South of Heaven (1988)
You know, picking between this and Reign in Blood was damn near impossible. For many years Reign... was, without a doubt my favorite Slayer album, and in many ways still is, but I've come to fully comprehend the "evil" of South of Heaven. It's not as abrupt and direct as Reign in Blood, but rather subtle and serpentine (although, of course, there's nothing subtle about lyrics such as "Silent scream, bury the unwanted child, beaten and torn, sacrifice the unborn"!), slowly weaving its spell on you in an almost erotic sort of way.
Reign in Blood (1986)
I remember walking down the hallway in between classes back in middle school, and seeing a cassette without it's cover, lying there in the middle of the hallway. I didn't know who it belonged to and so picked it up and lo and behold, there it was, the big D and J Def Jam logo! Yes indeed, I had just groundscored Reign in Blood! If memory serves me right, I actually skipped the rest of the day so I could go home and dive into the confines of this album!
To me, this shit was practically death metal. To this date there hasn't really been anything out there that could top this album in terms of raw aggression. Tom Araya's vocals are purely venomous and not only did Dave Lombardo pretty much kickstart everybody's obsession with double bass on 'Angel of Death', but his fills are fucking unbelievable! Then there are the riffs. Ahh.. the riffs. Again, to this day, there aren't many bands out there who've been able to tap into the evil side of one's brain that allows them to conjure fourth such harrowing riff work. Sure, some bands may have been "technically" more proficient, but did they sound as good as this? FUCK no.
Haunting the Chapel (1984)
This is where the band began to sound truly evil. Show No Mercy showed a glimpse of darker things to come but Haunting the Chapel is where everything went pitch black.
Seasons in the Abyss (1990)
I remember a lot of my "older" friends who grew up on Slayer complained about this album reusing material from 'South of Heaven' and how the band "ran out of ideas", etc... Whether or not that's the case, I for couldn't give a shit less. One thing is certain, 'Reign in Blood' may have defined Slayer but it was 'Seasons...' that propelled them beyond the stratosphere.
In many ways this is the very last "traditional" sounding Slayer album, though it can be argued that that title rightfully belongs to 'Divine Intervention'.
Divine Intervention (1994)
Til' the day I die, I'll never understand the amount of disdain aimed at this album. Believe me, this is a thrash album through and through and in many ways makes up for some of the faults one may have encountered on 'Seasons...'. Of course, that doesn't mean that 'Divine...' is a flawless exercise by any stretch, but at least 85% of this album cooks with the best of them.
Show No Mercy (1983)
With 'Reign in Blood' being my introduction to Slayer, I actually went back shortly after to 'Show no Mercy' and believe it or not was a bit disappointed. I guess I was expecting a similar rampaging onslaught and instead got an album that wears its Iron Maiden and Judas Priest influences on its sleeves. Not at all a bad thing and through the years I've come to really appreciate this album, but for many years 'Show no Mercy' sat on the backburner of my stove.
Hell Awaits (1985)
Aside from having one of the greatest intros of all time (second only to Morbid Angel's 'Abominations of Desolation'), I have to say I've never been the biggest fan of this album. No, I don't think it sucks by any means, but there's just something about it that failed to hit me like the two albums that followed. It's definitely got an evil vibe throughout but maybe it's the too-clean sound of the bass guitar that kind of kept this album from really making an impression on me. I don't know. Still not a bad album by any means and one that grows on me more with each listen.
Diabolus In Musica (1998)
Yes, this is my guilty pleasure Slayer pick. Sure, it's not even in the same universe as everything released before it nor is it, in my opinion, as lackluster as everything released since. It just it what it is, which is Slayer at their most daring as well as most straightforward. I understand the hate, believe me, I do, but I can't help it. There's something peculiar about this record that I like. Blow me.
Christ Illusion (2006)
Let's face it, Lombardo's return wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, not any fault of his, of course, I mean, he was just playing to the material presented before him, which was basically Slayer suffering from Alzheimer's... a band that was trying to relive their glory days while remaining relevant to the fan base they had acquired during their nu-metal love affair ('98-'01). Not the worst thing they've released and it does have its moments, but unfortunately they're far and few between with the end result coming across as mighty awkward.
God Hates Us All (2001)
Despite some of the laughably outrageous stabs at nu-metal on 'Diabolus...', this album I found to be a bit more offensive as it seemed as if Slayer were beginning to finally get back on track but instead, GHUA wound up being a loosely disguised nu-metal album with a few half-hearted attempts at traditional thrash scattered throughout. It appeared as though Slayer would have been much happier going all out nu-metal but decided in the end that it was best not to lest they completely lose their credentials.
World Painted Blood (2009)
Continuing the awkwardness that began on 'God Hates Us All' and on through 'Christ Illusion', 'WPB' is without a doubt the most anemic sounding Slayer album to date. The thing that kills me the most are these desperate Slayer die-hards that claim that this is a "throwback" album. To what era, might I ask, is this a throwback to?? I'm not sure what is sadder to listen to, the weak slower songs or the pathetic, limp-wristed attempts at writing something fast. If this was Slayer "returning to their roots" than perhaps the band truly is dead after all. I mean, at least 'Diabolus...' was an obvious attempt at doing something different, and whether or not they achieved what they set out to do, the underlying vibe was undeniably Slayer's. This, however, just sounds outright geriatric and makes me cringe. I gotta say, this album pretty much nailed the coffin shut, for me. Actually, 'Christ Illusion' did that. 'World Painted Blood' was just a reaffirmation of that fact.