FROM SEPTEMBER OF 1990 through July of 1991, the now legendary Clash of the Titans tour thrashed across the US, Canada, and Europe. The US leg featured Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and a very out-of-place group called Alice in Chains. It could be argued that at the time of the Titans tour both Slayer and Megadeth were reaching the apex of their careers. They were two of the "Big Four" thrash bands responsible for creating the genre—the other two being Metallica and Anthrax—and both bands were riding the wave of a critically acclaimed album. Megadeth had just released Rust in Peace, and Slayer Seasons in the Abyss. They were eight crazy longhairs wreaking havoc in stadiums and arenas from Stuttgart to Daly City.
For the boys, it seemed like the future of thrash metal was bright, but little did they know that their unusual opening act, Alice in Chains, was a premonition of grunge's dominance in the years to come. Most of the forefathers of metal never stopped producing records or touring during the '90s, but they were definitely overshadowed and outgunned by that giant, depressing flannel cloud. While the grunge era has since faded into oblivion, there is no arguing that the good ol' days of metal have returned. If you ask Dave Lombardo, the skinsman for Slayer, those days never left.
"After all these years, no matter what genre of music came around, metal stayed strong," Lombardo says. "A lot of styles came and went, but nothing has really toppled metal."
Now, almost 20 years later, Slayer and Megadeth are back touring together in giant venues—only this time with Testament, who actually opened the European leg of the Clash of the Titans tour. They also have a catchy new moniker: The American Carnage tour. For Slayer, this outing is partially in support of their 2009 album World Painted Blood. Like the tour itself, World harkens back to a time when Slayer's music was fierce and bloodthirsty.
"I'm not slowing down, so if [the band] can keep up with me, then our style of music will keep coming out," says Lombardo. New tracks "Snuff" and "Psychopathy Red" are as frenzied and brutal as Slayer gets, though Lombardo claims they are no longer out to break the speed barrier: "We're more musical and into more of a song structure. We're not worried about how fast we are going." Slayer has garnered four Grammy nominations in the past eight years, winning two thus far, including last year's nod for "Hate Worldwide." Their songwriting ability certainly shouldn't be challenged.
Slayer shows no signs of stopping, either. "As far as I'm concerned, I want us to keep performing and playing music, writing, and keep doing what we've been doing," Lombardo says. "I think if you're an artist you never retire, because you'll always keep creating."
Slayer is like the Aerosmith of metal. They are nearing 30 years performing together, they maintain their original lineup, they consistently release great albums (maybe this comparison misses Aerosmith), and they tour nearly every year. The band recently hit a bump with Tom Araya undergoing back surgery, but it didn't stop them for long. If they can only refrain from falling off the stage, and from writing wretched ballads for Hollywood blockbusters, they're sure to continue their reign of blood.