|Slayer in 1986.|
I should note right off the bat that this isn't a "true" Top 20 list of Slayer's absolute best songs. My goal was simply to create a career-spanning playlist to celebrate the International Day of Slayer. In so doing, I established the following two rules for myself:
1. I had to choose at least one song from each of Slayer's full-length studio albums (I didn't include live albums or EPs, but I did pick a song from their album of punk covers, Undisputed Attitude).
2. The total running time of the playlist could not exceed 80 minutes - the duration of a standard CD-R.
With those two simple criteria in mind, I set about putting together a collection of Slayer songs suitable for burning onto a CD and blasting at full-volume, over and over again, on this most unholy of holidays. That it turned out to be an even 20 songs was just a happy coincidence. These songs aren't ranked from best to worst, but I did order them in an effort to create the best "flow" for this unofficial greatest hits CD.
Obviously, Slayer has such an extensive catalog of awesome songs that some true gems inevitably had to be cut. I'm sure some of you might disagree with a few of my selections, and I encourage you to leave a comment below on how you would change or improve the list. Just keep in mind the criteria I set for myself. If I was putting together a true "best of Slayer" collection, it could easily span two discs and would have to include Reign in Blood in its entirety. But I think this playlist provides a pretty solid overview of Slayer's three-decade career. So without further ado, here's my ultimate IDoS playlist:
1. "Angel of Death"
There really isn't any other song you could choose to kick off a playlist like this than the best song from the best album in the history of recorded music, Slayer's 1986 masterpiece Reign in Blood.
2. "Die by the Sword"
For the next song, we go back to where it all began with one of the standout tracks from Slayer's 1983 debut, Show No Mercy.
The lone track from God Hates Us All (released on Sept. 11, 2001), this one narrowly edged out "Disciple" for a spot on the playlist.
4. "Hell Awaits"
The opening track from the 1985 album of the same name, this song has been a frequent set opener at many a Slayer live show.
5. "Bitter Peace"
1998's Diabolus In Musica is widely considered to be Slayer's
6. "War Ensemble"
The first track from 1990's Seasons in the Abyss, this song sets the tone for what is arguably Slayer's second-most popular album.
Slayer's 1994 album, Divine Intervention, was the band's first without founding drummer Dave Lombardo. Some fans were underwhelmed by the album as a whole, but this song is classic Slayer. Plus, I love how they name-drop the year like a rap song. Maybe all those years of sharing a label with Public Enemy and Run-DMC rubbed off...
8. "The Antichrist"
The second track from Show No Mercy pretty much weeded out the weak at heart right out of the gate.
9. "Mandatory Suicide"
If there's one topic Slayer writes mores songs about than religion, it's war. This track from 1988's South of Heaven details the horrors of the grunts fighting on the front lines.
This track from 2009's World Painted Blood details our simultaneous revulsion and morbid fascination with internet snuff films.
11. "Altar of Sacrifice"
12. "Jesus Saves"
These back-to-back songs from Reign in Blood flow together seamlessly on the album, so there's no sense in breaking them up here.
13. "Guilty of Being White"
As if Slayer covering Minor Threat for their 1996 album of punk covers, Undisputed Attitude, wasn't an awesome enough proposition, this track earns bonus points for pissing off Ian MacKaye because of a slight change to the final lyric.
14. "At Dawn They Sleep"
Slayer's take on classic vampire mythology from Hell Awaits delivers more scares in six minutes that the entire Twilight series combined.
15. "Black Magic"
Another stellar track from Show No Mercy custom-made to horrify Bible-thumpers.
Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but this track from 2006's Christ Illusion gives me the impression that Slayer just isn't very fond of Christianity.
17. "Skeletons of Society"
I'm probably gonna catch some flack for only including two songs from Seasons in the Abyss, but this one seemed like a no-brainer.
18. "South of Heaven"
Rather than try to outdo themselves on the follow-up to Reign in Blood, Slayer slowed things down a notch or two and somehow managed to sound heavier and darker than ever.
20. "Raining Blood"
And so we come full-circle with the final two tracks from Reign in Blood. Much like "Altar of Sacrifice" and "Jesus Saves," these two songs flow together too well to separate them.
So there you have it. Now it's time to burn the CD and go out and spread the gospel of Slayer. If, for some ridiculous reason, you don't already own every album Slayer has released, don't despair - all of these songs are available on iTunes. Better yet, stop by your local independent record store and pick up the full albums. If you can't afford it, all you have to do is beat up an emo kid, steal his money and go buy a Slayer album or two. Then repeat the process until you've beaten up enough emo kids and stolen enough money to buy Slayer's entire catalog. Have a happy International Day of Slayer and may Satan be with you!