Considering Tom Araya had gall-bladder surgery less than a month ago and has spent more than two decades fronting one of the fastest metal bands on the planet, he's feeling fine. Just not fine enough for the bassist/singer to bring Slayer back out on the road yet. Araya's been advised to rest for six weeks, as he continues to experience occasional soreness in his abdomen.
"My doctor wants me to take it easy," Araya said. "He told me not to do anything stupid. No serious lifting. ... I couldn't lift anything heavier than five pounds the first week [following the operation], and you increase it by five pounds each week. So, by the time we hit the road, I should be able to carry my bass."
Araya's two-hour May 5 procedure and ensuing recovery forced Slayer to suspend the June 6 launch of this summer's Unholy Alliance Tour, which also features Lamb of God, Mastodon, Children of Bodom and Thine Eyes Bleed (see "Dates Unveiled For Slayer's Unholy Alliance With Mastodon, Lamb Of God"). The trek will instead kick off June 15 in Camden, New Jersey, and run through July 26 in Denver.
Araya said he'd been flying back and forth between Los Angeles — where Slayer have been working with producer Josh Abraham (Staind, Velvet Revolver) on their forthcoming, yet-untitled LP — and Texas, where the bassist lives (see "New Slayer Album Might Be Their Fastest Yet"). During the last flight he'd been on, Araya didn't feel quite right, and "I kind of found myself in the emergency room with intense pain," he said. Three days later, he was meeting with a surgeon, who told him that if the situation wasn't dealt with soon, he'd be spending his Unholy summer in pain.
"It's a condition that develops slowly over time, and it's genetic," Araya said. "Everyone in my family's had gall-bladder issues. For the better part of my younger years, it was nothing but drinking, sex, drugs and rock and roll. I've changed a big part of my life. I stopped doing that sh-- ... 12 years ago. So that kind of helped me go a little longer than normal.
"The gall bladder's supposed to be a really thin membrane, and mine was an inch thick. So obviously, I'd done myself some major damage over the years. And if I don't take the time to heal, I could have other complications, and I'll be f---ed up the rest of my life dealing with those complications."
Like Araya, guitarist Kerry King's bummed about the timing of the operation, because, "This is probably the first time we've ever [had our plans] laid out so golden, and you know, sh-- happens."
But Araya's more disturbed about missing the devilish 6/6/06 date.
"It would have been an excellent date to kick this tour off," he said, "but what are you going to do?"
As for Slayer's forthcoming album, the final two of the disc's 10 tracks are being mixed this week. The record's sounding "incredible," Araya says, although now that the engineers have been playing him back the tracks, he says "they don't sound as fast anymore." Araya had said the album would be Slayer's speediest to date, but King — who said the band wants to launch another U.S. tour in January — says 1986's seminal Reign in Blood still holds that mantle.
This week, the rest of Slayer will fly out to see Araya and snap publicity photos to promote the upcoming LP. But because of doctor's orders, they won't be practicing at all, which has Araya worried.
"I'm not going to be very prepared for this tour," he said. "I'm going to be a little slow. I won't be pushing it too hard. I need to take it easy the first week or so of shows. I'm hoping I can fake my way through them, and no one will notice."