It’s been a while since I wrote the previous Dead Man’s Party post, and that’s because I ran into a problem. I started this mission with one goal in mind, to choose one song off every Slayer album and relate it to my life somehow. This began with a day of five bloody noses and my odd yet somehow quaint way of relating that to “Raining Blood,” and continued thru my most recent piece on “Repentless,” in which I applauded the band for saying Go Fuck Yourself to the haters and spitting back in the face of those who would cast them aside, just as I’ve always done. That was the 11th piece toward covering a song from 12 albums. I was close to completion, but not there yet. Lurking in the dismal fog out there was one collection of songs with which I could make very little personal connection: Diabolus in Musica. Tonight I decided I’d write about “Bitter Peace,” so I can close off this mission, but close it in the blandest possible way.
The problem lies in Diabolus itself. It hit shelves in 1998, smack dab in the wave of nu metal. Slayer has always done whatever the Hell they want to do, and it’s clear the band is in experimental mode here, with all these filters on Tom’s vocals (and who on Earth would be insane enough to put filters and effects on Tom Fucking Araya’s voice????), weird downtuned guitars and a song about rugby. If you’re a longtime Slayer fan, ponder that for a sec. Or better off, don’t. Maybe even worse, the lyrics on the whole are pretty generic for a Slayer album. For those who aren’t fans of the Paul Bostaph period, I propose that the lyrics on Divine Intervention and God Hates Us All are much sharper and pointed than they are here, and so those albums are much better. Even the most forgiving Slayer fan likely will never hold Diabolus up as a favorite.
Choosing a song off Diabolus then became a chore. I spent many late nights riding the subway home listening to it, hoping to find anything that would catch me and rip out my soul with some inspiration. The more I listened, the more I was ready to abandon the mission. If I were to persevere and see this thru to the end, I needed to find a different way to see this. And then I thought of “Chemical Warfare.”
Haunting the Chapel is the EP that comes between Slayer’s first two albums, Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits. I don’t listen to it a lot, but it’s got four quality tunes, three of which I’ve seen live. Fortunately, all four songs are pretty great. I go back and forth on whether “Captor of Sin” or “Chemical Warfare” is my favorite, but either way it’s a winning deal. This time, though, “Chemical Warfare” wins out because of its content. If I were to include a Slayer song from each of their collections, then Haunting the Chapel deserved inclusion. And wouldn’t you know, “Bitter Peace” and “Chemical Warfare” are both about war, and we’re on the verge of it as a country once again.
Because we’re always on the verge of war as a country. I hate to live in a society where presidents always want to blow other societies up. That line of thinking has only ramped up under our current administration, with a madman running North Korea and an even madder one running the USA. But DE is no political watchdog website. So let’s look at the personal connections I have with each song, before I make this post a Dead Man’s Dirge instead of a Party.
The second Slayer show I saw live was at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. Back then in 2007 I had no idea what to expect from a Slayer set outside of the previous show I’d seen at Hammerstein Ballroom in February of that year. I remember seeing the setlist online at Slayer’s message board, and that I didn’t like it in comparison to the set at Hammerstein. Looking at the list now on setlist.fm, I shouldn’t have bene complaining back then. At that point, Slayer was still playing songs off Christ Illusion, one of my favorite Slayer albums and the one that introduced me to the band when I first became a fan. So I got to see “Cult,” one of my top Slayer tunes, for what I didn’t know would be the last hurrah, and “Jihad,” which I wouldn’t see again til 2018. The band opened with “Flesh Storm,” which after 2008 would never see the light of stage again. “Ghosts of War” off South of Heaven was another great tune at that show. And then there’s “Bitter Peace.”
“Bitter Peace” is historic because it’s the only song I’ve ever seen live off Diabolus in Musica. Slayer is big on certain albums, and God Hates Us All is the only one of the Bostaph period that gets real play on tour. So when I heard it live, I had no inkling that this would be the last time I’d ever hear it again, or for that matter, any of those tunes. Reflecting back on that show, it was a weird one. I drove all the way to Holmdel to see Bullet for My Valentine get booed their entire set, because opening for Slayer is not an easy act. PNC has a GA lawn behind the seats instead of down front. I love that lawn, so when PNC officials offered to let me move up and sit somewhere toward the front, I felt perfectly content to say I was staying on the lawn. I remember I was wearing my Reign in Blood shirt, which I got at Hot Topic earlier that year and still own; when a dude said, “Nice shirt!” I realized he was wearing the same one, only his was OG from 1986. Weirdest of all, Slayer was co-headlining with Marilyn Manson. That’s a bizarre misfit, and although I fell it’s a ridiculous slight and disrespect to Slayer that Manson was the closer, I’m happy to this day that I didn’t have to sit thru Manson, who I’d seen in the mid-90s. I thought I’d get out of the parking lot quick, but more than half the place had the same idea as me and emptied out. So it took me forever to get out of that parking lot.
As for “Chemical Warfare,” could there be a harder song to master on Guitar Hero? I don’t remember whether it was the Metallica version of the game or the Warriors of Rock. I just remember having a bitch of a time ripping thru that tune. Failing out became a habit, and I had to work hard to get a score in the 90% range. I really got into the Rock Band games right around the time my mom died, and I fondly remember when they released a Slayer three-pack of songs that included “Raining Blood.” Virtual bassist me banged my head on that one, as well as “Seasons in the Abyss” and “Black Magic.” The best part of “Raining Blood” was how virtual Big Evil and my virtual bandmates would assemble on the stage as the house lights pulsed red and lightning lit the stage in time with the drum beats at the song’s beginning. I never felt more like a rock god in my life.
Which brings me right back to “Raining Blood,” where the mission started. With this post, I’ve now covered a song from every Slayer album plus their one EP. What started out with a nosebleed ends with a trip to my second Slayer concert and me playing a toy bass. I said at the beginning that I couldn’t find a personal connection to anything on Diabolus in Musica. Know what? Seeking out a connection and writing about that process IS the connection, and that’s not bland at all. That’s pretty damn metal, and I can accept that. Hey, maybe God doesn’t Hate Us All so much after all.