Slayer Haunting The Chapel Hits 40th Anniversary

When we look back at the present era, we will separate out stuff that was aligned with the mainstream illusion from material that tried to discover an inner truth paired with external reality. Anything outside of the bourgeois Consumerist, Communist, and Christian social bubble will endure.

From the outsiders who opposed the ersatz Potemkin social bubble, heavy metal will stand out with punk and prog as one of the few standout voices, with a few bands like Motörhead, Judas Priest, Slayer, Morbid Angel, and Deicide rising to mythological status.

These acts clarified not just what we were thinking at the time which the mainstream sought frantically to suppress — no one wants to admit that their civilization is dying and not thriving as was widely reported — but portrayed the conflict in a way that invoked our desire to win it and enjoy the process.

When Slayer unleashed Haunting the Chapel way back in 1984, they clarified the discord many of us were feeling with the conservative Christian group that seemed to be holding the nation captive to a corporate-consumerist future that was as dystopian as it was boring.

It turned out that things were more complicated, but as Bud says in Repo Man, “I don’t want no Commies in my car — no Christians either!” He had already made his opinions on consumer society pretty clear by buying generic beers and driving around committing interesting crimes at that point, so rejected the “three Cs” firmly. In the 1980s, we saw only two of them, with Christianity at the helm.

During that era, we were still going to schools where kids who wore all black were sent home, you got paddled for blasphemic curses, and people talked about God like He was a real thing that was going to reach down into our lives and save us from the Soviets! (It turned out that Reagan bluffing them into ignoring their own collapsing civilization worked better, but they still wasted our childhoods on nuclear terror.)

In a time where every politician began speeches with references to the Judeo-Christian “God” (soon to be replaced by “diversity is our strength”) it was heretical to talk about Satanism, much less describe a Miltonian world in which Satan was more interesting than the Protestant work ethic and corporate products! Slayer pushes the boundaries with their topics, but the music went even further.

Opening with “Chemical Warfare,” Haunting the Chapel showed the hardcore influence on Slayer with a droning riff that built momentum instead of killing it like most of its punk forebears, and then led into an epic jagged confrontation riff in the metal style. The union of the two outsider art genres was complete with this new formulation.

The people on television, in courtrooms, and writing the catalogs from which normal people bought products would not have approved of it lyrically either. “Chemical Warfare” combines a real fear of nuclear, biological, and chemical holocaust with a mythology in which evil prevails because humans are oblivious and yet evil is necessary to deliver humanity from its own solipsistic oblivion.

Back then you could get Extended Play (EP) and Long Play (LP) vinyls, sometimes of different sizes; this differentiation lives on in the seven-inch format today, originally designed for singles. Slayer released Haunting the Chapel as a full-size vinyl for $4.99, which was an anti-consumerist revolutionary statement back in the day!

EPs usually were odds and ends, but Slayer made them into an art form of its own. Haunting the Chapel announced the further development of the style Slayer was sculpting, forming a smooth hybrid of punk and metal instead of metal with punk influences or vice-versa. It was their shot across the bow to the future of underground music.

Moving on to “Captor of Sin,” the spinning disc launched into a response to Show No Mercy which translated metal excess into a chaotic and otherworldly sound instead of a Hollywood one, but added foreshadowing of death metal with its epic but grimly realistic style of writing riffs that staged elemental opposites against another to make conflict flower rather than hiding it like normies.

“Captor of Sin” in many ways says goodbye to all that nice comfortable 1970s metal where anthemic songs were designed to lull you into a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, and head-swaying kind of oblivion while you waited for society to break up and vanish in nuclear fire as the Chinese invaded. Instead you get an anthem of battle, preparing us for raging war, full of diligent aggression and a desire to set all things right with a sword.

Our recording concludes with its title track which presages the following Slayer albums by making a trudging, churning pattern go uptempo and, instead of like in most bands continuing in the chorus, approaching a vertiginous space into which the inversion of the trudge drops through a high-speed riff that conserves momentum and slings the listener on into a higher-intensity struggle.

Although it is a relatively short recording at 13:33, the Haunting the Chapel EP feels like a new world because it was. Slayer finalized the style they were feeling out on their first album and hammered out a voice for what would become underground metal that was comprised of the best of metal and punk from Discharge to Judas Priest.

In many ways, it was also the pause before the storm. It would be hard to dislike Show No Mercy, but the three albums that followed — Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood, and especially South of Heaven — defined a new language for music in which metal both matured and adamantly refused to “grow up” and become a cucked television normie.

With these four releases, Slayer laid out a vocabulary of technique and a lexicon of riffological symbolism that unleashed underground metal upon the world. Even though this happened forty years ago, as the same conflicts that divided the world back then revisit us, the eternal spirit of Slayer guides us toward the future apocalyptic battles we will enjoy fighting in the dystopian wasteland.

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15 thoughts on “Slayer Haunting The Chapel Hits 40th Anniversary”

  1. Just kidding says:

    Messy and repetitive at the same time.

    But that Slayer record is awesome.


    Dear Brett

    Can you please explain why is it that you dislike so much the speed metal subgenre? Why can you not even tolerate the speed-death metal hybrid style ?

    Thank you


    Serious Questioner

    1. SQ,

      Back when computers meant Apple //s at 24oo baudz, and people said stuff like “hack the planet” unironically, speed metal was sort of cool, but then it died quickly. I think of Prong and the two Nuclear Assault EPs as much as the first two Metallicas (plus “Orion”), the first Testament, The Years of Decay, and a few others. But speed metal lacks subtlety and is entirely percussive in appeal, something that fades in effect after hearing quality death metal. It seems to have easily slid into commercial status and now is being cloned endlessly. At this point, most of it sounds ham-handed and dated to these ears, and the retro-attempts to recreate it feel not just insincere but energyless, a lapsing of growth whether linear or internal. Pantera may be to blame.

  3. Endless inversion says:

    The problem with the “NSBM” mentality this site has it that any form of rock and subgenre of rock has always been and will be anti-authoritarian, anti-moral and individualistic. I don’t know for how much longer I can keep visiting this site seeing this contradiction repeating constantly. Some good band reviews/discoveries here for sure, but clearly Brett & Co have a variant of National Socialism that cannot be denied, and even though he’s advocating against the so called “herd mentality”, it’s nonetheless exactly what he’s promoting (Nazism is just pagan Christianity, with their own do’s and don’ts and their own version of saint vs sinner mentality).

    Metal and rightwing politics don’t mix, they’re a stupid paradox, and that’s why the NSBM scene is ridiculed. Metal is just freedom and chaos without giving a fuck about the consequences. Lemmy Kilmister lived that to the fullest and without regret.

    The “let’s fight morality with morality” mentality looks stupid. I will repeat that metal is a leftist genre, but note, not extreme leftist, more libertarian if anything, because extreme leftism looks a lot like Nazism (too many rules, too many restrictions becomes the very thing it opposes).

  4. Grott-Rolf says:

    This praise of mighty Slayer is honourable, mr Stevens. You Americans share National Slayer day with our Swedish national day as well, which seems somehow occultly appropriate. Up to SOH and a couple songs from SITA the best metal band there ever was, Slayer. I worship since age 9-10, 1989-90. Hails

    1. Hail Sweden! I agree with your assessment. The less sing-song stuff on SITA was pretty good. Still nothing for me beats the first four releases, even if SOH is far and away the favorite (it reminds me of Bathory Twilight of the Gods).

  5. " .. Wait for the Sign / to flick the Switch of Death .." says:

    1. Hailed Speed Metal Riffs are only there for the show. Isolated are good. Together Annoy like a swarm of ‘squitos. 2. Rhythm Section / Battery impress on impact, then Tire fast, unrelistenable unintoxicated / un-distracted. In all, rhythm-drum-bass is only there to kill, & fill, time. Reach thirty plus minutes, done! 3. Vocals kick in, to complete the kill if the 1 & 2 above fail. ” Thrash Metal ” vocals are soul killer in that they can’t ever decide where they step in both the song, & as a genre. 4. Song / album structure sucks, every time. It’s both lack of talent and lack of direction. 5. Metallica, creators & only good band of their game succeed cause they own what all else miss, and cause they’re only part speed and often updated Heavy Metal. You can hear the weakness in the formula in ‘Tallica’s major difficulty on where to place, and how to power, their vox. It’s not lyrics, the singer, or confidence the reason Hetfield’s delivery feels unsure & weak, it’s songbuilding choices that limit him. 5. The Big Four: Metallica’s great, Slayer is punk / heavy goes death metal, they aren’t Speed, Megadeth is quick country-ish rock adding technicality, kinda like flowers on shit, Anthrax is a maladjusted teenager screaming while drowning amongst random party noise. Teutonic ” Thrash ” has its moments, that’s it. 6. To All and Every Speedmetalheads accusing Black Album sellout, Grunge, groovecorerapnu for ending what they love in 1990: a. Speed died because it reached a dead end for the ways it chose, if it wasn’t a stillborn to begin with. The buzz around ’em was only an excuse for them to escape their craft. That thing suffocates its makers as does its listener. 7. Them darn speed metal solos. They’re screaming ” we’re not as good as our ’70s heroes, man! “. Pityful, insecure and gay all at once..

    1. Hessian Murderer of Black Death says:

      Nah, plenty of the bands you mentioned have some good bangers. You’re being false or foolish

      1. * Seventh Son of a Seventh Son * says:

        7 groups mentioned. 2 great. 4 above average. 1 bad

    2. ".. Sweat, chilling Cold / as I watch Death unfold.. " says:

      Fellow dumb as cats Speedmatlheads ” Metal was killed 1990 ” ignore of course that Metal took off to new heights, never reached before, right at that time and stayed there a whole decade. What they have in mind as ” Metal ” is false heavy rock, boring MTV hits & quickrock-“thrashmetal” ( they love hard rock but pretend not to.. ). It’s even more irritating that they see death/black as regression or a version of, no kiddin’, groove! Short spans appreciate Riff when they hear it ok – can’t follow sequences – hear real SongWriting where every instrument actually has a place, including manipulation of layered tracks, noise etc., get lost in it – feel small – so, hate it. Try explain a fish from a fish-stick. Cats get it..

  6. maelstrrom says:

    Your skin turns to leather
    I ignite your timid blood
    You feel my lethal touch
    As I grasp your weary soul
    I’ll take you down into the fire

  7. * Mayhemic Destruction says:

    To elaborate on how a small change can free, least in part, a band’s potential, and why T.t.V. is Sodom’s most relistenable here. Every time Speed Metal bands ditched ” maladjusted young man yelling while drowning in a pool midst random party noise ( though its feet touch the bottom ) “, and adopt harsher/heavier distorted vocals they almost always & instantly change level & up their game ( insert many, Dem/Ham f.e. ). And if they dare pure death vox they fly. Mortal Sin’s debut shows them already at instrumental & songwritin’ maturity, they don’t just drop by. Yet, the entire thing functions as no more than a time killer. Final track in and, Bang!, delicious death metal vocals and we have a banger, an expert crossing of the band’s proficiency & young Sepultura throbbing vividness.

  8. * Infectious Hospital Waste says:

    What makes Sp.Me. so appealing & has one keep coming back to it ( only to get re-disappointed ) is Missed Potential. The energy and heaviness are there. It’s mostly Mentality, and Lack of Precedent. Death vocals, largely the one thing that more than anything else freed musicians from ” one Riff at a time ” incoherent coffee coasters, are universally ( & understandably ) hated, until tried while jamming, ask Lemmy. Somebody had to go for it first, and many saw it very quickly as an instant trend that has come and gone within couple years, ” thrash is the next big thing man! “.

  9. Jussi Björling says:

    The evolution from Show No Mercy to Haunting the Chapel is fascinating. The former, while very good, is aggressive but still ‘conventional’ heavy metal, while the latter is almost like a new lifeform. On Haunting the Chapel I think we hear the first example of heavy metal and hardcore coexisting not as disparate strands, but rather worked into each other.

  10. * Xiron Darkstar * says:

    These musicians in their minds were both a continuation of their 1970’s gods & an upping the ante on ” geeks pretend punks ” 1960’s rockandroll ( sounding bad as either post 78 priest or ” kinks with riffs and solos! ” ) . As such, much of the more accessible Speed reeks of low self – esteem before their prototypes, and a mixture of half-baked outsiderness turning to ( yep ) Irony, as a response to perceived inabability and a needed denial of bein’ a fake. The honest, daring ones, just needed a few years and a leap into it. Take it as it is, ideal while driving, repairing cars, sortin’ out tool, y’know.

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