Looking back, the early to mid-80s was an incredible time for a teenager obsessed with music. At 16 I was playing in a glam oriented hard rock band (later tagged as hair metal), but I loved punk, new wave, and rock and roll. I was also an underground metal tape trader collecting and trading cassette tapes featuring the demos and live shows of mostly unknown metal bands with people around the world. Of course this was all done through the mail before the Internet made everything accessible 24/7.
Sometime in 1983 I vividly remember receiving a tape from California with three songs from an LA band called Slayer. I had heard of Slayer before, they had a track on the Metal Massacre III compilation, but this three-song demo was the fastest, heaviest, and loudest thing I had ever heard. As a drummer, Dave Lombardo’s frenetic pounding blew me away, and the crunching riffs and tight time changes were mind-boggling.
This week, guitarist and founding member Jeff Hanneman passed away at the age of 49 and I found myself going back through the Slayer catalogue, re-immersing myself in what made them so influential. I saw them live a few times, including an amazing club show in 1984 at Toronto’s legendary punk-metal dive bar – Larry’s Hideaway and a mismatched show opening for W.A.S.P. at the elegant Massey Hall.
My musical tastes have changed and morphed over the years but one thing has remained constant – Slayer’s 1986 masterpiece – Reign In Blood, still rests comfortably in my top 10 records of all time, it is 29 minutes and 3 seconds of sheer power.