Thrash metal transformed heavy metal irrevocably. Because of thrash, metal got louder, harder, faster and generally more “metal.” Early metal and NWOBHM aren’t always recognizable as metal to fans who grew up on ’90s and 21st century metal, just because of how much louder and more aggressive metal got as a result of thrash. Four bands are usually credited with defining thrash metal, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and, of course, Slayer, arguably most responsible of the Big 4 for many of the most extreme metal genres that have emerged since thrash metal changed everything.
But at the same time as thrash emerged in the 1980s, another metal genre emerged, sort of juxtaposed to thrash. Doom metal bands were heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, playing slower, using lower tunings (like Sabbath and generally emphasizing the heaviness of their sound. Later, doom metal mixed with hardcore punk to create sludge metal. At around the same time, stoner metal emerged as a bit of a reaction to thrash, emphasizing sounds closer to Sabbath and other early metal bands.
And now, six doom, sludge and stoner metal veterans have joined together to cover Slayer under the moniker, appropriately, Slower. They are guitarist Bob Balch of stoner metal legends Fu Manchu, vocalists Amy Barrysmith of doom metal duo Year of the Cobra and Laura Pleasants of sludge metal band Kylesa, stoner metal bassists Peder Bergstrand (Lowrider) and Scott Reeder (Kyuss and many others) and drummer Esben Willems of Swedish doom metal group Monolord.
They’ve got a whole album out, but one of the preview tracks is a cover of the Slayer classic “South of Heaven,” the title track of their fourth album. The main riff is slower for Slayer so it lends itself to the project as it’s a little closer to the doom sound that most of their other material.
As you would expect from a supergroup made up of doom, sluder and stoner metal vets, Slower’s version of “South Side of Heaven” is, um, slower than the original. The iconic riff is played even more deliberately. Pleasants’ vocal is obviously a far cry from Tom Araya’s and is really the only concession to obvious melody outside the riff. The band doesn’t speed up on the verses as with the original but just plods through, with an appropriately sludgy sound. There’s a bit of a tempo increase for some guitar fills and the solo, but it still maintains the overall pace and vibe.
Check “South of Heaven” out below and check out their whole album at Bandcamp.