5 Killer Cover Songs: Slayer

Photo courtesy of Metal Blade Records

A band that needs no introduction (but I’ll give them one anyway), Slayer paved the way for thrash metal and more extreme subgenres during their 38 year tenure as a group. With a dozen full length albums, a handful of live albums and EPs, and endless touring, Slayer became one of the biggest names in metal, as well as one of the most recognized and referenced bands in the genre as well.

They’ve influenced bands all over the metal spectrum, from Avenged Sevenfold to Napalm Death, have been name-dropped in Weezer songs, and even appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2017. While they haven’t been immune to infighting and controversy (and to answer your question: no, “Guilty of Being White” will not be on a future Minor Threat cover column),

Slayer has indelibly left their mark on modern music. So grab an umbrella, because it’s about to start raining blood with 5 killer Slayer covers.

Hatebreed, "Ghosts of War"

This isn’t the first time a track from Hatebreed’s cover album For the Lions has shown up in this column, and let’s be honest, it probably won’t be the last. But their rendition of the Slayer track “Ghosts of War” is a great way to kick off this list and the album itself. While the song has been publicly dismissed by Slayer guitarist Kerry King, noting “everyone always [wanted] to hear it” played live, Jasta and company were obviously big fans of the South of Heaven cut.

Hatebreed are no strangers to creating music for a prison riot (who do you think they learned that from?) so the intense nature of the song sounds fantastic coming through the amps and lungs of the band. I don’t know if it’s the recording quality of For the Lions, but the Slayer track sounds pretty great next to cuts by Black Flag, Judge, and Cro-Mags.

Less Than Jake, "Evil Has No Boundaries"

Gainesville ska/punk band Less Than Jake made a name for themselves by pushing out a whole lot of weird releases in their early days. Cover albums of songs from the film Grease, a cheese wedge shaped record, and the artwork for the band’s first proper full-length centering around their collective love of Pez candy. One of the standouts of Less Than Jake’s early output was the Slayer 7”, released by No Idea Records in 1996, which found the band taking on the first two tracks from Show No Mercy, “The Antichrist” and “Evil Has No Boundaries”.

The band really does both songs justice, but I think the better of the two is “Evil Has No Boundaries." The recording quality isn’t all there (or at least the MP3s I heard in my early punk days) but that gives it charm. Less Than Jake pull off both songs with some ease and believability, and throws yet another bizarre monkey wrench into the band’s discography.

Bigwig, "War Ensemble"

Remember when the Punk Goes series actually had punk bands? The first installment by Fearless Records, 2000’s Punk Goes Metal, featured an impressive roster (including AFI, Strung Out, The Aquabats, and Death By Stereo) covering a large swath of metal bands from the leather-clad hair metal scene to the big four of thrash. One of the standout tracks was New Jersey’s Bigwig taking on the first track from Seasons in the Abyss, “War Ensemble”.

While the band was known for mixing a little metal in their skate punk, which is pretty up front especially on their full-length, An Invitation to Tragedy, Bigwig nails the song, even throwing in a goofy jazz interlude in the middle. The band's love for Slayer really shines through as vocalist Tom Petta nearly replicates the strained bark of Slayer vocalist/bassist Tom Araya. While I wouldn’t recommend checking out any Punk Goes compilation past the first one, Punk Goes Metal is pretty solid.

Eddie Brock, "Raining Blood"

Power violence and Slayer usually don’t go hand in hand, but the short-lived Baltimore band Eddie Brock made sure to link the two. The three-piece band recorded their version of the Slayer staple in 2012, putting their own bass-less spin on the infamous track. The first time I heard Eddie Brock tackle the song, they played in Pittsburgh on a short tour with Maryland hardcore band Passengers and closed with it. Most of the room instantly knew those three tom hits, including myself, and I thought they were just fooling around.

Lo and behold, the band kicked into the main riff of the song and kept on going until hitting the part where “Raining Blood” comes to a noisy crescendo and falls apart. It was definitely a fun way to end a set and grab the attention of the room. The studio recording is pretty fun as well, as it sounds pretty big for a three piece band with a standalone vocalist.

Dark Funeral, "Dead Skin Mask"

One of my first run-ins with Slayer was the album Seasons in the Abyss, which I coincidentally found via the Bigwig cover earlier in this list. After checking out the album in its entirety, one of the standout tracks was the band’s letter to Ed Gein, “Dead Skin Mask." The song quickly became one of my favorites due to my immense fandom of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, despite its slow tempo, antithetical from the band’s blistering fast playing which shot them to the top of the metal world.

Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral recorded their own rendition of the track for the 2000 EP Teach Children to Worship Satan, along with covers of Mayhem, Sodom, and King Diamond. Dark Funeral’s version is pretty similar to the original, with some lower level black metal mixing and high shrieking vocals to give it a kvlt spin. While most extreme metal fans attribute black metal to a lightning-paced, blast-beat-laden assault of the eardrums, the slow tempo of “Dead Skin Mask” complements the creepy atmosphere Dark Funeral lays down on the track.


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Tagged: 5 killer cover songs, slayer