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Question: What's the greatest Thrash Metal album of all time?

A. Metallica - Master Of Puppets
B. Slayer - Reign In Blood

Answer: Hey, take your pick. The point is, Slayer's a contender.

Death, annihilation, destruction and an Iron Butterfly cover are all in the Slayer mix. Numerous Metal groups have released the power-ballad single. A pop hit is always good for sales and name recognition. Gets the group on the cover of Rolling Stone and in People magazine (mainstream stuff). It also picks up the nerdy kids who might have missed the buzz. But since the late '70s, there's been a Metal sect led by Judas Priest, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer that refused make such a concession. They haven't suffered for their decision.

Slayer formed in L.A. (okay, Huntington Beach), starting out as a Judas Priest/Iron Maiden covers band. They found Satanic references really wowed the crowd. Two years later they were signed by Metal Blade and released "Show No Mercy." The group nursed its act on Metal Blade before moving to Rick Rubin's Def Jam/American label. There they launched "Reign In Blood" ('86), "South Of Heaven" ('88), "Seasons Of The Abyss" ('90), "Divine Intervention ('94), "Undisputed Attitude" ('96) and "Diabolus In Musica" ('98).

For "The Less Than Zero" soundtrack Slayer covered "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (what, no drum solo?).

In '01, Slayer released "God Hates Us All." While on tour in support of the album, Slayer played San Francisco's Warfield Theater. Two years later, the DVD War At The Warfield arrived containing "South Of Heaven," "Angel Of Death" and "Seasons In The Abyss."

Slayer delivered another blistering studio set, "Christ Illusion," in '06 and that was followed, three years later, by "World Painted Blood," their tenth studio effort. "Things were kept as pure as possible, and I think it shows on this record," said Lombardo. "Things aren't polished. It's great. I am so proud of this record."

Shortly after the album dropped Slayer had to postpone concert dates with Megadeth and a TV appearance (Jimmy Kimmel Live) because bassist Tom Araya was under the care of a physician and had to undergo emergency surgery for a back injury.

"What is foremost in our minds right now is that Tom do whatever he needs to get this taken care of," said guitarist Kerry King in a statement. "While all four of us are disappointed that we won't be able to see through all of our commitments set for the next few weeks, the most important thing is Tom's health." But that wasn't the end of Araya's health issues.

Slayer announced the postponement of the band's '10 American Carnage Tour of North America because Araya was receiving minimally invasive treatments for what was diagnosed as a cervical radiculopathy - a condition linked to the incessant headbanging.

As Araya recovered, guitarist Jeff Hanneman went on the mend due to a near-fatal spider bite he suffered in early '11. Araya stated that the band was waiting for Hanneman to recuperate - which never happened.

Toward the end of the year, drummer Dave Lombardo tweeted that "SLAYER is writing a new record."

But before that happened - and just prior to the launch of an Australian tour - Lombardo told fans on Facebook that a financial dispute resulted in his being replaced for the trek. "Kerry made it clear he wasn't interested in making changes and said if I wanted to argue the point, he would find another drummer," wrote Lombardo, who claimed the group only received 10% or less of tour revenues. Slayer disputed Lombardo's accusations.

"Mr. Lombardo came to the band less than a week before their scheduled departure for Australia to present an entirely new set of terms for his engagement that were contrary to those that had been previously agreed upon," said the group in a statement.

"The band was unable to reach an agreement on these new demands in the short amount of time available prior to leaving for Australia. There is more to the account than what Mr. Lombardo has offered, but out of respect to him, Slayer will not be commenting further."

Slayer brought back former member Jon Dette, who was also the fill-in drummer for Anthrax (subbing for Charlie Benante) on the Aussie tour.

Financial disputes took a back seat when Hanneman died of liver failure on May 2nd, '13, at the age of 49. The spider bite that had kept him out action was thought to be the primary cause. But it was later determined to be alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver.

"Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away this morning," stated the band on their Facebook page. Hanneman co-wrote "Angel Of Death" and "Raining Blood" for the breakthrough album, "Reign In Blood."

Less than a month later, with an international tour looming, Slayer announced that drummer Paul Bostaph had "rejoined the band on a full-time basis." This was Bostaph's third stint with the group. He first joined in '92 after Lombardo left, but bailed four years later, and was replaced by Dette. Bostaph returned in '97 and stayed until Lombardo's '01 return.

"I'm very excited to be rejoining," stated Bostaph. "We spent a very intense ten years of our lives together, had a lot of fun, made a lot of great music. This feels like coming home."

"Repentless," Slayer's eleventh studio album, arrived in '15. It was notable for being the first album to feature guitarist Gary Holt of Exodus and the first with Bostaph since "01's "God Hates Us All." It was also the first post-Hanneman set. But the effort was actually the beginning of the end, even if Slayer saw no need to rush things.

Their extensive Final World Tour kicked off in San Diego. The 2018 - 2019 trek, with North American and European legs, had Lamb Of God, Anthrax and Testament among the supporting acts.

When Holt's father became critically ill and left the tour former Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel was tapped. He said that he was "beyond honored" to fill in for Holt for the remainder of Slayer's European tour.

Slayer  Discography

Studio Albums:

1983 Show No Mercy
1985 Hell Awaits
1986 Reign In Blood
1988 South Of Heaven
1990 Seasons In The Abyss
1994 Divine Intervention
1996 Undisputed Attitude
1998 Diabolus In Musica
2001 God Hates Us All
2006 Christ Illusion
2009 World Painted Blood
2015 Repentless

Here's the Slayer that counts.

1. Reign In Blood ("Angel Of Death," "Criminally Insane" and "Altar Of Sacrifice")
2. Seasons Of The Abyss ("Dead Skin Mask" and "Born Of Fire")
3. Diabolus In Musica ("Stain Of Mind" and "Overt Enemy")
4. Divine Intervention ("Circle Of Belief")
5. South Of Heaven (The title track and "Crooked Cross")

If you want (need) more "Undisputed Attitude" ('98) has Slayer covering Punk classics ("Guilty Of Being White" and Iggy's "I Wanna Be Your Dog"). Also, check out "God Hates Us All." Actually, God hates Rock, shallow celebrities and the evening news (they always get it wrong); but not in that order.

Any concerns that Slayer had slowed between "God Hates Us All" and "Christ Illusion" are unwarranted. The torrid opener "Flesh Storm" is just what you'd expect; spitting vocals and rapid-fire guitar/bass/drums. As if that weren't enough, they crank it up a notch for "Catalyst." "Eyes Of The Insane" has a screaming guitar and a march-like cadence while "Skeleton Christ" is pure Speed Metal. Even the slower tracks, "Catatonic" and "Cult," which aren't all that slow, have intensity to burn. These songs have more power than most groups going full-tilt.

"World Painted Blood" has great riffs, smoking solos and deep throated/rage infused vocals. In other words, Slayer's "stock and trade." It's most pronounced on the title track, "Human Strain," "Not Of This God" and "Unit 731." They get political with "Hate Worldwide" and the critical "Americon" but the lyrics don't slow the torrent.

Just for the record, the guitar solo on "Snuff" is worth the price of admission.

From their early Metal Blade period go for the EP "Haunting In The Chapel" or the full-length "Hell Awaits." The later material is better, but this is where it all began.

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