Slayer releases "Show No Mercy"
Show No Mercy is the debut album by American thrash metal band Slayer, released in December 1983 through Metal Blade Records.
Brian Slagel signed the band to Metal Blade after watching the band perform the song "Phantom of the Opera" by Iron Maiden. The band was forced to self-finance their debut album, combining the savings of vocalist Tom Araya, who was employed as a respiratory therapist, and money borrowed from guitarist Kerry King's father.
Touring extensively promoting the album, the band brought close friends and family members along the trip, who helped backstage with lighting and sound. Although criticized for poor production quality, it became Metal Blade Records highest selling release, also producing the songs "Die by the Sword", "The Antichrist" and "Black Magic", which are played at Slayer's live shows regularly.
Slayer was the opening act for Bitch at the Woodstock Club in Los Angeles, performing eight songs—six being covers. While performing the song "Phantom of the Opera" by Iron Maiden, the band was spotted by Brian Slagel, a former music journalist who had recently founded Metal Blade Records. Slagel met with the band backstage and asked if they would like to be featured on the label's upcoming Metal Massacre III compilation, the band agreed.
The band's appearance on the compilation created underground buzz, which led to Slagel signing the band with Metal Blade Records. Recorded in Los Angeles, California, Show No Mercy was financed by vocalist Tom Araya, who used his earnings as a respiratory therapist, and money borrowed from guitarist Kerry King's father. Vocalist Araya asserts Venom, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Mercyful Fate were a big influence on the record,as guitarist King was into the Satanic image.
Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel fame provided backing vocals on the song "Evil Has No Boundaries." "Back at the time it was Jeff [Hanneman] and Kerry doing the 'Evil!' You know, it didn't sound too heavy and I mentioned to like Tom or Jeff or somebody like, 'You know you guys should consider...maybe consider doing like big gang vocals on that, make it sound evil like demons and stuff,' and they were like 'Good idea.' But how about now, we got about eight dudes sitting around in the studio, and now everybody jumped up and yelled 'EVIL!!!' So I was like 'Cool' because I'm like, 'I wanna sing on this record somehow, that's how I can do it,' totally unplanned you know?! Sure enough they were like, 'Fuck we have the time, let's do it.' So I was like "Yeah, I got to sing on it!" On recording the drums, Slagel wanted drummer Dave Lombardo to play without using cymbals due to the amount of noise they made, as he was unsure if he could siphon the noise out, which he eventually did.
The band used Satanic themes in both lyrics and live performances to gain notice among the metal community. The back cover featured 'side 666' and inverted crosses, with Hanneman playing his guitar. Due to the imagery and lyrical content, Slagel received mail from the PMRC telling the band to stop releasing records. Araya comments, "Back then you had that PMRC, who literally took everything to heart. When in actuality you're trying to create an image. You're trying to scare people on purpose." The album produced the songs "The Antichrist," "Die by the Sword," and "Black Magic," which are played at Slayer's live shows regularly.
The band went on their first tour of the United States after the album's release—Slagel gave the band a list of addresses and contact numbers of the venues. Araya was still working at the hospital, and called the members saying, "'Today’s the day. Are we gonna do this?'" The band knew if they did not tour now, they never would. So they set out taking Araya's Camaro and U-Haul. During the first leg of the tour, Slayer had no manager, a t-shirt salesman, Doug Goodman, who eventually became the band's tour manager—Goodman now tour manages acts such as Green Day and Beck.
Kevin Reed, a friend of the band set up the drums and lighting when touring with the band—Reed's father, Lawrence R. Reed drew the Minotaur with the sword on the album's cover. Araya's younger brother Johnny Araya—who was thirteen or fourteen was a roadie who set up the back line and sound. Hoglan was also a roadie, but was fired after the second show, due to the lack of knowledge of what to do. The band hardly made enough money to sustain themselves, only buying the "essentials" such as food, gas, and beer. Araya asserts: "We basically used whatever money we got to get from point A to point B. When we got back, Brian was like, 'So, where’s the money?' And we were like, 'What money?' At that time, we didn’t realize that you had to ask for money up front. I think he got a lot of money sent directly to him, and we were supposed to pick up the rest."
The band performed in a hotel in Winnipeg, where the basement was the club. Araya comments "We stayed there for like four or five days, I think. We saw Verbal Abuse play there. Then we played a place in Boston called the Lizard Lounge. In fact, a car had run into the front of the building, and it was all boarded up, but we still played there." When one of the guitarists broke a string Araya would hand them the bass, Hanneman stating "We’d argue about it, too—like, 'I wanna play bass for a while!'"
The band did not have enough time to sell any records while touring, but the album became Metal Blade Records' highest selling release. Five thousand copies was the label's average—Show No Mercy went on to sell over 15,500 to 20,000 copies in the United States, and 15,000 overseas as Metal Blade had worldwide rights. The success of the album led to Slagel wanting the band to release a new record and an EP.