Friday, October 15, 2010

Still Reigning A Little South of Heaven

Last night, I asked a bushy haired stranger, speaking broken Italian and flawless American, wearing a Slayer tshirt the only question that ever ought to be asked of a man wearing wearing a Slayer tshirt: Reign in Blood or South of Heaven?

(Hrm. If you don't know Slayer, then perhaps you've heard of the phrase death to false metal. [It was said by Manowar, but that takes us far afield.] If you think of the kind of perspective that would lead to the phrase death to false metal, Slayer is about what you'd get, a band devoted to its niche without reservation or jokey jokey distance.)

There are many answers to the question. Almost all of them are wrong. Occasionally you'll get some smartass saying Soundtrack to the Apocalypse. They are to be thrown out, since live CDs and compilations don't count. No one in their right mind should say anything, roughly Divine Intervention forward. Reign In Blood is the record that invented the thrash metal genre, a genre that cut the bloated theatrics out of metal with a grimy hardcore punk razor, leaving only the muscle, bone and unvarnished, blinding fury common to both styles. South of Heaven expanded it, perfected it, slowed it down and used it as a leaping off point.

Both have arguments in their favor, but it's a trick question. There is no right answer. Reign in Blood would not be the masterpiece and acquired the imitators that it did unless Slayer produced something which proved Reign In Blood was more than a door leading somewhere and not a enthusiastic dead end. But those people who swear South of Heaven know it could not exist and it would not be so exciting unless something game changing preceded it.

They could not exist without the other. And here I am, not going to a very modern, fashionable, museum because I want to write about Slayer. Slayer, for god's sake. They're an 80's band, right? They're so over. Their influence is that they are unflinchingly themselves, like as Henry Rollins put it, that they are encased in a block of ice between records.

Of course, I didn't have time to say all this at the time. He said he had a wife and I needed to pee. By the time I finished, he was walking out, we exchanged pleasantries, and walked for a couple moments between other people leaving bars. It was at that point, that he and I realized one of the focuses of art, that it gets people talking and hopefully connects them.

I am trying to appreciate old art in lieu of going to very new art museum. (Okay, it's a museum. So it's not that new. But they'd probably turn their noses up at anything less recent than '92.) Certainly they'd laugh at Slayer, or include them as a novelty, a backhanded compliment to a genre they wouldn't consider real music anyway. But I enjoy art that is meant for more than to be criticized as to what it contains or how it contains it, but art that helps foster a connection between the artist and the audience or different members of the audience.

The hope is that in last night, I did not just talk about a piece of art with a guy at a bar, but a person with a shared experience and that the connection (if strange) is something that can be relayed more than an opinion based on an educated guess of the artist's motives. Or, that instead of being an anonymous person, appreciating art passively. For it to really take an effect with me, I like art to be much more bracing.

(For example, I enjoyed Redaction Paintings and Declassified by Jenny Holzer, but that's a story for another time.)

Slayer. Let the music (and the above writing, of course) speak for itself.

Raining Blood. Yes. The song I listened to in St. Peter's. The song that, well, it's a thing. Point is, it's huge and it's a, if not the definitive Slayer song. This was the song used to horrify hippies in an episode of South Park. Understand, the one thing those hippies couldn't stand? Thrash metal, so the South Park crew cranked Raining Blood as loud as it would go. You've been warned.

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