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“When Dahmer hit the news I thought, ‘I have a lot of stuff to work with here!'” Tom Araya explains Slayer’s fascination with serial killers

Ever wondered why there are so many Slayer songs about serial killers? Vocalist Tom Araya unpicks the band’s grisly preoccupation



Ever sat and wondered why Slayer seem to have a worrying (ie, more than one) amount of songs about serial killers? Well, ponder on this grisly subject no more, because bassist Tom Araya told Metal Hammer’s Joel McIver where the preoccupation that inspired Beauty Through Order (about 16th century Hungarian noblewoman and alleged serial killer Elizabeth Báthory), Psychopathy Red (about Andrei Chikatilo AKA the Rostov Ripper), 213 (about Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen), Gemini (about the Zodiac Killer) and Angel Of Death (about Nazi physician Josef Mengele) came from.

“It’s just fascinating to me how people can do such things to each other,” said Araya. “My younger brother Johnny was reading a book one time about [1930s mass murderer] Albert Fish, and he said, ‘Man, you should read this, it’s really interesting,’ so I borrowed it from him and read it. I was like, ‘Wow!’ Then I happened to be in a book store another time, and I came across a book called Deviant: The Shocking True Story Of Ed Gein – and I think it was the first printing of the book, because it had all these gruesome photos in it of what Gein had done to his victims that they omitted from the later editions. I read it and I thought it was really interesting.”

As he got more and more into it, he recalled, Slayer fans started giving him books about the subject and recommending titles he should read. One such book was about the British serial killer Dennis Nilsen. “It was a real parallel to the one about Jeffrey Dahmer, the one about Dennis Nilsen. It’s so weird how their stories ran in parallel. That was the book that inspired the song 213 [on Divine Intervention, 1994], and when Dahmer hit the news I thought, ‘I have a lot of stuff to work with here!’” 

Araya says after this, he expanded his scope and got into “couple murders”, where the wife or girlfriend assists the murderer. “There’s a few couples like that that I’ve read about. You’ll be familiar with one of them: Rose and Fred West. There’s a Canadian couple who did that stuff too.” Slayer never did get round to writing a song about the ghastly Gloucester couple, though. Perhaps they’d already had their fill of serial killer horrors.