Slayer’s “God Hates Us All” is the most important album in my life. It’s not the album I would pick if I was trying to sum up my self-image—for the right mixture of metronomic, pedantic, and awkward that would be something like Bad Religion’s “Suffer,” though god knows I wish it was something cooler—but for better or worse, I have listened to “God Hates Us All” at least once a day for over a year.
I don’t listen to it all the time because I think it is the best album in the world. I listen to it all the time because, like many people have done with many forms of art, I have instrumentalized music. (Instrumentalization = it is used as a means to an end, not that it is performed with instruments). Most of the time I don’t listen to music to listen to music. I put it in my earholes to 1) drown out my coworkers because I work in an open office and need to concentrate or 2) get pumped up in the gym. “God Hates Us All” is the perfect album for what I want music to do. It is loud, angry, and constant.
So, after listening to “God Hates Us All” about five hundred times, I’ve started to notice some of the goofier lyrics. They’ve weathered through like dinosaur bones peering out of a Dakota cliff face. Two songs in particular, “Threshold” and “Exile,” stand out.
“Can’t control the violence that’s spewing from me.” - Threshold
This line gets me pretty pumped and I love it. What makes it funny is that the song is performing exactly the kind of sublimation the lyric disavows. He is controlling the violence and turning it into a song about that experience, which is exactly how Wordsworth defines poetry: a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion recollected in tranquility.
“Can’t you understand
Everything I do doesn’t stem from you
It doesn’t have a fucking thing to do with you” - Threshold
The first of a few lines that verge from “fuck you” to “fuck you, Dad.” If you listen to the song you’ll hear there is a break after “fucking thing” which underscores the feeling that this began as a diary entry and was later fitted imperfectly to the vocal melody.
“Even though some things are better left unsaid
There’s a few things I need to get off my chest
I need to vent – let me tell you why” - Exile
Look, I was very clear when I said two percent milk. One percent is not the same. I mean sure I’ll drink it, I’m not going to throw it away, but I just wanted you to know.
“Give me a reason not to rip your fucking face off” - Exile
I love this lyric because it captures so much of the Slayer worldview: ripping someone’s face off is the default. NOT doing so requires a reason.
“Just tell me fucking why everything becomes an issue” - Exile
Two things: first, the placement of “fucking” is exactly where I would put it if I was speaking this line in conversation, but not where any self-conscious wordsmith would put it. Second, it’s adorable that Araya complains about something being an “issue,” especially on an album where 80% of the wordspace is used to swear brutal physical violence on everyone around him.
“I will never become your fucking scapegoat” - Payback
That’s not really in your control, is it? Being a scapegoat means someone else has falsely imputed blame to you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; if anything, the shame belongs to the person who would make you a scapegoat. And in fact, heavy metal already DID become a scapegoat for youth violence in the U.S.. It’s not your fault, dude. Well, actually it is your fault because you wrote a bunch of songs about Nazis and torture, but you know what I mean.