SHOW NO MERCY
1975: Nine months pregnant and giddy about becoming a mom for the first time, a pretty 24-year-old suddenly and unexpectedly loses her 43-year-old mother to a horrific motorcycle accident. The baby (me) is delivered healthy, though growing up, I tend to cry a lot.
1981: Somewhere in Los Angeles, two guitar-obsessed teenagers—Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman—meet and decide to practice guitar together. They hone their skills on Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Black Flag, and TSOL. One day, a kid pulls up in a pizza delivery car and asks if they want to start a band—his name is Dave Lombardo. He plays drums, and he plays them like a madman. King calls another neighborhood kid he met through his guitar teacher, a bassist and singer named Tom Araya. The four, who would later become the heaviest, scariest, most revered thrash metal band in the world, play one of their first shows (a bunch of cover songs) at South Gate High School on lunch break. Slayer are born.
DIE BY THE SWORD
1988: After running home in tears several times in junior high, I toughen up in high school. In a calculated move to hide the fact that I'm a poor white-trash farm girl, I buy a leather jacket and the toughest T-shirt I can find. I wear both every day until I get called into the principal's office. "Does that shirt really say 'Metal Up Your Ass'? Go home and change." I argue that there's nothing obscene about a sword rising out of a toilet, but I lose and walk home. This time I don't cry.
ANGEL OF DEATH
1988: I meet the "new girl"—a fast-talking California blonde—in the smoking pens outside Alpena High School's cafeteria. I trade her four marijuana joints for two beat-up cassette tapes, Slayer's Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood. Everything changes. Forever.
REIGN IN BLOOD
1989: Except for accusations of being Nazi sympathizers due to lyrical content, it's hard to find anyone—critics or fans—who'll talk smack about Reign in Blood. Nothing's ever sounded like it before. It's breakneck fast, and the lyrics are fantastical and frightening. With metal, everyone's trying to sound more evil than the next guy. Slayer conjure up more satanic imagery in two verses than Metallica or Megadeth do in an entire song. Reign gets zero airplay and terrifies record-store owners and parents. Even so, the title track from the LP—which was produced by rebel virtuoso Rick Rubin on Def Jam Records—becomes the first Slayer song to make the Billboard 200, and the album goes platinum in the United States by 1992. The band's decades-long reign of terror officially begins. And only the baddest of the bad kids listen to Slayer.
1990: Much to the dismay of my mom and my friends, and despite the fact that I'm a straight-A student, I start hanging out with an older guy—a dropout and dope dealer. He's not handsome, but he has a shitty white 1981 Chevy Citation and both new Slayer tapes, South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss. One day, while waiting for him to sell some speed, the glove box spontaneously pops open and an electrical fire spills out, burning my knees. I draw him pentagrams and pencil sketches of Tom Araya, and he writes me angsty love poetry and signs his name with an upside-down cross using his own blood. For my 16th birthday, he scores me a fake ID. I finally get to go see Slayer.
1990: I tell my mom I'm camping, which wouldn't have been lying if I'd said I was camping five hours away, deep in downtown Detroit, spending the night in a motel room that had a TV set riddled with bullet holes and a bed without sheets or blankets. None of this matters, though—Slayer are playing at Harpos, and I am going whatever the cost. Harpos was a surreal place to see a Slayer show. Built in 1939, in Big Three–era Detroit, it still faintly glowed with the remnants of a once-gorgeous theater. Sometime in the 1970s it became a disco club. Then in the 1980s it became a heavy metal bar that served $1 pitchers of beer and well drinks. If you walked outta that place on your own two feet, you were lucky—all night, heshers were falling down drunk, vomiting, or getting kicked out. I'm one of about five girls in the whole place—I know this because I do a head count when the dark bar suddenly, hilariously, lights up because some jackass turns on the Saturday Night Fever–style checkered disco floor. The place is so full of men you can practically smell the testosterone. It smells like black leather and pain. We drink dollar pitchers and get brave. We move closer to the stage. Any sane person who's ever witnessed a full-blown Slayer pit knows to stay the fuck out of the way. It's not accurate to just call it a mosh pit—it's more like an all-male violence orgy. Guys tear off their shirts and shut off their minds. Their eyes roll back in their heads and they blindly thrash, push, and kick anything in their circular path. I've watched guys lose blood and teeth. This first night, I get too close and I'm immediately rewarded with an elbow to the face. The experience doesn't stop me from seeing Slayer 19 more times, though, 'cause like Mom always said: Nobody ever died from a bloody nose.
1991–93: I would see Slayer two more times with Dropout Boyfriend, including the Clash of the Titans tour with Megadeth, Testament, and a then-unknown Alice in Chains. Poor AIC, they probably had no idea how ridiculous a prospect it was to open for Slayer. Fans DO NOT GIVE A FUCK. This tour, like every tour, they chanted "SLAY-YAH, SLAY-YAH, SLAY-YAH!" until their wish was granted. People threw anything—bottles, shoes, a plastic water bottle filled with hot, fresh piss. AIC held their ground, though, and tons of kids bought copies of Dirt after the show.
1993: I mourn the loss of Dropout Boyfriend. I start school again, but he pushes his luck till it runs out. He doesn't land in jail for selling drugs, but instead for a bad-check-writing spree. And once he goes in, he just never comes out.
SPILL THE BLOOD
1994: It's impossible to find a new guy who likes metal as much as I do. My own luck runs out when I meet Sensitive Boyfriend. He's a carpenter and doesn't deal or do drugs, and by most people's standards, he's an attractive man. We date for a while. And one night after a fight, he shows up at my mom's house wanting to talk. We go for a walk under a bright summer moon. Suddenly, he's covered in blood. He's just slashed both his forearms vertically, wrist to elbow, and is trying to die on my watch. After I carry him to safety (read: a 7-Eleven where some cops are getting coffee and doughnuts, no joke), I numbly walk home. I do not cry. Immediately confronted by my mom, she starts screaming, "Oh my God!" In all the chaos, I never looked down at myself. I look like the cover of Stephen King's Carrie. Or maybe Kerry's King's "Angel of Death," half soaked in blood.
1995: When Slayer released Divine Intervention, fans rallied—especially ones who were disgruntled after South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss, both slower and more melodic than early Slayer. Divine was whiplash-fast again—some called it the Reign in Blood of the '90s. I ran away to Detroit. I hung my Slayer poster in my first few apartments, but eventually I lost it. I quit wearing all black and tried not to think of the past. I got straight A's in college, listened to hiphop and punk, and went to raves. Secretly, though, I'd still listen to Slayer—sometimes in the shower and always in the car. Driving around my new city, pounding the steering wheel with my fists, and singing, er, screaming along to Reign in Blood gave me strength. Slayer wasn't for the weak or meek, and neither was Detroit.
WORLD PAINTED BLOOD
2009–present: This year is Slayer's 30-year anniversary. This year I'll go see them play for the 20th time. I've never gotten another bloody nose, but I have broken a toe, hurt my neck so badly I had to go to a doctor, and broken two cameras at Slayer shows. Last year in Seattle, Slayer played on my birthday, proper.