Slayer "Shit! I missed another sunglasses memo? I think my email's busted, dudes."

WE'RE NOT TALKING about Buffy, folks. Just as Chuck Berry was the father of rock 'n' roll, Slayer are the fathers of modern metal. Slayer are the pioneers, the covered wagon of speed metal. They crossed this fertile land driving out all indigenous inhabitants before them, though they used extremely loud guitars instead of small pox to do it.

Remember the first time you thralled to the taste of your own blood with Hell Awaits on the tape deck? Remember those late nights in the bushes and that one time you almost lost your footing in that tree rocking out to "Dead Skin Mask"? Remember plotting to kill your boss that night, rationalizing the divine inspiration in Divine Intervention's "Dittohead"?

While Metallica were playing moody little epics like "Fade to Black," Slayer were excavating the express elevator to Hell with "At Dawn They Sleep." While Anthrax was releasing their early crap like "I'm the Man," Slayer's Tom Araya was wailing like a banshee whore on Easter. Before Megadeth got their act together and kicked the smack, Slayer had already sojourned South of Heaven. Unafraid and unyielding, they forced their sonic abuse on the land and its people, bushwhacking a path for every mediocre and horrible thrash band to come, but also for those bands that would further expand the boundaries of metal: Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Death, Cannibal Corpse.

With their fourth studio enterprise, Reign in Blood, Slayer created a landmark album that retains its status today as the greatest thrash record ever. Twenty years have past since then; two decades of imitators trying to usurp the speed-metal crown without success. It was an album of the times—after six years of Reagan we were praying for an "Angel of Death"—but the songs are timeless, and our children, unless they are totally assimilated by MTV/Coca Cola/iPod culture, will hold tracks like "Jesus Saves," and "Necrophobic" up alongside classics such as "Immigrant Song" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun."

Slayer have had to weather numerous accusations from preachy Republicans and the religious right, most prominently the charge of spreading Satanism—and sure, but what else was there to do in 1983? Disco was dying and punk sucked. Much to the chagrin of censor-happy PTAs and deacons worldwide—and just like the Beatles before them—Tom, Jeff, Kerry, and Dave actually are bigger than Jesus. (But, you know, Jesus didn't really tour that much.) Even on their worst day, I love Slayer like the night-ranging raccoons in my backyard; they may spread rabies, but they also piss off the do-goody neighbors, and I respect that.

Slayer have also been heavily criticized for their association with trendy mass-market retailer Hot Topic. They released their enhanced EP Eternal Pyre on 6/6/06 exclusively through Hot Topic stores, causing a collective groan from corporation-wary consumers that could be heard from LA to Kazakhstan. And yes, it was a dirty little publicity stunt, and yes, Hot Topic should be seriously avoided for their exploitation of the counterculture market. But fuck it, Slayer rules; just don't buy that particular EP.

The new full-length album, Christ Illusion, is slated for an August 8 release. It's the first Slayer record with the original lineup since 1990's Seasons in the Abyss. It's heavier than lead, and will be available everywhere.

The doors open at 5 pm. Don't bother speeding on the freeway if you're running behind; the main support act is Lamb of God, who, unless they've completely revamped their sound since the last album, suck horribly.