For Slayer guitarist Kerry King, June 6 holds considerably more weight this year, a year that marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the band's trailblazing speed-metal album, Reign in Blood. With his penchant for satanic lyrical imagery, King pinpointed June 6 — 6/6/06 — as the ideal release date for Slayer's forthcoming album, the follow-up to 2001's God Hates Us All. But months of record label holdups have placed King's lofty goal in peril.
Of course, Slayer are not about to let June 6 come and go without some sort of acknowledgement on their end. Oh no — instead of releasing a record, they plan to launch a two-month U.S. tour with Mastodon, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom and Thine Eyes Bleed.
Dubbed the Unholy Alliance Tour, the trek will make stops in most major cities, although the actual routing of the run is still being fleshed out. Either way King's anxious to hit the road again.
"It's been 18 months since we've toured in the States," he explained. "People are going to be chomping at the bit to see us again. [Although the tour will run concurrently with Ozzfest], we're certainly not going to try to make Ozzfest go away. We're just trying to offer an alternative."
According to Rick Sales, Slayer's manager of 18 years, the idea's to make the Unholy Alliance Tour an annual event "with the best bands out there." During the fall of 2004, Slayer, Slipknot, Mastodon and Hatebreed toured Europe under the Unholy Alliance tag. Sales also wants to take the tour global and said following its U.S. run, the Alliance will return to Europe, followed by stints in Japan and Australia — although, he noted the lineups would be different on each leg.
"I think we're in a different spot than Ozzfest," Sales continued. "This is more extreme and it's not involving any sort of 'radio bands.' It's a no-compromise lineup, the best of the breed. We think this is a great live event and that the tour will become bigger than the lineup. I think Ozzfest has proven that."
Slayer will deliver an hour-plus set to close out each night of the Unholy Alliance; Thine Eyes Bleed will open on all dates, followed by Bodom and Mastodon (who'll be rotating slots) and then Lamb of God. King said Slayer will debut some new material from the stage.
On Tuesday Slayer entered a Los Angeles studio, where they started recording the 11 songs that'll comprise their yet-untitled album. Rick Rubin (Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers) will executive-produce the disc, while Josh Abraham (Velvet Revolver, Staind) will turn the knobs. One of the songs has an official title ("Cult"), but all of them, King promised, will be devastatingly grim.
"There are definitely things you can't write about in Slayer, and there are definitely things people expect you to write about," he said. "Everybody expects war, Satanism or anti-religious stuff — and this record's chock-full of that."
The LP, which the band hopes to finish in time for a late June release, will be the first to feature original drummer Dave Lombardo in more than 15 years. Their last outing together was 1990's Seasons in the Abyss.
"[Drummer] Paul [Bostaph], who we did God Hates Us All with, kind of had an elbow problem, and now he's with Exodus," King said. "When Paul left us ... it was brought to our attention that Dave was available. And we figured if anybody should be doing this, it should be him."
Most of the 11 songs Slayer will record were written more than two years ago, the guitarist said. "We're hoping to do it old-school and record everything in like four weeks," he added. "We're ready. This is probably the most ready we've been since Seasons. We've been spinning our wheels in rehearsals, just waiting for the green light on this thing. Now that we've got it, we're ready to go.
"It's definitely going to be a riff-fest," King continued. "There's riffs all over the place. As much time as we've had to work on it, there better be riffs on it. I think anybody who likes Slayer, musically, is going to love it."
While Sales said Slayer's studio LP probably won't be in stores by June 6, he says the band will release a digital download, EP or something else to coincide with the tour launch.
On Saturday, MTV2's "Headbangers Ball" will feature an exclusive interview with bassist Tom Araya regarding the forthcoming album and the Unholy Alliance run.