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Kerry King’s ‘From Hell I Rise’: Meet the New Slayer, Same as the Old Slayer

The first solo album from former Slayer guitarist Kerry King is basically the “Still D.R.E.” of thrash metal.

But where Dr. Dre wanted to remind his fans that he was still puffin’ his leafs, still fucking with beats, and still not lovin’ police after close to a decade’s absence, King wants his fans to understand that even though Slayer are essentially hellbound, he’s still Satan’s preeminent ambassador with furious, jagged riffs and sweet nothings like “Crucifixation” and “Everything I Hate About You.” On From Hell I Rise,King is still drinkin’ his tequila, still fucking with riffs, and still not lovin’ the priests. In other words, it sounds like Slayer – and at times, Slayer at their best.

In many ways, From Hell I Rise feels like the sequel to Slayer’s final album, Repentless, which came out close to a decade ago. King has said that Slayer even recorded some From Hell songs around Repentless but shelved them when that band’s frontman, Tom Araya, said he wanted to retire. So King just re-recorded them with his new band — which also sounds uncannily like Slayer. It helps, of course, that the drummer in King’s solo band is ex-Slayer stickman Paul Bostaph and that King worked closely with Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda on nailing the delivery of his lyrics eerily similar to Araya’s signature cadence.

Then there’s the focus of the music: the instantly recognizable stuttering rhythms of “Idle Hands,” the wicked neck snaps in the riffs to “Toxic,” the total blasphemy of “Crucifixation.” Where Slayer peers like Metallica and Megadeth explored ballads and Anthrax recorded rap songs, Slayer never drifted far from the acrid riffs and serial killer monologues of their debut album in their nearly 40-year lifespan. If they were the four horsemen, their steeds all wore blinders as they charged south of Heaven.

In later years, King became captain of that laser-focused vision. Within the last decade, he started writing the lion’s share of Slayer songs since illness forced King’s foil, guitarist Jeff Hanneman, to step away from the band, prior to his 2013 death. The two guitarists had spent most of their lives together refining their riffage into brutal assaults of sound, so it wasn’t a stretch for King to continue Slayer’s sound seamlessly onto a solo album. And From Hell I Rise shows King, the songwriter — King, the auteur — as much as King, the guitarist. He wrote every note, every word, and every syncopation on the album, other than former Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel’s solos. (He gave Bostaph a co-credit for arranging the album, though.) King has said the only challenge for him was attempting the eerie, murky sounds Hanneman specialized in, but that style sound convincing on From Hell’s “Tension.”

Other than Osegueda’s voice and Demmel’s more lyrical leads, the only notable differences between Slayer’s approach and King’s is that some of the lyrics focus more on lefty social justice. Although King has obscured lyrics about Roe v. Wade like “I only want the right to choose …” on “Two Fists” — the title is a clever double-entendre about both fighting and drinking — with “… which tree I hang my fuckin’ noose,” the political intention is there. Even more to the point are lyrics like “Alternative facts for an alternative god” on “Rage.” And on “Toxic,” when Osegueda sings, “It’s time for my own fucking coup,” you can feel King’s frustration about a “toxic government” and “toxic hypocrites.”


But Slayer were always more about aggression than preaching, and the pummeling riffs of “Toxic” and punky assaults of “Everything I Hate About You” are just as important as the words. The music throughout From Hell I Rise will feel familiar to longtime Slayer listeners, and in some ways the repetitiousness of Slayer albums were both their biggest drawback and greatest virtue. Like AC/DC, you knew what to expect and if you were a convert, you wanted more of it.

Here, that consistency works to King’s advantage. When you hear Osegueda scream, “From Hell, I watch religion diiiie” on the title track, it’s a reminder that Slayer may be dead (and momentarily “live undead” for at least a few gigs this summer) but like Dre, King has still got love for the streets.

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