The world of Slayer is glutted with grisly serial killers, unspeakable war atrocities, blasphemous utterances, and hateful diatribes. During their shows, the band members never smile, delivering their impenetrable thrash-metal classics with equal parts menace and malice. With Slayer, however, as with most metal bands, the show is an artistic representation of the band, an atavistic portrait of the men behind the music.
In person, band members all have biting senses of humor and are surprisingly laid back. Even Kerry King, the band’s co-founding guitarist and main spokesman, is soft-spoken and nonviolent. “I’m not a fighter. I’m a guitarist. I like my hands,” King told me before last year’s Mayhem tour. “But because of the way I look, people that don’t know me are intimidated by me. So I don’t have to get into fights.”
Admitting he doesn’t look for fights is about as personal as the hulking King gets. None of the members of Slayer are particularly revealing in interviews. They’ll gladly field softball questions about a new album they’re working on or a tour they’ve played. They’ll shift into autopilot and answer general questions with the same responses they’ve been using for years. But try digging under the surface about something the least bit sensitive, and they become vague, disinterested, maybe even insensitive—like sensitivity is what you expect from a group whose biggest hit, “Angel of Death,” is about the horrific experiments of Nazi surgeon Josef Mengele.
Considering the recent shake-ups in the Slayer camp—they’re currently touring Australia with two of their original four members—predicting the band’s future is as hard as trying to figure the conclusion of the next season of Breaking Bad. But there’s some evidence that the road ahead might be harder than the band’s music.
On February 21, original drummer Dave Lombardo posted a message on his Facebook page advising fans that he would not be playing with Slayer in Australia. Anthrax’s fill-in drummer, Jon Dette, is currently performing double-duty; Dette filled in live for the band in 1996. Lombardo’s problem with the band isn’t personality based; it’s about money. When he complained to the band and its management that he was only paid a small advance for all the touring he did in 2012, he was told—on Valentine’s Day—not to pack his suitcase for the Australian tour.
“I’m saddened, and to be honest, I am shocked by the situation,” Lombardo stated. “Last year, I discovered 90 percent of Slayer’s tour income was being deducted as expenses, including the professional fees paid to management, costing the band millions of dollars and leaving 10 percent or less to split amongst the four of us.”