavy music which I had never heard of before," remembered Araya. "I knew about punk, but Kerry made this other style called `death metal' more interesting. I had to listen to the songs. So I bought up a couple of albums and said `This is cool."'
In the beginning, Slayer, with original drummer Dave Lombardo, thrashed out versions of Iron Maiden and Deep Purple in a garage before playing the clubs up and down the L.A. Strip.
"We started during the big Motley Crue trip," Araya said. "Our music then wasn't as accessible as the glam thing. So we played our heads off."
It was during one of those club shows that Metal Blade Records President Brian Slagel heard Slayer and offered the band a cut on his "Metal Massacre" series compilations. Slayer's first recording became "Aggressive Perfector."
Soon after, Metal Blade released two full-length Slayer albums, "Show No Mercy" and "Hell Awaits." Each album was filled with graphic scenes of death, destruction and disenfranchisement.
In 1986, Slayer became the first metal act to sign with Rick Rubin's Columbia distributed rap label Def Jam. That label released what some may consider Slayer's masterpiece, "Reign in Blood."
The album was so vicious, Columbia severed its ties with Rubin. Still, Rubin believed in Slayer and kept it on his independent label, Def American - which became American - respectively.
"Each of our albums are what we perceived what was happening in the world at that time," Araya said. "`Rein' is so full of anger - that's why it's so fast. `South of Heaven' was more experimental and slower, and `Seasons in the Abyss' was filled with more situations as seen though the eyes of victims."
In 1992, tensions in the band snapped. Just before the Monsters of Rock show in Downington, Calif., Lombardo and the band parted ways.
"He just didn't want to do it anymore," said Araya. "He didn't seem committed to the band and almost appeared to avoid us. So we called Paul and had him come in."
Bostaph joined Slayer after leaving Forbidden. When Slayer played the Monsters gig, Bostaph played with such precision and accuracy, fans thought it was Lombardo back behind the drums.
"The response was incredible," Araya quipped. "`Divine' is Paul's debut with us. And he's just one of those kinds of guys who really had no trouble fitting in. He's articulate and not one-dimensional. He is actually part of the discussion and wants to discuss problems and concerns. That's important."