A new mini-documentary by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History examines the origins of thrash metal and, more specifically, Slayer. Although the six-minute clip, Slayer: The Origins of Thrash in San Francisco, is innately flawed (the thrashers formed in Los Angeles), it provides a look at how some of metal’s most foreboding luminaries became architects of aggression.
The film, a part of the museum’s Places of (Musical) Invention video series, tells the story of how Tom Araya met guitarist Kerry King, with the pair bonding over a mutual love of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The two musicians – the group’s sole remaining founding members since guitarist Jeff Hanneman died in 2013 and drummer Dave Lombardo parted ways with the group – are joined in the group by their current drummer, Paul Bostaph, and Exodus guitar slinger Gary Holt, who began filling in for Hanneman in 2011 when a debilitating illness forced the guitarist out of the band.
“Banging your head was a big part about metal,” Araya explains of how the subgenre’s culture evolved. “There’s the thrashing up and down, and then there’s the thrashing of the body with the head up and down and then there was the pinwheel. Eventually that evolved to a mosh, and these were all components that were part of punk.” Trash brought punk and metal together, the singer says.
“Slayer is a lifestyle,” King says. “It’s not just a band. It’s not just the music. To these kids coming to the show tonight, they’re going to church.”
Holt, whose band Exodus launched the career of another thrash luminary (Metallica’s Kirk Hammett), hails from San Francisco and provides an in-depth look at how his hometown embraced the burgeoning genre in the early Eighties.
“I think thrash has endured because the music’s honest,” Holt offers. “It’s real. It’s from the heart, and they see that.”
Slayer are currently readying the release of their new album, Repentless, which will come out on September 11th. So far, they’ve shared the songs “When the Stillness Comes,” “Implode” and “Repentless” from the record online.
“I know there’s gonna be naysayers,” King told Rolling Stone of the new album in May. “I know there’s gonna be people expecting us to fail, because so many things changed in the last six years. I’m prepared for that ’cause I know humans are just retards when they get on the Internet. But I know we put a good product together. I’m proud of it.”