Slayer was the first band that actually frightened me. As a ten-year-old leafing through the back pages of Circus Magazine at the supermarket, Slayer’s etched-out typography and foreboding pentagrams sent a shiver down my spine. When I was a teenager, I was more or less kidnapped by an older skinhead acquaintance of mine. He offered to drop me off at my parents’ house in Boston. So when I asked him why he sped by my exit, he said we were going to see Slayer in Providence, and I could jump out of his Dodge Aires doing 80 down 93 South if I wanted to get out. After trying to bribe Kerry King with six joints near the band’s bus outside the sold-out venue, we successfully snuck into the show, where I saw something that I still can't explain. As we were crushed in the back of the room by the sweaty, suffocating crowd, the arm of some horrified Hessian pressed in front of me inexplicably went right up in flames as the opening notes of "South Of Heaven" seeped out of the speakers, which is a song about the exact opposite of the saccharine drudgery that is the Christmas season.
That’s why it’s a dumb-fuck disgrace that there’s a Slayer Christmas sweater.
The tacky Christmas sweater has long been the Yuletide staple of nerds and ironic nerds alike. You’ll see these reindeer-bedecked, snowflake-patterned knitted catastrophes worn three sizes too small, full of holes and crusted with burrito crumbs or bar pizza grease. Any coolness evoked is gained through nostalgia. The sweaters themselves are decidedly terrible, but the memories they conjure are not. First introduced by your rum-punch soaked mustachioed uncle Billy (Or, if you're Jewish, Clark Griswald), the hideous red-and-green sweater has become the signifier par excellence of Christmastimes past.
Slayer, of course, are fucking cool, even though their singer, Tom Araya, can now pass for Jerry Garcia. But even though the sweater sold out online in a matter of hours, I simply cannot reconcile the inherent cheekiness of a Slayer Christmas sweater with what the band represents to me and to the world.
A little background: The Descendents, that old-ass punk band from California that invented pop-punk and played guitar solos all the way through a song, released a retro fake-tacky Christmas sweater last year. That thing was swiftly bought up since the band has transformed into a merch cottage industry that rivals the Grateful Dead – they put out like a 400-run of T-shirt box sets a bit ago, and I think it sold out in half an hour. To the Descendents’ credit, they are still the best band in the genre they invented. So if someone wants to get a sweater to match their shoes and socks and coffee mug and baseball hat for Christmas, well, that makes sense.
But there’s a reason why wearing a Slayer Christmas sweater is bullshit. Discounting the well-reasoned claim that even wearing their T-shirts is lame, the band has nothing to do with Christmas. Sure, you can make the argument that the Three Wise Men following a star through the desert in search of a Baby King to give him resin is kind of the Christian religion’s "Seasons In The Abyss" video. But while Slayer might have been the soundtrack to teenage murder and conspiracy in The River's Edge, they were never a reason Ralphie was going to shoot his eye out in A Christmas Story. You can't just glue them onto a holiday they have nothing to do with. It's crazy!
It's hard to imagine in what circumstance an actual Slayer fan would wear such knitted shit, besides some crappy compromise for their parents when grandma comes to dinner or for their own funeral. But it's still bullshit because a true Slayer fan wouldn't compromise nor would they leave themselves suitable for an open coffin wake – a latter day Meh-tallica fan might. Of course, it wouldn't stun me to see a tiny Slayer sweater on some toddler wearing those giant baby concert headphones and hoisted through a show by its crusty, cig-stained tackle-faced punk parents.
I still remain as confused as I initially was over the possibility that a real Slayer fan would wear this ferkakta sweater. But I am sure in the coming weeks, whoever you are out there that bought one will be the same jolly jerk-off playing Springsteen's putrid "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" on the jukebox in your hometown bar deafening the sound of Satan laughing as you eternally resemble a dickhead.