Show No Mercy by Slayer
Release date : December 1983
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
During 1982 at the Woodstock Theater in Anaheim, California, Slayer undertook a supporting slot to Los Angeles act Bitch. The set comprised six cover tracks, and two original numbers. In attendance was Brian Slagel, who had both founded the fanzine The New Heavy Metal Revue, and launched eminent label Metal Blade Records in 1981. Particularly, Slagel was impressed with Slayer's interpretation of Iron Maiden track “Phantom of the Opera” (whose original rendition features upon 1980's Iron Maiden). Slagel approached initial Slayer manager Steven Craig, and informed him that Metal Blade had just issued the compilation Metal Massacre with a view to releasing more. Furthermore, Slagel wanted a Slayer composition to feature upon a future release. The influential man possessed a vital associate, namely recording engineer Bill Metoyer. At Track Records in Hollywood, Slayer laid down the track “Aggressive Perfector” with aid from Metoyer in mostly one take. Issued in 1983, Metal Massacre III boasted the number. Following that, Slagel offered to distribute Slayer's full length debut should they pen one.
Slayer's debut full length was christened Show No Mercy, likely inspired by early concert flyers which sported the phrase; “Evil has no boundaries, demons show no mercy”. Financed by vocalist Tom Araya's earnings as a respiratory therapist, and money loaned by the father of guitarist Kerry King, Slayer entered Track Record during November 1983. The album's drum parts were recorded in a small room, and drummer Dave Lombardo happened to be using a large drumkit. Whenever cymbals were hit, its sound would bleed into the microphone. To combat this, Lombardo cut his parts without cymbals. Following this, cymbals were overdubbed. Within six hours, drum parts were laid down. “Evil Has No Boundaries”, meanwhile, features the collective shout “Evil!” within its chorus, purportedly at the suggestion of Gene Hoglan (future drummer with the likes of Dark Angel, Death, Strapping Young Lad, and Testament). Originally, guitarists King and Jeff Hanneman were scheduled to handle that part.
Lawrence R. Reed, father of Kevin whom would set up Lombardo's drums at live shows, handled the album's sleeve design. Spawned by the aforementioned Craig, a minotaur wields a long sword, and wears a red cape. Within a pentagram shaped by four swords, Slayer's name dwells. Above this, fiery lettering announces the album's title. As opposed to the customary Side A and B, Show No Mercy boasted Side 6 and Side 666 in its original vinyl pressing. Between the run-off grooves visible upon one side, the group's name was carved via an initialised format. Meanwhile, the opposing side featured the myth-generating acronym “Satan Laughs As You Eternally Rot”.
Arguably, the self-financed debut full length from Thrash stalwarts Slayer is one of the most important releases within extreme music's history. Launching Slayer's legendary career, Show No Mercy additionally inspired decades of great music. This great music was penned by groups who followed suit, and pushed the genre's envelope. Taking Metal's progression towards darker realms into account, Show No Mercy has additional importance. In terms of both sound and visuals, contemporaries such as Metallica and Exodus undertook an extremely straightforward approach. Slayer, meanwhile, embraced both dark imagery and lyrics preoccupied with the likes of Satan. As Metal's popularity skyrocketed throughout the eighties, this approach would maintain Slayer's position upon Metal's fringes.
In comparison to later Slayer releases, Show No Mercy is a reasonably straightforward album. Having not listened to this specific album for a number of years, what proved immediately striking was the album's dominantly traditional Metal vibe. Over the past several decades, music admirers' palettes have become familiarised with the following elements of Slayer's musical stylings; a heavier sound, not to mention an audible Punk influence. Within Show No Mercy, those ingredients are comprehensively absent in most instances. Notable exceptions arrive in the forms of “Fight Till Death” and “The Final Command”, both of which feature Punk oriented drumming.
Throughout the years, traditional Metal has influenced Slayer's tracks, and this specific influence is more tangible upon Show No Mercy than fellow Slayer albums. Within the likes of “The Antichrist” and “Show No Mercy”, the member's affection towards Iron Maiden's material is particularly evident. Upon a technical level, “The Antichrist”'s massive solo aims to impress. In a twisted respect, much of Thrash Metal directly emanates from this specific track. Sonically speaking, Slayer refrain from performing at the speed which lies within the outfit's grasp. Seemingly, Slayer opts toward maintaining a reasonable pace. Over the course of both 1985's Hell Awaits and 1986's Reign In Blood, Slayer would jettison this approach to a certain extent. Meanwhile, “Black Magic” perchance forms the greatest indicator of what Slayer's sound would delve towards upon future material. Using a partially inaudible introductory section, the composition's central melody relies upon the guitars. Inflicting a brimful assault upon the listener's eardrums, “Black Magic” easily comprises Show No Mercy's quickest tune. Four components are particularly dominant within the track, namely; dark lyrical matter, Araya's demonic wailing, a play-as-fact-as-you-can type demeanour, and the signature treble heavy sound which characterises early eighties recordings. Mostly, this consummately represents Slayer's post-millennial image.
Upon an individual globe, Show No Mercy dwells. In light of its original year of issue, the transparent influence from both Iron Maiden and Venom (particularly in terms of image) lends the album a unique sound. Critiqued against Slayer's discography however, Show No Mercy proves extremely unique. In terms of songwriting prowess, the album boasts less individualism than Slayer would ever again. When all comes to pass though, Show No Mercy is one of Slayer's most entertaining full lengths. At this specific juncture in Metal's history, numerous groups arduously toiled in the bid to achieve genuine success. Figuring amongst those struggles, a raw passion overwhelms the album, the likes of which will likely never be prevalent in another's work ever again - irrelevant of genre. Should your familiarity solely lie with Slayer's later material, or you've never wholeheartedly listened to the group's recordings, then this reviewer would suggest Show No Mercy as a possible addition to your music collection. The full length forms both a history lesson, and a gauge.