2011 marked the 30th Anniversary of the formation of one of the most popular and brutal thrash metal bands ever, Slayer. While the violent and sometimes disturbing subject matter of their music has been strongly criticized by religious and conservative groups, Slayer has found mainstream success with hit albums and coveted tour dates. In recent years, Slayer guitarist Kerry King and Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine have ended their longstanding feud, allowing fans to witness the live spectacular that is the "Big Four" (Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Metallica).
Slayer began in Huntington Park in 1981, when Kerry King met Jeff Hanneman while auditioning as guitarists for the same band. They recruited King's former bandmate Tom Araya as their bassist and singer, and asked drummer Dave Lombardo to join when he delivered a pizza to King. Slayer self-financed their debut album, Show No Mercy, which was released in late 1983. The album brought Slayer a small cult following, which grew after subsequent club tour dates in 1984 increased album sales drastically. Shortly after, Slayer joined Venom and Exodus for tour dates on the 1984 Combat Tour, which helped record sales of Show No Mercy to double by 1985.
The members of Slayer were soon approached by Rick Rubin to join Def Jam Records. After recording Reign in Blood, Def Jam's distributor - Columbia Records - refused to release the album, citing the Josef Mengele inspired track "Angel of Death" as the reason for their refusal. Despite the controversy surrounding the album, it was a huge success, eventually went gold, and sparked massive headlining tour dates. After following Rick Rubin to his Def American label, Slayer released their fifth studio album, Seasons in the Abyss, in 1990. The album retained the melodic aspects of South of Heaven, while returning to their fast paced thrash style. Christ Illusion was released in August of 2006 -- five years after their previous album -- and debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200. The single "Eyes of the Insane" won Slayer their first Grammy for Best Metal Performance. To celebrate, Slayer took tour dates to their fans around the world on The Unholy Alliance Tour
Lamb of God:
The roots of Lamb of God were planted in 1990 when Mark Morton, Chris Adler and John Campbell were floor mates at Virginia Commonwealth University. The trio began playing at Adler's house in Richmond weathering chilly conditions. "There was no heat at the house," recalls Campbell. "We would freeze our asses off, get really drunk and hang around the kerosene heaters trying to write metal songs. Kerosene fumes and Black Label beer were definitely what fueled our early days."
After graduation, Morton moved to Chicago to pursue a master's degree, but the band continued. A new guitarist, Abe Spear, replaced Morton as the band retired its instrumental sound and added Blythe on vocals.
The quartet, known then as Burn the Priest, became a fixture in the tightly-knit Richmond music scene. To compete with the high-level of musicianship displayed by their contemporaries, the band adopted a rigid practice schedule. "To this day, we practice five days a week out of necessity," says Campbell. "The bands in Richmond can flat outplay you and if you don't practice, they will blow you off the stage. Bands like Breadwinner and Sliang Laos - two local math-metal bands - could play insanely complicated music note perfect. They inspired us to raise the bar musically and taught us the work ethic we needed to be a success."