Slayer was formed in 1981 by Kerry King (guitar), Jeff Hanneman (guitar), Dave Lombardo (drums) and Tom Araya (vocals and bass). They are considered one of the "Big 4" of thrash metal, along with Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth.
Slayer's music is characterized by intense tremelo-picked guitars and high-speed drumming. The lyrics often deal with topics like Satanism (early in their career) and anti-religion (later on), war, murder, violence, social matters and political. Despite acknowledging early on that the Satanism they sang about was a gimmick (main songwriters King and Hanneman are both professed atheists and Araya is a practicing Catholic). The fact the both Araya and Lombardo are of hispanic origin, the band has often been accused of being Satanists and racists and have been a frequent target of parents and religious watchdog groups.
Slayer's first album was named ''Show No Mercy" (1983). Their "Reign In Blood" (1986) is often considered their ultimate work. Shortly into the tour for that record, Lombardo left the group, citing financial concerns. Tony Scaglione of Whiplash (5) was recruited to replace Lombardo; however, this line-up was short-lived, as Lombardo returned in 1987. In 1992, Lombardo left the group again due to friction with the other band members, particularly King. Paul Bostaph of Forbidden (3) took over as the band's drummer for "Divine Intervention" (1994) and "Undisputed Attitude" (1996).the latter being an LP of cover tunes. Following the recording of "Undisputed Attitude", Jon Dette replaced Bostaph, who left to concentrate on other projects. Dette was fired a year later and Bostaph returned to the fold. Coincidentally, Dave Lombardo, Paul Bostaph, and Jon Dette would all do stints with Bay-area thrashers Testament (2). In 2001, Paul Bostaph left Slayer for good and was replaced by a returning Dave Lombardo. Although this reunion was initally announced as temporary, Lombardo remained with the band until early 2013, when a financial dispute saw him replaced by Jon Dette for a series of concerts.
In 2011, Jeff Hanneman developed necrotizing fasciitis on his arm. It was believed to have been contracted from a spider bite and forced him to undergo extensive therapy before he could return to playing guitar full time. His live role was filled (briefly) by Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O'Brien and (more permanently) Exodus (6) guitarist Gary Holt.
Jeff Hanneman died on 2nd May, 2013, of liver failure. At the end of the same month, it was announced that Paul Bostaph was returning to the group.