overground scene

Is this where I came from? #6 Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Slayer

Slayer‘s Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman have always been vocal about the immense influence of British heavy metal on their musical identity. In this, the sixth installment of “Is this where I came from?”, I put forward the hypothesis that Black Sabbath and Judas Priest inspired Jeff Hanneman of Slayer to compose one of metal’s most beautiful and recognisable riffs of all times.

judasJudas Priest – Killing machine (1978)

Killing machine is the first Judas Priest albums I ever heard, and although I prefer Sad wings of destiny (1976), Sin after sin (1977), Defenders of the faith (1984), and Painkiller (1990), I still like it a lot and contains some of the best songs ever written. The eponymous song, “Killing machine”, is written by Glen Tipton. In the beginning of the song the two guitarists alternate the same riff between them; the riff ends on the G-flat note and goes on feedback, during which the same riff begins again. This routine is repeated twice before Halford starts singing. While it is not one of my favourite tunes, I still think it is a really cool effect.

bev_bevan_blach_sabbath_1987Black Sabbath – Eternal idol (1987)

The eternal idol might not be one of my favourite Black Sabbath albums, but I do think it has some of the best Black Sabbath songs ever; “Glory ride”, “Nightmare”, “Lost forever”, and “Eternal idol”, are simply awesome songs! I consider the song “Eternal idol” to be the highlight of the album. It starts with a slow, dark and heavy riff that showcases Tony Iommi’s trademark compositional style and inimitable feel for the sinister. (I personally believe that the atmosphere and the vocal lines on that song – the latter originally written by Ray Gillen – were the blueprint for Psychotic Waltz‘s “Into the everflow”.) As I demonstrate next, this riff bears a strong resemblance to “Dead skin mask”.

slayer-1990Slayer – Dead Skin Mask (1990)

Many years ago I made the connection that the intro riff of “Dead skin mask” was probably influenced by “Killing machine”, but I did not think it was worth writing about. What convinced me and made it worthwhile is a video of Kerry King I just saw, in which he acknowledges, in passing, the influence of Judas Priest on “Dead skin mask”. “Dead skin mask” utilises the same logic of “Killing machine”. The two guitarists take turns playing the same riff, although in the case of Slayer the riff ends on a different note each time, one riff ends on E-flat and the other on G-sharp.

The resemblance that Slayer’s intro riff bears to Black Sabbath’s “Eternal idol” is uncanny. First of all, both bands use E-flat tuning (all strings tuned down half a step). Both riffs are played on the same chord and with the same rhythm. In both songs the first four notes of the first section of the riff are exactly the same. However, the second section of both riffs is slightly different, plus, the Slayer riff is faster and develops further. The result of the combination of Judas Priest’s alternating effect and Black Sabbath’s nightmarish note progression is chilling.


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