A feel-good, family side to Slayer's heavy-metal assault
When you think of thrash-metal pioneers Slayer, a few things come immediately to mind.
Satan. Serial killers. Warfare. All of which is more or less accurate when you delve into the themes of the band's songs or the vibe at its shows.
But singer/bassist Tom Araya, a father of two kids ages 7 and 10, is also part of the reason that the Utah-made "High School Musical" was a hit. His kids, both veterans of Slayer tours, love videos with lots of music, so Araya and his wife have a collection that includes the best-selling tween flick and other movies that are pretty much the polar opposite of where Slayer's fans reside.
"You know that movie 'Footloose'?" Araya asks in an interview from his Texas home. "My wife played them the movie because they like the singing and dancing. So we bought the movie and we hit it. They like the dancing. They like the guy. They sit and sing the songs. They do that with 'High School Musical,' too."
A pause in the conversation follows while Araya's son bends his ear.
"I was just informed that Tommy, my son, doesn't like that one," Araya added. "That makes me feel a little better."
With Slayer's new album, "Christ Illusion," the band continues its two-decade assault on the sensibilities of most mainstream thinkers, a campaign that's included brutal and ridiculously fast albums such as 1986's "Reign in Blood" and 1991's "Seasons in the Abyss."
Considering Slayer has been around more than two decades now, it's no surprise its fan base is multigenerational. Araya loves seeing fathers with their kids at Slayer shows, and he can relate since his own kids have been catching metal shows for nearly as long as they've been alive.
"Our kids enjoy all kinds of music, and they enjoy all kinds of live music," Araya said. "I think it's kind of cool to expose them at such a young age. My first concert, I was, like, 17."
Last year, Araya's kids joined the band on the "Unholy Alliance" tour after the new album's release (on 6/6/06, naturally), and he said the experience is something they won't soon forget. Besides crisscrossing the country, they got to hang with the other bands on the tour.
"They dug it, it was a good experience for them," Araya said. "Tommy hung out with the Lamb of God guys. It was really neat to see how some of these other people were relating to our kids.
"[Touring] makes them more well-rounded. We live in a small town, and now when they go to school, to know the experiences they've had compared to the other kids, they really had their eyes opened."
* SLAYER, with Unearth opening, plays Saltair Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $32.50 in advance, $35 day of show, available at SmithsTix outlets and ktix.net. Expect to pay $5 for parking at the venue.