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Slayer returns to true form

click to enlarge Slayer: 20 years later, and still thrashing.
  • Slayer: 20 years later, and still thrashing.

In case you're keeping track at home, the world didn't end on 6/6/6. In fact, while doomsayers warned of the apocalypse, Slayer bassist Tom Araya reveled in the day, even lighting candles in celebration.

But it wasn't for the reason you might think.

"That's a great day," says Araya, calling from New Jersey. "People were saying, "This is Doomsday.' That was my birthday. It's an awesome day."

Publicists couldn't dream up a better scenario, and Slayer couldn't resist taking advantage of the once-in-a-century calendar date. The band released EP Eternal Pyre, which includes the new track "Cult." This mini-release acts as an appetizer for fans, who can expect full-length Christ Illusion in August.

More importantly, it's the first release by all original members Araya, Kerry King (guitar), Jeff Hanneman (guitar) and Dave Lombardo (drums) since 1990's Season in the Abyss. Even though Slayer is nearing the quarter-century mark, it feels like a new chapter for the influential speed/thrash metal act.

Perhaps even more surprising is that Slayer remains relevant in a metal world that has reinvented itself more times than they can count. And they've achieved elder status among today's contemporary groups.

"When people say we're an influence, we say, "Wow,'" Araya says. "We don't know how to respond to that, because it's not something we sit around and think about. It's flattering, and with some of these bands you kind of wonder, "What part of your band did we influence?' Because you don't really hear it. But I just think it's the attitude: "They did their own noise, and we can do it, too.'"

Proving Slayer's stranglehold on the metal scene is the debut of their own touring festival. The "Unholy Alliance Tour: Preaching To The Perverted" features contemporary acts Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, Mastodon and Thine Eyes Bleed, with Slayer headlining.

Araya isn't coy when discussing the impetus for the tour.

"Basically, it's an alternative to [Ozzfest], because there's a lot of kids out there that don't really care for Ozzfest," Araya says. "And they basically go to the second stage [at Ozzfest], which is the stage that has the underground and heavy bands that a lot of them want to see, and it's usually one or two bands out of the 30 that play."

Araya says the future of Slayer remains bright. The band is producing their best music to date, and he's witnessed firsthand original fans passing the music down to new generations.

It's almost a rite of passage among old-school metal lovers to turn someone on to Slayer's definitive 1986 classic, Reign in Blood. So, did Araya know at the time that the album would last two decades?

"Hell no," Araya says. "In our case, we had a dream, and the dream was to be in a band. It just kind of took off on its own. That's the best, because everything is a surprise.

"We've hit milestones way beyond what I thought the band could achieve. When we did our first album, that was enough for me. Now, we're like nine or 10 albums down the line. I'm like, "Wow, this is crazy.'"
capsule

"The Unholy Alliance Tour: Preaching to the Perverted," featuring Slayer

Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver

Wednesday, July 26, 6 p.m.

Tickets: $39; visit fillmoreauditorium.com or call 520-9090.

  • Slayer returns to true form

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