Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be Brian Slagel. Does he go to bed each night with a smile, thinking, “Damn, I introduced Metallica and Slayer to the world”? Or does he lie awake in a cold sweat wondering, “Why I did I sign Goo Goo Dolls and I Killed the Prom Queen?” Slagel generally has sharp A&R; instincts, though, and Slayer was his plum signing. To see enough potential in them as a cover band to coax originals from them – what a master stroke.
I wish I had heard Show No Mercy when it came out 25 years ago today. It must have blown minds at the time. Even now, it’s electric. Slayer didn’t sound like Slayer yet – Venom and NWOBHM influences were still explicit – but they were already deadly. Dave Lombardo’s kicks were already thundering, and the guitars were fluently precise. Reportedly this album took anywhere from eight hours to a week to record. Whatever the case, it wasn’t long. Since studio magic was not in its budget, the band worked the old-fashioned way, with songs and performances. “The Antichrist,” “Die By the Sword,” and “Black Magic” hung around on setlists for a while. I’m partial to the galloping NWOBHM-isms of “Crionics,” which was sadly mothballed after 1984. Maybe south of heaven, Slayer will roll it out again.