Slayer / Motörhead
Not that long ago, a rock writer was allegedly at Slayer frontman Tom Araya’s house watching some of the guys in the band smoke a bowl when the doorbell rang. “Dudes, it’s my dad — get rid of the bowl!” Araya reportedly cried. The dudes scrambled to hide said paraphernalia, wave away the smoke and freshen the room with air spray. Of course, Slayer asked the writer to keep mum. But at this stage in the game, the band really has nothing to lose from dropping its guard. The fans’ love is undying. So much so that it probably won’t suffer one iota with the release of this twentieth-anniversary three-discs-plus-DVD set (five discs with the deluxe edition).
Obvious drawbacks: There’s no pre-Reign in Blood studio material; there aren’t enough Reign songs; the booklet’s historical account is confusing and doesn’t include enough information (it’s dominated instead by sycophantic rantings for seventy pages); there’s hardly any mention of drummers Tony Scaglione, Paul Bostaph and John Dette; and there’s too much new stuff (though the fifth disc, a complete show recorded last year with original drummer and MVP Dave Lombardo, quells any concern that the band’s live show has faltered). Unforgivable offenses: At least one key detail in the booklet is incorrect (sounds picky, but that detail is the name of the record label that’s putting out this box), and the songs “South of Heaven” and “Silent Scream,” which are supposed to run together, are accidentally broken up. Mistakes are mistakes, but for fuck’s sake.
Maybe the quality-control department was distracted listening to the Motörhead box, which one-ups the Slayer set in some key ways. For one, the booklet details the band’s convoluted history (eighteen actual, noncompilation studio albums and 1,672 live ones). The rarities are laced into the song sequence to achieve an overall continuity that’s a virtual impossibility in the elusive art of the boxed set. And Apocalypse provides some real basement-tape stuff from back in the Dark Ages, when the band members were still teenagers.
The two boxes complement each other, and either one would have made a great stocking stuffer if the loved ones who buy you holiday presents hadn’t fucked up royally. Alas, you’ll have to be your own Santa again this year.