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Back in May or June 1984, I accidentally discovered the Metal Hammer magazine. It goes without saying that I bought it immediately. After ordering the previous issues quickly, I studied all articles very carefully. I got the feeling that I opened gigantic gates to a new world. In particular, I must admit that I was deeply impressed by a bloody-minded black and white image of a band that leaned over an abused female victim. Shame on me. But to my relief, I have to say that I was not fascinated by the image itself. It just made me extremely curious and I hoped that the strange guys on the picture were able to extend the spectrum of my record collection.
All my hopes were fulfilled as soon as the needle got in contact with the vinyl and "Evil Has No Boundaries" broke loose. To my own surprise, I did not listen to pure noise. The shrill cry of Araya and the brief guitar solo before the first verse attacked my nerves in a previously unknown manner. But it was a fantastic experience at the same time. Slayer was raging like rabid dogs but they did not neglect the necessary amount of melodies (I dare to use this word while begging for forgiveness at the same time). Additionally, the opener as well as the following tunes were clearly structured and easily accessible. To equip the songs with a comprehensible formula was not the only good idea of the composers Hanneman (R.I.P.) and King. They were also able to deliver an appropriate level of diversification. For example "Evil Has No Boundaries" was based on sheer franticness, but the subsequent "The Antichrist" thrived on its overwhelming main riff.
The first four songs of the here presented prototype were (and still are) a thrash metal monument for eternity. Just dive into the dark and homicidal middle part of "Die by the Sword" or the gripping chorus of "Fight till Death". And do not forget to listen very closely to the highly interesting main riff of the latter. And, of course, you must pay special attention to its kamikaze-like solo parts after the second chorus. A sonic brainwash par excellence. And I beg you to... I guess it is better to stop here. I am definitely at risk to lose the last bit of objectivity.
Despite the slightly hysterical aura of the album, the band kept control at all times. This was not least because of Araya´s superior vocals that did not tolerate any kind of contradiction. He sounded like a warlord that commanded his troops to battle. This comparison is not randomly chosen. Slayer proved its capability to generate a deep black atmosphere (for instance during the long instrumental part at the beginning of the fifth track) so that "Show No Mercy" can be seen as the mother of all black thrash albums. And of course, a song like "Black Magic" also indicated the more or less strongly distinct interest of the group in relation to occult themes.
"Show No Mercy" followed a strict guideline without losing its tension. Of course, its explosiveness was constituted on the basis of the very homogeneous song material. Nevertheless, each and every song had its own character. We were talking about the differences between the first two songs and, to give you a further example, the last two tracks showed the same image. The subliminally vicious "Crionics" scored with its evil aura and the howling guitars during the solo sections, while the title track ran stubbornly straight without looking left or right. What the songs had in common was the dense and impure appearance. In objective terms, Slayer´s debut failed to deliver an optimal production. But it possessed exactly the sound that the first work of these musical revolutionists needed. After more than 31 years, I am unable to consider the sound and the songs separately. I worship this album with all its strengths and its very few weaknesses and I do not want to be confronted with a new version of this masterpiece. Just think of the horrible second recording of "Bonded by Blood". To sum up, "Show No Mercy" was (part of) the Big Bang of extreme metal. I bet that every thrasher still reminds the moment when he heard this album for the first time. A daring thesis? However, this work deserves our lifelong respect.
This record is a piece of heavy metal history. If there were a museum intended only for heavy metal, this would be one of the first, front displayed items. That's for a couple of reasons. Reason number one, is the fact that this was the first release by the band that had the biggest influence on death metal, gave thrash metal a whole new twist, and would become the most successful thrash metal band next to Metallica. Reason number two, looking back at the year 1983, there were very few albums that you can say were as heavy as this one, so this helped the thrash movement a lot. And reason number three, it's one of the first to really hit that satanic imagery hard. With Venom's "Welcome To Hell" being out before it, it certainly had some competition as far as that goes. But both records were equally full of dark, evil blasphemy, and equally as scary to the general public at the time.
Aside from the historical element behind it, it's a perfect album in my eyes. It's tough for an album to be perfect (100%), however Slayer has managed to do it, and this is not their only release to do so. There is not a single flaw, complaint, or anything that I would change about this record. Let's start by breaking down the music as a whole. For starters, Lombardo's drumming. Holy fucking hell. They go non stop, full of power, complexity and speed throughout the whole album, without any mercy (pun intended). Every beat has me playing air drums, and by the time I'm through the first three songs, my arms are tired. Dave Lombardo is legendary, and is my favorite drummer (along with Nick Menza of Megadeth). It's a shame that he left after "South Of Heaven". This is most evident on the title track, "Show No Mercy" with its intro where it is only drums for about ten seconds, and it is kept up through the whole song. It's fast, keeps the same beat, and it just sounds beautiful all around. Tom Araya's vocals are also something to be talked about. He does a significant amount of high, long screams that almost sound like guitars, as well as deep, powerful shouted vocals. Yet you can still understand everything he says. It's perfect in a way that no other vocalists can pull off, and most evident in the opening track, "Evil Has No Boundaries". Although his bass isn't heard as well, it's not even as necessary to stick out because of the other instruments. That leaves us with one more instrument, the guitars. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman keep the speed that matches the drums and vocals perfectly. It all falls together. The solos are fast, but not so ridiculous that they just sound like random notes being hit.
The tracks are the next route to take. There isn't a bad song on this album, and though they all share the same style, I can tell them apart because they are all unique in their own ways. "Black Magic" fades in with very fast picking guitar work, and the other instruments fit their way in and progress to be what I say is the best song on the album, as well as one of the first Slayer songs I ever listened to. "The Antichrist", lets be honest, has some of the most kick ass lyrics ever. It has that angry, "get out of my way religious assholes", blasphemous message to it. There are few slow parts to the album, but one spot on it that sorta chills out a little would be the ending to "Die By The Sword". The music slows down, as does Tom's voice, ending with an evil laughter uttered from him. Then it picks up again and finishes that song strongly. To sum up all of the tracks, they are all beautiful, start to finish, zero flaws.
A few things to point out here. One is the fact that it has poor sound quality compared to other records by them. But that is not a flaw! A lot of bands didn't have as much money to start and couldn't get the best quality, and if you ask me, the poor quality adds to the evil and heavy atmosphere that the album gives. Another one is the incredible album artwork. Not much needs to be said, just look at it, and it explains itself.
What can be said to sum up the entire album? It's a very fast, thrashy, satanic, and excellent delivery of ten tracks that a band's debut can offer. It gave thrash a little bit of a boost, stressed the satanic imagery, and was the first of many great Slayer releases. It's perfect from start to finish, and brings out some of the best work in all four of the guys.
“Show No Mercy” truly is a legendary album. Not only because it was the first such extreme and fast metal record ever spawned with the Devil’s blessing, but also because it was one of my first extreme metal albums, which I have ever heard in my life, so I can say that its lethal riffing and screaming vocals has infected my blood and thus changed my life. It was in the end of 1991, when I have heard it for the first time, so it wasn’t new anymore and there were more brutal bands and albums around, but back then I was still enjoying my Metallica, AC/DC, G’N’R or Maiden cassettes, when came this! Ha, many years later I can say one thing - it is not my favourite Slayer album, but for sure one of my favourites in their long discography. Maybe the problem with “Show No Mercy” is that if you look at the tracklist then you realize that along with some truly classic and excellent songs, the album contains also some better or worse fillers, with couple of songs, which just don’t match the quality of the best Slayer material. Of course they are an integral part of one of the first extreme metal albums, so they have part in the history, but did such “The Final Command” survive the time? I don’t think so.
This album has a start like a dream and I bet that side A of my vinyl has songs, for which most metal musicians would sell their souls to the Devil, just to have the credit for writing them. “Evil Has No Boundaries” – maybe one of my three most favourite Slayer songs ever! Damn, I just love that opening riff and also that chorus part – it is a classic metal song! And then we have “Antichrist” and “Die by the Sword” and tell me if these are also aren’t just perfect, utterly amazing thrash metal songs? For me they are. “Antichrist” was at the time probably one of the fastest and most aggressive songs known to the mankind and “Die by the Sword” has such a catchy, killer riffing and generally it sounds so damn awesome and memorable than sometimes I can hardly believe that already in 1983 someone was able to compose something like this, such an eternal classic it is. So yeah, you can see now what I meant when I wrote that side A of my vinyl is just perfect, right? And I say that also because songs from side B are not quite as good as those from side A, at least in my opinion. I don’t want to say that “Fight till Death” or “Metal Storm / Face the Slayer” are bad, because they are very, very cool and I like them, but you know… would you include them on your list of mandatory metal classics? Hmm, no. I think they’re just like such Maiden’s “22 Acacia Avenue” or Metallica’s “Trapped Under Ice” – you know, good songs, which are an integral part of important classic metal albums, but just not as good and memorable as „Run to the Hills” or „For Whom the Bell Tolls”, right? “Metal Storm / Face the Slayer” is a song, which I think is more than just solid, I truly like some of the riffs in it and that memorable playing and singing. I know it may sound funny, but for me this song sounds almost like Metallica, with that great influence from NWOBHM, but obviously everything has been played so aggressively and furiously like nothing before! Awesome! Ha, I am lucky that my copy of “Show No Mercy” has couple of bonus tracks and first one of them appears on side B... and it is "Aggressive Perfector"! Damn, another classic song from Slayer!
Side C meanwhile is opened by one of my truly favourite Slayer songs ever and I really mean it. Of course songs from side A were so fuckin amazing, but “Black Magic” is “Black Magic” – this is utterly killer song, with some of the best riffs, best vocals and best feeling ever. LOVE IT! But then there are two songs, which I am not so fond of. First is “Tormentor”, which is just decent. It has quite simple, almost punk riffing, very simple structure, but it just isn’t as aggressive as “Black Magic” or some other songs on the album and is also just not quite as good. Then we have “The Final Command”, which again has a strong punk feeling and NWOBHM inspired riffing, but for me it is just the weakest song from the entire album, a real filler, if you ask me, and I wouldn’t really cry if it has never been recorded. I guess the main problem is that if you have such aggressive songs as “Black Magic” or “Die by the Sword” then such song just doesn’t fit here. It is OK, but I can again use my comparison to such “22 Acacia Avenue”… You know, you probably will never really like this song so much, but since it appears on such classic album then you just must live with it. Finally we have side D and “Crionics” opens it. Well, this is quite weird song, Araya tries to sing more melodiously here, what is a little bit bizarre, but the song is quite catchy, it again has some riffs, which are so much like Iron Maiden on adrenaline for example that it is amazing how aggressive some other songs on “Show No Mercy” are. That mid to end part of “Crionics” sounds for me almost like “Transylvania” or “Phantom of the Opera”, but I honestly like it a lot. But you can hear great difference between this song and the title track, which is next, and which is again an aggressive thrash metal attack and is the fastest and most vicious song with some razor sharp riffs and really unstoppable tempo. Thrash metal was born! Side D has also the second bonus track, which is “Chemical Warfare” and this is yet another classic song on this vinyl; fast, aggressive, violent. Killer.
Right, I guess I would probably have to also write something about the performance of each of Slayer members? But is it really necessary? Everyone knows how awesome guitarists King and Hanneman are, how well they cooperate together, how tight and precise is their playing, especially those leads… Sure, this was only their debut release, so the best was yet to come from these two gentlemen, but they already sounded damn impressive and most importantly, they came up here with a collection of truly memorable songs and classic riffs. Lombardo is the drumming master and if I can sometimes moan about Ulrich or whoever, then Dave has never been playing bad, he invented the extreme metal drumming, so hails to the master! And Araya… well, I can sometimes moan on his high pitched vocals, because I don’t like them so much, but some of his other vocals sound really evil and vicious. His bass playing is sometimes hardly audible, but I can live with his performance and all in all some of his vocals on “Show No Mercy” are just good, some are maybe not quite as good, but it is OK. Artwork? Well, first thing, which you notice is that great huge pentagram with Slayer logo written in sharp letters, with sword inside the circle. Isn’t it one of the best logos ever made? Artwork for “Show No Mercy” is nothing special maybe, but I can put it next to “In the Sign of Evil” or “Morbid Visions”, if you know what I mean.
Standout tracks: “Evil Has No Boundaries”, “Die by the Sword”, “Black Magic”, “Crionics”
Final rate: 85/100
"Show No Mercy" is not Slayer's greatest work. As a whole, the band gelled more and became more ferocious with each release after, and in time would become one of, if not the, greatest metal bands of all time. With this release, they paid homage to their idols in a not so discreet form, all while changing the face of heavy metal while doing so. Not too shabby for a bunch of teenagers.
Musically, as I said, there is a lot of aping and praising going on here. At worst, the riffs are second-rate Venom rip offs, but that's few and far between. There are some truly iconic riffs on this album, such as "Black Magic", "The Antichrist", and the seething opener "Evil Has No Boundaries". These riffs are often emulated by extreme metal bands today, thus completing, or rather extending, the circle of metal life. These riffs were based off the bands they were worshiping at the time, such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and of course Venom. Now, bands worship Slayer and rip the rip off riffs off. It really is a strange idea to think, but that's how music works.
The real standout points here are the drumming and the lyricism. Dave Lombardo is and will always be one of the greatest thrash metal drummers to ever walk this planet, and if you need any further proof, listen to this album. At the time of recording, he was 18 years old, playing double bass at speeds never before heard. The intro to the closing track "Show No Mercy" is as difficult as it is iconic, and proof that Lombardo's drumming was far ahead of his years at that time.
Lyrically, the album is incessant in Satanic and evil themes. Far ahead of their time at this point, the band did what Venom did and, in my opinion, did it much better. From the album cover to the back, with Jeff Hanneman playing his guitar with an inverted cross, the imagery and lyrics were insane for the time. In 1983, most bands were still writing NWOBHM style songs, which never exclusively spoke of Satan and death, but rather other less controversial topics. Slayer took the imagery and the themes and put it to some truly violent music, and created a stew of Satan and evil. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman were the main lyricists, and the job they did may be seen as cliched now, but at the time it was both influential and controversial.
In closing, "Show No Mercy" is one of those albums you know is just a stepping stone to greater things, but it still is incredible in its own right. From the scathing riffage of "Evil Has No Boundaries" to the closing mayhem of "Show No Mercy", Slayer wrote and created an album way ahead of its years, and it still holds up to this day. That's the sign of an incredible album.
When Show No Mercy came out in 1983, I bet it scared the shit out of everyone. This is one of the most influential and remarkable albums to ever see the light of day. This may not be the first thrash metal album, for I think that would be Welcome to Hell, but I prefer this to any thrash release before or after it. This is a fucking masterpiece. Leather, bullet belts, pentagrams, upturned crosses, and fucking thrash. This album should be the one every new metalhead should start with. No bullshit, just blasphemous thrash metal. Lombardo’s drumming is, along with the riffs, the album's highlight. He has control over his drumming and while it may not be as fast as his contemporaries in hardcore or punk, it sticks to his objective, which is to blend in with the music. The vocals of Araya cannot be left out. His is one of the most unique voices in metal and is perfect for Slayer. He has always been a great vocalist and is apt for Slayer, though some may disagree. His bass lines are quite hard to hear, but that doesn't hinder me because the overall output is great.
Now to the focal point of his release and that’s the guitar work: both the riffs and the massive solos. The riffs are really catchy for all the songs here. Seems they took a good amount of time to create the riffs and the solos. There's a lot of whammy-bar usage, which is pretty great and many bands like Possessed, for one, would make this an integral part of their sound. The solos are fast and tremolo-picked and at times melodic like the one in ‘The Antichrist’. There’s always been a comparison between Kill ‘Em All and Show No Mercy, as both are killer releases, but both of them are quite different from each other. Kill ‘Em All is speed metal pretty much while Show No Mercy is pure thrash.
With anti-Christian lyrical themes and imagery, one hell of an album cover, and one of the most recognizable logos in metal, Show No Mercy was destined for greatness. The production is ideal in its overall sound, but the bass is nonexistent here. I don’t think the inaudibility of the bass is a huge let off, but I think this would’ve been better if the bass were audible. I think this release was immense and catapulted Slayer to the forefront of the US thrash metal scene, which was bearing seeds for the birth of monumental thrash metal releases in the future. I’m not sure if this is my favorite Slayer release or if it’s Reign in Blood, but I guess Show No Mercy edges out Reign in Blood considering the time of its release and its classy musicianship at such a young stage in the band’s career.
All of the songs here are great and it’s really hard for me to pick one or two as my favorite tracks. This release has spawned a huge number of clones, but nothing in the highest sense of the word comes close to this monumental release. Show No Mercy is one of my favorite albums and one of the greatest thrash albums ever. If you call yourself a ‘thrash-head’ and you haven’t listened to this album (I wonder if there are such people), you should kill yourself because your life isn’t valuable. Die by the Sword!
Although later releases from the big four of thrash (Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth) sounded wildly different, it is extraordinary how similar the debut records by of all of them are. As The Antichrist kicks off, it could clearly be any early James Hatfield riff. Dave Mustaine and Scott Ian too penned many similar guitar lines as you will find throughout Show No Mercy, so when it comes down to judging which debut was better, the only way to do so is on the strength of the songs. I would say all bands' musical abilities were equal, although Anthrax’s 1984 effort automatically loses out by having Neil Turbin on vocals. The man was clearly not up for the job compared to both his successors. Megadeth’s Killing is my Business… was a thrilling effort, but compared to both Slayer and Metallica’s debuts it felt as if Mustaine was throwing too many ideas at the wall and seeing what stuck. From my chart run down, you can see I much prefer the Metallica debut, but Show No Mercy is not too far off at all (it would take until the mid 90’s for Metallica to fall behind Slayer in my humble, yet oh so correct opinion).
Slayer, who are best known today for their extreme speeds, only get hellbent on The Final Command, which ends up being the weakest link on here, maybe because production techniques hadn’t yet caught up with the genre, although knowing that Kerry King’s dad and Tom Araya financed the recording, plus the fact the group ended up paying for their own tour tells us that there was not a lot of money flying around at the time. Metal Blade must have corrected and compensated the situation some how as they managed to keep the band on the label for another two years after this came out. Knowing how huge they are now, the mind boggles to how.
The band is so young here their influences are threaded throughout each groove. Crionics could easily be confused as an outtake from Iron Maiden’s Killers lp, from the crafting of the lead from Kerry King to the rolling thunder of the bass line which is pure Steve Harris through and through. Elsewhere you can finds tips of the hat to the satanic imagery of Mercyful Fate and Venom with bonus props especially going to the song craft of Judas Priest. If it weren’t for this, Show No Mercy would be just another metal record thrown upon heavy metals trash heap, all style and no substance, but songs like Die By The Sword and Tormentor stick in your head long after any track on a 1983 speed metal record should. The chorus’ are strong enough to hold the bolts of the song together when the speed gets too frantic. It wasn’t until Reign In Blood, produced by Rick Rubin, that Slayer found the production that truly matched their pace.
A few years ago I read an interview with Dave Lombardo whom I may add is often referred to today as thrash metal’s greatest drummer, that he only realized he was a good enough drummer for a career in music when he managed to play the whole of Kiss’ 100,000 Years, including the six minute solo off of their Alive album. Not knowing this tidbit at the time, but being a Slayer concert virgin I attended one of their London shows in the early '90s wearing a Kiss t-shirt and the looks I got from the throng of denim and leather-clad muppets were that of disgust and ridicule. I felt like a right chump for days after, my metal credibility all but disappeared, my rock buddies mocked and I still hold the mental scars of course, but after reading Dave’s comments ten years after the fact I finally felt vindicated. Still, I wouldn’t do it again. Ever. Slayer fans take no prisoners.
As much as I enjoy some of Slayer’s later work, and even though I do enjoy the more chaotic thrash now and then, I’ve always preferred the more traditional approach to thrash metal. I like Kreator, but I’m more of an Overkill fan. So I guess that’s a good basis for why I love this album so much. But it goes much deeper than that.
Every aspect of this album seems perfectly presented. Its low quality fits the mood of the music well. I’ve never considered Tom Araya a great vocalist, but one thing he does perfectly is fit Slayer’s sound. He’d be a shitty singer in any other band, but is perfect for Slayer. However, one thing that is strange is how often he uses his high pitched vocals here. It’s pretty common. Even though he used them after this album, it became far scarcer. Which kind of sucks, because Tom’s High pitch scream was fucking nuts. In fact, “Evil Has No Boundaries” open with a sick scream after a guitar intro, much like “Angel of Death” would later. The song then goes on to be a fucking fantastic, bone crushing thrash track.
The guitar much different than on most Slayer albums, having a more riff oriented than the speed based style that dominated most later Slayer albums. There are more ringing power chords, and the riffs feel more like Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” than “Reign in Blood,” but it took what Metallica was starting, and truly brought it to a new level. It takes that sort of ‘NWOBHM-inspired thrash’ sound and really makes it a little more powerful.
The solos also sound much more written than the “franticly fretting random notes on the high E string” sound they’d later adopt. Some of the solos are actually pretty fantastic. Because god, do I hate most Slayer solos.
The only downside is that much of the album sounds the same. Every song is good, and the album is very consistent, but sometimes it makes you want them to try different things. Which, to be fair, does happen now and then, but no enough to make it feel like they could do more. In most cases “different things” means letting a lot more NWBHM influence seep through, with “Crionics,” almost sounding like an early Iron Maiden tune. By the way, “Crionics” is a fucking fantastic track. It goes more in that midpaced but heavy track direction. Maybe like ‘Seek and Destroy’ with a Maiden gallop? There’s a bridge part that actually almost reminds me of early Manowar too. It’s such a strange song to hear from Slayer.
The title track is fucking intense, very fast by the standards at the time. The only faster song on the album is the Final Command, which is actually something of an indicator of the direction Slayer would later choose to take.
I honestly wish Slayer had done more music in this style. Again, it’s not that I don’t like later slayer albums. Aside from the vastly overrated Reign in Blood, I’m a fan of everything up until “Devine Intervention,” which if both just OK, and their last decent album. But this style is so much more interesting to me. Or maybe I only like it so much because it’s the only album Slayer did in this style. Or maybe because it came so early in the thrash scene, this being up there with “Kill ‘em All” as the earliest all out thrash albums. Either way, despite being looked over in favor of “Reign in Blood” and “Hell Awaits,” this album is truly a classic. In my opinion, this is the best goddamn Slayer album.
For a debut, this thrash metal quartet is amongst the ranks of fellow competitors such as Metallica’s Kill ‘em All. Show No Mercy from start to finish is an epic saga of pure metal originality and brilliance. The production quality is quite raw sounding, but each segment from band be it the vocals, guitars or drums are well mixed in here. Tom Araya sets the stage for some highly evil screaming soaking up the music very well in its’ entirety. Songs such as “Die By the Sword” and “Black Magic” are classics and my favorite tracks by far. That’s obligatory though, what matters here is the music.
What you’ll hear in the songwriting are bar chords galore with riffs that are captivating. Not only that, but they also feature tremolo picked frenzies on some tracks. Both guitarists put out some amazing leads. It’s difficult to tell the difference between the 2 guitarists. Over time, there was a progression by Jeff Hanneman and a laziness in Kerry King’s lead guitar work. On this debut, both guitarists put out some great tracks and the crunch tone distortion reigns here. I still think that Reign In Blood is the band’s best output, but Show No Mercy is one hell of a good debut.
There are trade off leads here most of what you find in the music is purely original thrash metal to the core. Every instrument is in unison with one another. Again the raw production is typical when it comes to the early 80’s style of recording. The mixing and production forced the band to have talent. That is apparent here. The leads are simply amazing and awe inspiring. I don’t think that any of them could compete with their later releases. These leads on here are the most original. The riffs are simply amazing as well and the band put together a conglomeration of thrash metal genius.
The only beef that I have about the album are the lyrical concepts. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to write about Satanism/anti-Christianity. But this is why Slayer stayed underground over the years is because of them being notorious for construction these topics. But they admitted they were not serious about the topics or Satanists themselves. But I still do thing that it’s obvious that they have a beef with religion in general a lot like Destruction has as well. Metallica had some tracks on their early 80’s albums that talked about these topics but weren’t serious about it. They just wanted to stay underground.
No song on here is boring or lacking in intensity. Araya’s screaming goes well with the music even though I’m not a huge fan of his vocal work. But on Show No Mercy, his vocals well suited the music in its entirety. The most amazing and original amounts of work went into constructing the music. Both Jeff and Kerry were at their best on here especially in the lead department. They both are in unison when it comes to dual match up. Kerry definitely declined over the years where Jeff kept getting better and better then it became easier to distinguish between which lead was whose. On Show No Mercy, both of them were amazing.
If you don’t own this release and are a thrash metal fan, get it right away. You’d be amazed at most of the sounds coming out of your speakers. 10 tracks and a little over 35 minutes in length, Show No Mercy is a debut album that deserves mighty recognition for. Too bad about their latest release, stick with the old Slayer and you’ll be fine. This debut into the thrash metal world created such amazing work by the band and their talent during the earliest era. Most thrash metal bands either changed their style of music like Metallica and some others keep putting out releases that sound the same. Slayer’s new release is putrid. Show No Mercy is one hell of a great release however!
I'll be totally honest here; I'm not huge on Slayer. Certainly I don't hate them (fuck, I'm reviewing this, right?), but I find much of their work to suffer from repetitiveness and some mistakes in the studio (Diabolus In Musica, anyone?) But, I will give credit where credit is due, as a number of their separate songs (ie "Seasons In The Abyss" or the legendary "Reign In Blood") are damn vicious and well put together bits of thrash. The credit is certainly due here.
Slayer's 1983 debut album is pure, raw 80's metal at its finest. It's heavier than much heavy metal at the time, but not quite thrash. The songs are catchy and have just a little of that beloved NWOBHM sound sprinkled on top with buzzaw guitars and screaming, chanting choruses. The first-time band here is overall damn good. Tom Araya, a respiratory therapist at the time, thumps the bass with competence, but it's nothing too special. His voice, however, is legendary. Araya growls and shouts his vocals with precise menace, and his occasional screams are genuinely, jaw-droppingly spine-tingling, and just plain METAL! Jeff Hanneman and the fantastic Kerry King are a duel to be reckoned with, their guitars buzzing the listener's ears like angry wasps. Lastly, Dave Lombardo certainly kicks ass with his drumwork, though he, along with Hanneman and King, would improve greatly on preceding albums, particularly "Reign In Blood". On a side note, many have complained of this album's rough and, some say, "horrible", production quality. If you want bad quality, listen to Venom's "Welcome To Hell" (still an incredible album in its own right), but otherwise fuck off; it's not that bad.
This album has songs. Great songs. Really, really fucking AWESOME, pure molten metal! No fancy-ass technicality or theatrics, no pansy ballads, none of that shit. "Show No Mercy" really does just that; it whoops ass in a non-stop assault of heaviness from beginning to end. The only downside is that many of the songs may be a bit hard to tell apart at first, with nothing particularly special differentiating them. A closer look and a number of re-listens eventually gives each song its own sound and merit. From the killer solos of "Metal Storm/Face The Slayer" ( my personal favorite) and "Black Magic" to the memorable choruses of "Fight Till Death" and "Die By The Sword", it all kicks skulls and melts faces.
If slight amateurishness and rough production isn't your thing, go listen to your fucking Van Halen or something. Otherwise enjoy "Show No Mercy", one of the most relentless and purely metal albums of the 80's. Headband till there's nothing left!!!
The most important thing I could say about this sort of thing (to me, at least,) is that this is the album that Possessed's first sounds most like. Oof, I guess that sounds like kind of a backhanded insult, doesn't it? It's really not; I'm just aware of what I listen to. I listen to death and black and grind; at a fundamental level, I DON'T listen to stuff like this. So my interest in an album like "Show No Mercy" is more in its influence, because there's only so much I'm going to get out of it in and of itself. It's neat, but do I ever listen to it? Not really- too close to Judas Priest for me.
So I guess that's what most people always say about this album and make a big deal about: it's basically Slayer's heavy/speed metal album before "Hell Awaits" (or maybe "Haunting the Chapel") stormed in and stripped most of that out in favor of a more brackish and deadly sound. Here the game is different; the cheese still permeates it pretty deeply. The falsettos wails aren't vestigial here, if you get what I'm saying- the texture of this music is so firmly entrenched in the tropes of early Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and other big names that Slayer is almost unrecognizable underneath it all. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that a fundamentally different band is at work here than the one which would end up churning out "Reign in Blood" only a few years later- the goals, quite simply, are very different from each other.
If at this point Slayer wasn't absolutely trying their hardest to be the most vicious, insane, and brutal band in the world, I guess they were just trying to kick out a solid, cool heavy metal album, and I suppose they succeed on that. The riffs are a lot more melodic here- they're not designed to punish the audience so much as seem KICKIN' RAD, and the surprisingly restrained drumming and vocal performances both point to a band more interested in drinking beer and having a Halloween-dark good time than really eviscerating the audience. That's not to say there aren't moments of surprising brutality which would foreshadow the future: the title track is pretty hard to ignore in its viciousness, and "Black Magic" seems especially ominous when sandwiched between the other, cuddlier tracks on this record.
Hindsight's kind of a curse, really. Save the hate mail- I'm not going to "get" this album any more no matter how much you demand I do.
Basically "Show No Mercy" suffers from proximity to infinitely more intense music in arm's reach of it; for those of my generation who have always defined Slayer as the most hard-bitten and cruel of the big 4, it's sort of difficult to rationalize that image with what seems at first glance to seem like a pretty restrained, not particularly morbid release from the guys who would later base their careers off nazi death camps and corpsefucking. So much of what you get with this dinosaur, when you're my age, involves mentally drawing the feathers and beak on it and wondering at just how it's going to fly so soon from then. Invariably, it comes off as dated, especially without any sort of nostalgia to attribute to it- there's other, more immediately relevant releases in the band's catalog.
But as to how it sounds, independent of any history lesson- fun, more or less. It's obviously the most hard-bitten tracks which are the most viscerally appealing; the aforementioned "Black Magic" and "Show No Mercy" are the absolute standouts, sounding like the earliest Sodom or Possessed material with their thrashing ferocity, tightly-coiled riffing, and alarmingly vociferous vocal performances. This is what makes it so interesting on a track like "Tormentor," where Slayer calls the spirit of Maiden perhaps more fully than anywhre else on the album- the more extreme tracks on this release are such obvious outliers it almost makes you question whether the band themselves were aware of the change that was rapidly taking place in their own style.
Really the most interesting feature of this record is how, well, NORMAL (for want of a better term) it sounds. King and Hanneman's riffs are simple and catchy in the speed metal form, without the explosive and atonal edge that the band would rapidly develop as their signature style, and even King's soloing lacks the cat-in-a-blender quality that he's so legendary for. The sheer consonance of this music (and the amazingly clean singing voice that Araya essentially employs) is a total surprise, even when connected to the very next EP the band would turn out. I think most distinctive of all the pieces in their formative stages, though, are the drums- almost hilariously restrained, straightforward, and heavy metal, without the insistent push that Lombardo would later bring in as a crucial element of the band's sound.
Do I particularly like this? No- this isn't something I would really ever listen to on my own. Is it a necessary part of your collection? Well, of course. And if nothing else, it's a museum that everyone should visit once- even if it's on a field trip of sorts.
Slayer's debut "Show No Mercy" can be best summed up with the word revolutionary. This was the birth of extreme metal as we know it. Venom may have started it, but Slayer perfected it. The guitars still have a distinct NWOBHM flavor to them that's undeniably tasty. Slayer's stylistic direction was largely influenced by legends like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Venom. Slayer would go on to develop and perfect their own sound in their future releases, but this is where Slayer were at their youngest and hungriest.
The lyrics try their best to be offensive but often come off as laughable as the band hadn't yet developed in that department. The songwriting comes off a bit like a bunch of teenagers obsessed with the occult and Satan, which is exactly what they were at the time. The influence of this album is widespread. Thrash giants like Kreator, Sepultura and other European heavyweights took their inspiration from here.
The guitar duo of Hanneman/King would quickly go on to establish themselves as the most influential duo after Downing/Tipton of the legendary British heavy metal band, Judas Priest. Dave Lombardo doesn't quite push the limits of extreme metal drumming here like in "Reign in Blood", but for 1983, this was quite fresh, like a faster, more intense style of NWOBHM drumming. Tom Araya's hellish high-pitched screams and his spitfire delivery of the lyrics were completely outrageous for its time.
Slayer were possibly the first band alongside Metallica to possess that signature 'bay area crunch' that rubbed off on every other band in the scene. The riffs found on this album take the best of Judas Priest and Venom and push them to a whole new level of intensity never seen or heard before. The blasphemous lyrics and complete disregard for record sales or achieving fame is exactly what made them famous later. Surprisingly, the riffs have an inherent 'catchiness' that makes them get stuck in your head forever. Also worth noting is that despite the one-dimensional nature of the songs, they all stand out individually with their own identity and keeps this album from becoming repetitive.
Admittedly, these songs are best heard live as the production is a bit lacking sometimes. The drumming doesn't seem to be have dynamics or intricacy as it comes off as a steady, unrelenting background noise that is only decent at best.
"Evil Has No Boundaries" starts off with a demented King Diamond like shriek from Araya before the voracious riffing kicks in to a steady drum beat. The guitar solo is actually better than the ones in "Reign in Blood". They're not excessively squealy and are a little more comprehensible. "The Antichrist" is another solid, but predictable thrasher. The main riff has a distinct 'upbeat' quality to it that Slayer further explored past this album. "Die By The Sword" dishes out more of the same, although the song is a bit more adventurous and offers more in terms of variety with some punishing mid-paced sections accompanying the chorus "Die by the sword!.." which is barked out with hostility by Araya.
"Fight Till Death" sounds like an early mid-paced Kreator song, The lyrics and song title does seem a bit immature but the riffing kicks ass, so no complaints overall. "Metal Storm/Face the Slayer" is the longest song, clocking in at a whopping 5 minutes by Slayer's usual standards. The track is a lethal mix of Venom-esque riffing and the old British 'gallop' made famous by Iron Maiden. The solos are fast but tend to be very much melodic in character, a bit like the ones from Metallica's debut. "Black Magic" is the best Slayer song ever and the definitive introduction to the genius of both Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. The intro of the song seems to slowly fade in and develops into one of the most memorable evil riffs crafted this side of "Raining Blood". Another memorable moment is the crunchy mid-paced groove that kicks in at around the 3-minute mark, reminding me a bit of Metallica's 'Four Horsemen'.
"Tormentor" sees more NWOBHM influenced speed metal from Slayer. Even the style of lyric-writing draws heavily from early Iron Maiden, more specifically the albums Iron Maiden and Killers. "Final Command" is more Priest influenced but definitely in the same mold as "Tormentor". Araya tries his hand at singing on "Crionics" and makes his best Rob Halford impersonation. The riffing sees more of that vintage Iron Maiden 'galloping' riffs. "Show No Mercy", the title track sees more of the same, by this time the approach gets a little redundant.
Reign in Blood may be my favorite album by this band like many fans, but Slayer's impressive debut is every bit as important in the development of this genre. It truly captures the aggression and hunger that the thrash metal scene had in its earliest days of existence. 1983 was the year that thrash metal truly started to distinguish itself from NWOBHM. No matter what they did later, they will forever be an integral part of the scene and for that, and they will forever have my respect.
"...blasting our way through the boundaries of hell, no one will stop us tonight..."
What's the nostalgic stare? Unless you're around five years old, everyone does it. It's daydreaming about a time in your life when things seemed better, brighter, and perhaps even more sensible than they are now. It involves some sort of hindsight that makes that time appear more enchanted than it probably was...people or places you miss, things you had - an atmosphere slain by time. The older you get, the more it happens. My stare involves discovering a young underground scene and the enigmatic bands that populated it, so if you should happen to see me at work or at the bar or waiting at a stoplight locked in some sort of gaze, you know what's going on.
It's around April or May 1984 in one such instance. I'm on the 8th grade shuttle bus going home when I'm first hearing Slayer. Walkman on, my eyes stare at the back of the seat in front of me, jaw's slack, and I can't believe what's being pumped through my headphones. A new acquaintance of mine at school taped two songs for me of this band for which I had only seen one devastating picture of (http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s264/gutterscream/IMG_0010.jpg) that I've hardly seen anywhere since. Those songs were "Crionics" and "Show No Mercy". "Crionics", while more melodic, progressively traditional, and contrived (I would learn later on) for a Slayer tune, was still pretty much heavier than a lot of what I'd already heard, but "Show No Mercy" was just total destruction of the boundaries. Savagery and aggression were at the gate and screaming. This was the be all-end all of metal tracks for me, and to this day despite all the stuff that has been released since, I'm still in awe of this song.
Show No Mercy is one of the heaviest, most antagonistic albums grooved in that pre-'84 commercial radio and NWOBHM-bloated era. Along with Kill 'Em All, Forged in Fire and a very short list of other albums, it's a signal flare that burned through the layered fleece of British acts that weren't commercial or well-known, but were cousins in their semblance of sound from the earliest of Mythra to the fading pulse of Spartan Warrior. It just barely reached the surface where the scene was ruled by major labels, their profit margins and their approved bands. We'd like to think the record automatically lit the metal scene on fire, but it didn't.
"...Satan watches all of us, smiles as some do his bidding..."
So, what in Slayer's unknown repertoire put them over the edge? Speed, vocals and attitude. Bands dishing it out with pure disdain weren't plentiful. Motorhead, Venom, maybe Raven and Exciter, some Anvil, the six-month old Kill 'Em All, punk - hell, MC5 were sometimes more of a bully than the early metal bands. Likewise, Slayer took and gave no crap - the handful of NWOblah blah rhythms they siphoned off their older peers prevail with a level of brawn and intensity that would go hand in hand with this new upsurge in rhythmic velocity, this dissident speed-picking that would be forever known as the bedrock of thrash metal. Change anything else you want - vocal range, drumwork, throw in a saxophone, whatever - without this, it isn't thrash (not that anyone had a clue at the time).
Add to this the final frontier - Araya's deep, diabolical, and unabashed vocal delivery (that really only Cronos and a demo-entrenched Tom Warrior were doing) that was spouting out foul devil-skinned lyrics to match (at a level that really only Venom, Mercyful Fate, and a very unknown Hellhammer were penning). With the standards being shattered left and right, one hoped it was only a matter of time before poor out-of-the-loop metal fans put down Circus Magazine (or listened to the dorky fourteen year old waving the record around like a Nascar flagman) and took notice.
"...you never should have come this far..."
With a frenzied solo and one of the first of many Araya screams, "Evil Has No Boundaries" is born, kicking and screaming, centered around a chorus that includes as far as I know their sole attempt at backing vocals. Two future staples are up next, "Antichrist" and "Die By the Sword", a pair of rhythm-heavy tracks that are way more structurally-driven than anything breakneck and can mislead the listener into thinking the opener is a fluke, a one-off bruiser, and that's when vaunted "Fight Til Death" walks in like a gorilla that's missed its last ten meals. With its frightfully dramatic chorus, wild repeating and off-kilter main riff, and unrelenting speed, "FTD" just may be the first bonafide thrash creature recorded for mass consumption outside the Metallica camp. Hanneman and King team up to usher in "Metalstorm/Face the Slayer" with a burst of hardened Euro-drama riffs that serve as an appetizer to its violent, near blow-by-blow lyrics.
Okay, in order for "Black Magic"'s mighty rising-from-the-depths opening to be truly effective, you have to have had to flip the side (which we all had to do), and headphones didn't hurt. What the cd doesn't offer are those extra five or six seconds where you acknowledge your own astonishment for side one. Yeah, sounds gay, but it happened. The more methodical "Tormentor" prepares the quick attack of "Final Command", easily the most frantic speed-chaser of the bunch with a pair of screams that awaken the aforementioned melody of "Crionics", a tune laden with traditional riffs coated in the black chrome of Slayer's unprescribed heaviness and ignites the pyre of the monstrous title track that can blow holes in ships' hulls. From the first hammering blows of Lombardo's intro (who was still in high school and had yet to come into his own), "SNM" is nothing but bone saw speed, vibrating pain, and the shrilling end to an lp that should've turned the underworld upside down. It was a jarring, ocean-heavy wake-up call that drowned me in fear, bewilderment, and hope, yet I survived. No one played a track like that. Not Venom. Not Exciter. Not Metallica. Not Anvil. Not Mercyful Fate. No one.
...I am the menace in your eyes, the one you can't escape...
After many, many years of global Reign In Blood adoration it has almost become fashion this new millennium to rediscover and worship Show No Mercy. It is a good album, sure, but Slayer were only half way here to shedding their cover skin and finding their own style and sound as perfected as on their next 4 albums. Just like Anthrax’ debut, this album is still filled with too many blatantly copied ideas from the acts they used to cover in the earliest days of their existence. Yes, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and of course Venom (and to a lesser amount Motörhead) are all over the place here. However, it must be said that because of Araya’s typical voice and Lombardo’s drumming, the band already come very close to their own sound. King and Hanneman were only halfway.
‘Evil Has No Boundaries’, ‘Fight ‘till Death’, ‘Black Magic’, ‘Final Command’ and ‘Show No Mercy’ are 5 tracks on which Slayer show their fast potential and differentiate themselves already a bit from the other early day speed and thrash metal groups emerging from their basements. These songs are ridden with obvious Venom influences (almost similar to Bathory’s debut a few months later) and showcase more palm muted riffing than Venom ever dared. The funniest thing of course being that Slayer and Bathory both copied a lot of Venom on their debut albums but were able to actually pull it off much better than Venom themselves in terms of tightness.
With ‘The Antichrist’ and ‘Die by the Sword’ the band delivers two mid paced songs which are catchy as well as pretty ‘evil’. A remarkable achievement and it’s not without reason these two songs have remained live favourites all these years.
Which brings us to the ‘bad’ here. I’ve never been too fond about ‘Metal Storm/Face the Slayer’. The song drags too much. There is a certain attempt at regaining the ‘The Antichrist’ and ‘Die by the Sword’ atmosphere but it just falls short simply because there are too many awkward breaks and dull in-between riffs messing up the tension.
The attempt at playing Clive Burr rhythms, filling the song with one Maiden rip off after another and Araya’s activities which some might call ‘singing’ make ‘Crionics’ sound like a cover gone horribly bad.
The earlier mentioned ‘Final Command’ even tries to combine Maidenesque riffing with Venomish intensity and even though it works just enough to be called decent, the lame intro and constant borrowing of riff blueprints does get annoying. ‘Tormentor’ is just plain dull. The main riff is neither heavy nor evil and disappears into NWOBHM mediocrity. Not to mention the godawful chorus.
My first introduction to Slayer was Hell Awaits and from that point on I really got into Reign. When I first heard Show No Mercy it simply didn’t convince me. And as a whole it still does not, save a few tracks. And even those tracks I prefer hearing live since I’ve never liked the production here. Especially the drums sound incredibly lame with an overdose of cheap basement reverb. Years later Decade Of Aggression really showed how these songs could and should sound.
Show No Mercy is a decent debut but not close to what was to come… for instance when they unleashed Chemical Warfare unto the world a few months later, that’s when hell really froze over!
I shall say right now that Slayer is my favourite band of all time. They are the band that got me into heavy metal. I thought it appropriate for me to review their first album as the first review I write for them. Enough with silly intros, let’s get to the music. The guitar seems to be a logical place to start.
The guitar on this album is much more melodic than any of their other albums. This album also features the best Slayer solos in my opinion. My favourite Slayer solo is in The Antichrist because it is probably their most melodic solo ever! Metal Storm (the intro to Face the Slayer) has probably the best intro that Slayer has ever written. The album also has some pretty sick riffs, I’ll never forget the riff to Black Magic. The riff to Die by Sword during the solo section is so powerful. Probably the heaviest riff on here.
The bass.. is there. It just exists and doesn’t do much for the album. It is barely audible for most of the album. Then again, Tom has never been the best bass player around but he works for this album. I never really wanted Tony Choy to be in Slayer.
Talking about Tom. His vocals here are fantastic! This is back when he was young and could still do high pitched screams. His vocals here may not be the most aggressive but they are really good! The chorus to Fight ‘til Death is amongst the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard in a Slayer song. “Prepare for attack, your body will burn, endless war, there’s no return, prepare for attack, death will arrive, your orders are clear, no way to hide, fight til death!”
Now for the drumming! Just like every Slayer album the drumming on this one is superb. Dave Lombardo always keeps things interesting. The best drum pattern on here would have to be in The Antichrist. The drumming follows and complements the riff so well it’s insane. The intro to Show No Mercy is practically a high speed drum solo and it demonstrates Dave’s power behind the kit.
Overall this is among the greatest Slayer albums and it showcases some of their most brilliant compositions. Songs like The Antichrist, Metal Storm/Face the Slayer, Black Magic and Tormentor show this band’s amazing song writing capabilities and the brilliance that they are capable of, even if at this point they had not yet found their sound.
- The Antichrist solo
- The riffs to Die by the Sword and Black Magic
- The intro to Face the Slayer and Show No Mercy
- The chorus to The Final Command
Slayer's first four full-lengths are all masterpieces but "Show No Mercy" gets my vote for one of the top 10 metal albums ever and their best. Comparable with Mercyful Fate's earliest offerings, "Show No Mercy" speeds things up quite a bit and thrash is born.
Like every single one of my favorite thrash or death metal albums, "Show No Mercy" features 10 blazing songs glorifying war, Hell, or some amalgam of the two. I'm a sucker for 80's speed/thrash metal and the more evil it is, the more memorable it is in my book: and this is arguably Slayer at their rawest. The guitar playing is absolutely stunning in its delivery with a healthy dose of NWOBHM present at all times.
The alternate picking guitar leads ("Metal Storm - Face the Slayer") are a true joy to behold and shred the fuck out of this masterpiece. I love the raw-as-fuck production it does not disappoint in any way; music of this nature has got to have a dirty feel to it for it to be truly effective in capturing the atmosphere these 4 crazed musicians were aiming for. The bass playing is far from inferior, but it are the guitar leads and solos in conjunction with the mad-man drumming that truly make this a gem. Tom Araya's voice is venomous and his high-pitched shrieks really send chills down my spine.
Nothing corny to be found here, nothing commercial, nothing accessible: just pure thrash fucking metal of the highest order with a steroidal injection of NWOBHM.
Slayer’s debut is still regarded as a milestone for a new way of doing metal. This new way was (and still is) the “thrash metal”. This album is, along with “Kill ‘em All”, “Killing is My Business…And My Business Is Good” and “Bonded By Blood”, an important sign of the new growing scene. Even if the influences of the heavy metal are still well displayed, this album is incredible for violence and speed. The music is truly EVIL and some face paintings utilized by the members, along with the inverted crosses, created a sort of mystery the surrounded the band in that period. I can only imagine those families that burned “The Number Of The Beast” LPs, because it was “satanic music”, when they found this album in their son’s metal collection.
This band, grown up with Venom and true heavy metal, created a piece of history, a must for every metal kid. And the story begins right here…four guys that wanted to play fast and brutal join together and after few demos, they recorded the first album, “Show No Mercy”. Ten tracks of pure speed/thrash metal. The first thing you can hear is the speed and the way of playing drums by Dave Lombardo: the brutal up tempos are still very influenced by punk music. Araya’s vocals are far more brutal than Hetfield ones and anyone thrash metal singer at the time. In the choirs of the first track “Evil Has No Boundaries” we have also Gene Hoglan singing! This song is incredible with a bunch of guitars solos, that are still melodic but incredibly fast for that period.
“Antichrist” song is a good example for those who want to know the power of Araya’s vocals at the time. The guitars are always very catchy and incredible obscure in the melodies. The solos are still very “heavy metal” but the violence is not common. “Die By The Sword” is still nowadays played live by the group. A classic with that bone crushing mid-paced riff in the central part, followed by fast solos by the guitars. “Fight ‘till Death” is pure headbanging!! Very simple riffage, always catchy refrains, fast tempo, punkish speed…great, great, great!! The solo here is incredible with the shreds, tapping and so on.
“Metal Storm/Face The Slayer” is truly apocalyptic in the music and is a bit different in its form. The Lombardo’s rolls at the beginning are powerful and the whole drums sound incredibly 80’s. Here the tempo is less fast, there is less urgency in wanting to destroy everything. The main part here is done by the guitars, that are very good at drawing melodic and evil riffs. “Black Magic” deserves no presentation at all. If you don’t know this song and the riff at the beginning you can leave and read a Cristina Aguielira’s review instead. This is pure evil. “Tormentor” is one of the heaviest metal influenced songs here and it’s fantastic.
“Final Command” is very heavy metal in the riffs but incredibly fast at the drums, while “Crionics” is slower and obscure in its melodies, that are always well set in the group’s skills. The drums intro the to last track, the title track, is another page of heavy metal. The whole song is fast, evil, bad ass and…well, Slayer. That’s all. This album is incredible forits importance, for the music and for the brutality shown in the year 1983. Innovators, killers, bad ass, violent…SLAAAYEEER FOREVER!!!!!
Metallica’s Kill 'em All and Slayer’s Show No Mercy paved the way for hundreds of thrash and speed acts to come. But this is way more melodic than most thrash out there. The music on Show No Mercy is basically Venom morphed with Judas Priest. In other words, NWOBHM, but faster. Very fun breed of thrash to listen to. The lyrics are pretty cheesy and not nearly as violent as Slayer’s later albums, but the songwriting here is really good. And get a load of that cover. Classic.
Tom Araya was very young, and his voice certainly shows it. He screams like a banshee on many of the songs, and he even does clean vocals. Araya is truly at his peak vocally. Hanneman and King play nicely, if a little bit less skilled than they would become over the next few years. They play dozens of whammy bar abusing solos, and also play a few melodic ‘Priest-influenced dual leads. Dave Lombardo does a pretty good job on drums, but he doesn’t quite reach those ludicrous speed tempos he plays on Reign in Blood.
The production is raw and cheap, but still light-years away from Venom. The guitar tone is nice and thick, but damn, the drums almost sound like electric ones. In all of Slayer’s later albums, you could tell instantly which guitarist was playing a solo, but it is harder here because both guitar tracks are dead center. Bass is average for thrash at this time.
“Evil Has No Boundaries” One of the best songs here. Like on “Angel of Death”, Araya lets out a scream at the beginning. A nice speedy number.
“The Antichrist” I just about crapped my pants when I first heard this song. It was a live version and I hadn’t previously heard Slayer’s early output. This one has a really catchy main riff and Hanneman’s solo is godly.
“Die by the Sword” This deserves all of the praise it gets. A true Slayer classic. The chorus commands you to headbang. Hanneman and King really burn the fretboards with the leads here. Hanneman’s solo still sends a chill up my spine. Whenever they played this one live, Araya would always say this really cheesy intro: “Some say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I say FUCK THE PEN! Because you can DIE BY THE SWORD!”
“Fight Till Death” One of the fastest songs on Show No Mercy. It’s really one of their first pure thrash numbers.
“Metal Storm/Face the Slayer” Starts off with an awesome guitar intro. But notice the very first riff. Metallica seem to have copied that riff in the beginning of “Creeping Death” one year later. Interesting…
“Black Magic” Definitely Slayer’s heaviest song at this point. Has a great building intro then it suddenly starts to thrash. Very memorable riff. Great song.
“Tormentor” The best NWOBHM song here for sure. Vastly underrated. I’m not sure why. You can sing along to the chorus! That doesn’t happen very often with Slayer songs.
“The Final Command” Yes, it may be the fastest song on Show No Mercy, but is definitely the worst of the bunch. The song sounds very forced and unfinished when compared to the rest of the album.
“Crionics” Another underrated melodic gem. Like “Tormentor”, it is packed with clean vocals. The second half of the song is instrumental. It just keeps building until the end where a couple monster guitar solos are unleashed.
“Show No Mercy” Starts off with a frenzied drum solo and turns into an almost anthemic thrasher, similar to “Evil Has No Boundaries”, but much faster. Wonderful choice of a closer.
Despite a few similar sounding songs and raw production, this is definitely a must for Slayer fans with an open mind.
With their 1983 debut “Show No Mercy” Slayer burst onto the seen with basically what could be described as a cleaned up Venom or thrashier Judas Priest. While most of the thrash bands of the time claimed great influence to “NWOBHM”, “Show No Mercy” sounds like it is a “NWOBHM” album.
Maybe what makes “Show No Mercy” so special is because when you look back on Slayer you see an amateurish, both in production and musicianship, band that is nothing like the brutal powerhouse presented on “Reign in Blood”. Although, this same observation can be said of Metallica’s and Megadeth’s respective debuts. But despite this, or in spite of it, they provide many early classic, and concert mainstays.
As said, “Show No Mercy” has a very prominent “NWOBHM” presence, but the main element of this is Tom Araya’s vocals. They sound closer to Rob Halford than what his vocals on anything on “Reign in Blood”. But there are definite cues culled from the likes of Venom, Judas Priest and to some extent Mercyful Fate. Just listen to the scream right in the opening “Evil Has no Boundaries” and not think of one of King Diamond’s or Rob Halford’s wail.
But what is distinctly Slayer are the heavily satanic laced lyrics. Some are cheesy and almost Spinal Tap like in their silliness, while there are parts where it definitely works, and foreshadow the lyrical themes of future albums.
There aren’t any filler songs on this album, but there sure a few standouts like “Evil Has no Boundaries”, “The Antichrist," "Die by the Sword," and "Black Magic". But at just 35 minutes there is absolutely no reason that an album as good as this doesn’t deserve to just be played from end to end.
Overall, Slayer’s debut, “Show No Mercy” is an absolute essential for any budding Slayer fan, and shouldn’t be passed over in favor of the more namedropped “Reign in Blood”. But even aside from that, this stands alone and needs no rely on the following albums for support, and for that reason, “Show No Mercy” is highly recommended.
Ah Slayer's earliest studio endeavor, Show No Mercy. An album that several years and dozens of plays later has not shown a hint of wear and is just as frenzied as it ever was. I had already written a tribute to this album, but now I feel a bit more detail is necessary to convey the unique quality and charm of this classic, that young metalheads may continue to seek it out early in their study of the great genre that is thrash metal. So without further adieu...Slayer Hour 1.
There’s no arguing that Slayer was a massively influential band; the only other thrash band that can claim to be on the same scale is Metallica. But on Show No Mercy, Slayer was as much a product of their own influences as they were of direct innovation. Of these influences, Venom is the most prominent. The fast tempos, aggressive rhythms, and chaotic solos found all over this album are direct descendents of that manic British three-piece, as is Tom Araya’s menacing singing style (yeah, he used to sing in these days) and the entire band’s visual image and stage presentation, as evidenced by the liner photos. It’s also a pretty goddamn raw effort, lacking the polished production of their later Def-American albums. This is, of course, in the album’s favor: not only is the bass audible under the madness (if only barely) but the slight charismatic sloppiness (Dave Lombardo’s drumming prowess is in its infancy) makes everything sound even more frantic. The general lyrical content, expanding on the band’s satanic imagery with elements of battle and killing, is savage and violent and at times mind-boggling (“Satanas sips upon the blood in which he feeds”), but is never anything less than extremely awesome. Also worth mentioning is the cover art, most likely the first thing to inform you that this album is going to rule. What image in all of the band’s history is more iconic than that? But while lots of bands were influenced by Venom, there is another key influence in the early Slayer formula that helped define the album as an inimitable classic.
That other direct influence audible on Show No Mercy is that of heavy metal gods Judas Priest. While this would be buried beneath the fury of future efforts, here it is in full display and is one of the main reasons that this is Slayer’s most unique album. Though much of the riffage uses the Venom template of atonality and ravaged pentatonics, there’s a subtle melodic edge to the King/Hanneman twin guitar attack that would later get abandoned for pure brutality. Take “Black Magic,” a song mostly characterized by fast chromatic riffs, which has a major key riff appearing right after the second verse. Several choruses, particularly those of “The Antichrist” and “Tormentor,’ have melodic chord progressions and vocal lines. Even speedy, “The Final Command” has more of a Priest-style speed metal vibe than a Venom one. There’s also a lot of harmonized guitar lines, but unlike the more dissonant ones from their later albums, here they’re more of a classic Tipton/Downing (or Smith/Murray) variety. The opening sequence of “Metal Storm/Face the Slayer” (in 9/8!), the middle break of “Crionics,” and just before the solos in “Die by the Sword”: these are among many examples of this throughout the album. Another key Judas Priest touch: Tom Araya’s falsetto screams. Though he obviously doesn’t have the control required to maintain melody lines in higher octaves like Halford, Tom knows the perfect locations in the vocal lines to add one of these ear-splitting wails to maximize effectiveness. Not on all their other albums combined are his screams so plentiful. A pity.
But for all the importance of their influences, there’s still a hell of a lot of stuff on here that is pure Slayer, through and through. After all, neither Venom nor Priest were playing at the speeds of tracks like “Show No Mercy,” “The Final Command,” or “Fight till Death.” And neither of them thought to learn the attributes of the other: Priest was never this brutal and Venom was never this memorable. Actually, neither of them were this brutal or memorable over the course of an entire album. There’s no filler whatsoever on Show No Mercy and every riff, be it simple (those of “Evil Has No Boundaries”) or surprisingly complex (those of “Metal Storm/Face the Slayer,” that end thing of “Crionics”), is perfectly written and placed, probably the reason it’s the only album I know front-to-back. Usually I’d pick some standouts, but everyone I know has different picks from this one. With songs as great as these, it’s hard to play favorites.
Oh and before I forget. Best. Solos. Ever. Before they went on to pioneer the atonal shredding style that death metal would abuse into irrelevance, Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King did their damnedest to actually play well-written solos (another latent Priest influence I’d say). And there’s plenty of ‘em, melodic, pentatonic, and atonal, throughout the album to keep the listener on the edge of their seat (climaxing in the “Crionics” solos, holy fucking shit are they killer). Think Slayer never had memorable guitar solos? Look no further.
*Slayer Trivia: this is also the only album in which all of the guitars were tuned to E Standard. Immediately after this they’d go to Eb Standard (also preferred by the likes of Yngwie) to make their riffs even more terrifying, a tuning they’d keep until after Divine Intervention (after which, of course, they’d go much lower). A small thing perhaps, but Standard tuning is certainly a reason why this album has the unique sound that it does. *
A certifiable classic, even if it would be eclipsed by the albums that followed it. If you’re even remotely interested in thrash/speed metal, this would be one of the first albums to get. In fact, you should have it already.
Demonic chants filling the night, virgin sacrifice, the pits of Hell, it is... Communism... no it isn't.... it's "Show No Mercy"... err, anyway... Having been used to the "Reign In Blood" to "Seasons In The Abyss" era Slayer for so long, this first effort and "Hell Awaits" really rekindled my interest in this band. I can relate to the people who viewed Slayer as a band they used to listen to loads but not anymore, it has somewhat had that effect for me, with the general style they solidified and made their own "Reign In Blood" onwards being a staple, a landmark, a sound to be proud of, but one that would wear on you after time as new and exciting bands would cross your path. I would place this just under "Reign In Blood", but its influence is probably greater.
Its easiest comparison in influence is "Kill 'Em All", both excellent albums, but this really being more inspirational in my view, I doubt most of the more extreme forms of Metal would have been really born without this release. It is by far heavier than Metallica's debut and really the two combined are the most influential albums on Thrash ever!
The sound here is very fast, evil version of the NWOBHM with heavy influence from bands such as Judas Priest and Venom (though much better than the latter, which comes as no surprise really, they all bettered Venom it seems). It really holds middle ground between those influences and what the band would become a short while later (and probably Thrash in general). They write mainly short songs here which for what is in them totally fulfills, they have just what they need to be entertaining pieces of headbanging fun. Maybe I swing to more complicated stuff mainly but "The Antichrist" and "Die By The Sword" are just my favourites here, not the most complex but with Thrashy breaks and riffs to die for! Honestly they are some of the most exciting songs I have heard from this band! Tom Araya has higher screams and a bit more youthful energy to him, he's kind of at his best here while the rest of the band were still working towards their peaks. Sweet solos from Jeff and Kerry, I mean what really needs to be said about them anyway, they aren't overly technical or wanky, they're still fast, precise and do it just right here! Dave? Still great, he gets the job done here, he doesn't impress as much as he would later but he still provides that necessary power behind the band's incredible sound here.
The only song I don't really care for is "The Final Command", I don't know, too underdeveloped, too little thought into balancing speed with everything else... the rest is all quality material, some standing above others though... the aformentioned "Antichrist" and "Die By The Sword" mixing with "Black Magic", "Fight Till Death" and "Evil Has No Boundaries" to create memorable staples of aggression never forgotten. "Metal Storm/Face The Slayer", "Tormentor", "Crionics" and "Show No Mercy" just behind them as non skippable tracks that you must hear when you spin this album. Highly recommended!
I own the remastered version, though no "Agressive Perfector" bonus track, I don't need another one! haha
Along with Metallica, Slayer were one of the pioneers in thrash metal. The difference is that while Metallica quickly moved into other metal territories, Slayer stayed pretty much where they began. And this is where they began. This album is perhaps their most melodic offering (until “Diabolus In Musica”, at least), and involves fast riffing, shouty vocals, and good thrash metal drumming.
The first song, ‘Evil Has No Boundaries’, is maybe the best song on offer. It begins with the trademark Araya shriek, before moving in for the kill. The lyrics are pretty average (all Satan and killing and so on), but the riffs are fast and brutal. The solo is very well done, and actually reminds me of Hammett’s guitar playing on Metallica’s “Kill’em All”. Good first track, then. ‘The Antichrist’ is not quite as fast, it’s kinda between mid and fast. You can guess the lyrics from the title. All in all it’s a bit boring, but cool chorus. Next up is ‘Die By the Sword’. This is slightly better than the last, but the chorus ruins it some way. It’s chugging along nicely, and is good for some controlled headbanging, but in the end, it’s not going anywhere.
Number four is ‘Fight Till Death’ (where do they come up with these titles…), another generic thrash metal song. Of course, it wasn’t generic at the time, but now it’s just so average. Sorry, but it bores me. ‘Metal Storm/Face the Slayer’ begins with some cool guitar playing. A really nice intro. Then it builds up in a cool way into a mid-tempo rhythm with (gasp!) some very memorable and catchy riffing. Then comes the ‘Face the Slayer’ part as I understand. Araya’s vocals here are so sub-standard it’s a shame. It’s the guitars that save this song.The last third of the song just makes me sleepy. Track number six is called ‘Black Magic’. Scary title, huh? Actually the intro is killer, it sounds like something Slayer would make in the late 80’s. This song is better than anything since the first track, luckily. Araya does little to impress me (his vocals, mind you, I’m not talking about his bassplaying), but the guitars are very cool.
‘Tormentor’ begins slowly with a build-up, and then it’s onto the same boring formula that killls most of the songs on this album. The chorus is actually alright , but the rest is forgettable. Also, it has a good solo, but what’s a good solo without a good track, eh? ‘The Final Command’, has some very cool guitar parts, and the chorus (if it qualifies as one) is somewhat catchy. Short, simple and to the point for once. Then we have ‘Crionics’. It begins boring, but surprise, the verse is very cool, and the chorus , too! Araya tries to sing on this one, and although he doesn’t quite succeed, it’s nice with a little variation, especially since he’s doing such an average job om the rest of the album. The last part of it makes me yawn, though.
Last song is ‘Show No Mercy’, and usually title tracks are among the best songs, right? Well, believe it or not, it’s among the better ones. A somewhat interesting guitar riff, and nice vocal line in the chorus. The solo is good, but by now all the solos have started to sound the same, so it doesn’t really matter. I’m glad when it finally ends.
Slayer’s debut isn’t a very good one. The songs are very samey, despite the somwhat melodic approach as opposed to later Slayer albums. The production is weak, and makes the drums sound like shit. The lyrics are dumb, Tom Araya does maybe his worst job ever vocally, and all in all it’s just not interesting enough to warrant a purchase. Of course, I bought it before listening to it, but that’s stupid me. If you’re interested in buying a classic bSlayer album, try “South of Heaven” instead, or if you’re into a more modern, melodic appraoch, go for “Diablous In Musica”. Aviod this one.
What this album lacks in sheer raw power, it more than makes up for with classy solos, interesting songwriting, and great catchy riffs. A lot of people don't like this album because it's "cheesy" or whatnot compared to Reign in Blood (oh, I'm sorry, you prefer your goat sitting on a throne, with lower contrast? Well, bend your album Show No Mercy booklet in half and spill soup on it!).
There are really no throwaway songs on here. Everything here is either classic speed metal or classic thrash, with one exception: Crionics, which sounds like something out of the Stained Class sessions!! (There is actually a version from 3/28/83 with an extra intro, that makes it sound even more Judas Priest-like!) Evil Has No Boundaries has a similar riff to the openers of two other Slayer albums: Angel of Death, and War Ensemble, Die By the Sword has that great thrash break, and Black Magic, for a while, was the most brutal song ever. (In early 1983, it debuted in Slayer's setlist.)
The best song on here is probably Crionics, with Tormentor a close second... (there's an absolutely amazing 8 minute version of Tormentor on the same bootleg that has the extra long Crionics!) Pretty much everything here is worth hearing, and just because it doesn't have 87 riffs in 48 seconds, doesn't make it a BAD album. The songs are all well-written, and the lead guitar is actually quite superb (none of the cat-torture footage spliced into Angel of Death to be found here!)
The great thing about Slayer's Reign in Blood album is that it's an album of great songs by guys who really can't play well, proving that the strength of an album is in the song writing - and while the members of Slayer may never win any talent contests when it comes to technical ability, they sure can craft some pretty evil numbers. So what happens BEFORE you learn how to write a song? You rip off your heroes. And since Slayer's early heroes were Judas Priest, that's what their debut album, Show No Mercy, ended up sounding like - a sped-up-to-hell version of classic Priest (Not that Turbo/synth stuff; I'm talking the GOOD shit - Sin after Sin, Stained Class...) - which is why I like it so much.
The riffs and song structures on Show No Mercy all harken back to the classic days of early heavy metal - very far from their double-picked angular/chromatic riffs of late. Lots of open-string galloping, pedal-note/diad riffs, unconventional perfect fourth/fifth harmonized riffing, and that classic tried-and-true method of guitar orchestration, counterpoint - it's all over songs like "Evil Has No Boundaries", "Fight Until Death", "Crionics", and the title track. The solos are also much more 'conventional' and melodic/blues-based, most notably in the descending/tapping run in the ending solo on "Die by the Sword" or Jeff Hanneman's almost-mellow melodic solo in "The Antichrist". "Black Magic" is probably the one song that comes closest to defining their later style, as the main riff has a nice descending parallel-third part that is similar to riffs they later used in "South of Heaven" (the song) and "Dead Skin Mask".
While at first the style may seem 'weak' to those more used to the band's later style, the song writing is still top-notch on "Show No Mercy", and the album also has a wild streak of youthful aggression that (to me) they've never really matched since. I still think it's a worthy addition to any metalhead's library, especially those with a craving for the mid-80's style thrash/speed metal.
(Originally published at LARM (c) 1999)