Kerry King Talks New Slayer Album and Adjusting to Life Without Jeff Hanneman

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“This has been the most adverse between-records session that Slayer’s ever had,” says Slayer guitarist Kerry King of the six long years since 2009’s World Painted Blood.

It has indeed been a grueling stretch of adversity for the legendary thrash-metal band, one marked by the illness and death of founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, and the less-than-amicable departure of drummer Dave Lombardo.

But with the help of returning drummer Paul Bostaph and Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, Slayer is finally returning with a new album—and King could not be more stoked about it.

“I would play any of these songs live,” says the guitarist of the forthcoming 12-track beast, which was produced by Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones) and is tentatively scheduled for an August release. “There’s no filler on this record—it’s great!”

Slayer fans will already be familiar with some of the new album’s material. “Atrocity Vendor” was originally released in 2009 as the B-side of the “World Painted Blood” seven-inch, while “Implode” was released last year as a free download—but both tracks have been re-recorded for the album, with “Atrocity Vendor” being significantly re-written to include new vocals from bassist Tom Araya and a longer guitar solo.

Other tracks include the ominous “When the Stillness Comes,” the punky “You Against You” and the Araya-King collaboration tentatively titled “Pride,” which King says is “really cool and super–Black Sabbath heavy.”

The as-yet-untitled album is also the first Slayer record to feature the playing of Holt, who joined the band on tour as a temporary fill-in for the ailing Hanneman in 2011, and agreed to soldier on with Slayer following Hanneman’s death from liver failure in 2013.

“I figured the best way to introduce Gary Holt on a Slayer record was to have him play some leads,” says King, who handled all of the record’s rhythm guitar chores. Though Holt didn’t contribute to any of the new songs as a writer, he did record lead parts for “six to eight” tracks on the album, according to King.

“Holt is a Slayer fan, and he’s been a good friend of ours personally for almost 30 years,” says King. “He has an opinion about what a Slayer guitar player should be like. So he didn’t come into this with a mindset of, This is an Exodus record—he came in thinking, What would a Slayer lead sound like here? It sounds like Gary, but it definitely sounds like Slayer as well.”

Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the late Hanneman does not actually appear on any of the new album’s tracks. “We ended up resurrecting one of his songs from the last record, called ‘Piano Wire,’ ” King explains, adding that Hanneman doesn’t play on it “because I played Jeff’s stuff on record since the mid-Nineties, except the leads—he always wanted to play the leads. It was really more time-effective for me to do that sort of thing. I recorded the guitar tracks for ‘Piano Wire’ at the World Painted Blood sessions, and he didn’t have a lead in it, so it’s just me.”

King says that Slayer already have the basic tracks of six songs—including another one that Hanneman wrote the music for—in the can for the next record. Hopefully, he says, there won’t be another six-year wait between Slayer albums.

“If Tom’s on board, I’d say we go out and tour hard on this record for two and a half years, go right back into the studio with momentum, finish the next record, then go out again for another two and a half years. And if that’s the end, so be it—we go out with guns blazing.”