Although satanic imagery and grisly subject matter was nothing new to the realm of heavy metal (Venom, Black Sabbath, etc.), it wasn't until Slayer came along in the early '80s that it was explored so thoroughly. Although the band's brutal guitar riffing and superhuman double bass drumming were major ingredients of the band's sound, it was frontman/bassist Tom Araya's screaming vocal style and disturbing lyrics that set Slayer apart from the rest of the thrash metal pack. Born on June 6, 1962, in Santiago, Chile, Tom Araya and his family fled to the United States (California to be specific) when he was only four due to the political turbulence that Chile was experiencing. Inspired by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as a teen (Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest), Araya took up the bass and began jamming with local musicians.
In 1982, Araya began playing with a fledgling band from Huntington Beach, CA, which included guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo, soon known as Slayer. By mixing metal's power with punk's energy and speed, Slayer (along with Metallica) helped forge a whole new metal style -- thrash. By 1983, the quartet was signed to the independent Metal Blade label. The quartet began issuing albums and EPs at a brisk rate (1983's Show No Mercy, 1984's Haunting the Chapel, 1985's Hell Awaits, and 1985's Live Undead), during which Slayer built up a hardcore underground following. But the best was yet to come with their major-label debut, for Rick Rubin's Def Jam/American label -- Reign in Blood. The album caused quite a stir with its intensity (both musically and lyrically), but has since become one of metal's all-time classics and one of the genre's most influential releases. While most other metal bands were toning down their act for commercial success, Slayer kept pushing the boundaries with each subsequent release. Slayer's dark star continued to rise with such subsequent releases as 1988's South of Heaven, 1990's Seasons in the Abyss, 1991's Decade of Aggression: Live, 1994's Divine Intervention, 1996's Undisputed Attitude, 1998's Diabolus in Musica, and 2001's God Hates Us All. In addition to his Slayer duties, Araya has also guested on other artist's albums, such as an uncredited spot on Alice in Chains' Dirt and Soulfly's Primitive. 2001 saw the production of Araya's own signature bass series, for the ESP company. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi