Slayer finally has a new album coming -- "Repentless," on Sept. 11 -- ending a six-year-wait.
And it was an eventful interim for the thrash metal pioneers, who are headlining this year's Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.
During much of that time guitarist and co-founder Jeff Hanneman was laid low by necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, that rendered him unable to play and be part of the band; he died during May of 2013 of liver failure. Less dire but still impactful, Slayer changed drummers that same year, with Paul Bostaph replacing original member Dave Lombardo for a second time.
"The past couple years have been very...interesting, I'd say," Bostaph, 51, says by phone from a tour stop in Montreal. "It's been a challenge -- for everybody, I think, especially Kerry (King) and Tom (Araya, Slayer's remaining founding members).
"But it's a resilient group. It's a legendary heavy metal act, successful for 30 years or more. It's got a great legacy and a huge base of fans, so it's not going to go away easy, y'know?"
Bostaph says he's taken a bit of social media heat since he rejoined Slayer; "People are pretty brutal with their opinions sometimes, so I guess you have to have thicker skin now," he notes. But the drummer says losing Hanneman was tougher by far, especially since the guitarist advocated for Bostaph's return after another schism with Lombardo.
"When I came back I fully expected to start working with Jeff," Bostaph says. "Jeff was part of the decision-making process of bringing me back. Kerry and I got to work and I assumed I'd see (Hanneman) sooner or later, probably sooner. But he passed away a couple weeks after I rejoined the band, which was devastating.
"I really loved the dude. As great as a `songwriter as he was, he was also a great guy. When we go on stage every night I think of Jeff because we play a lot of his songs. "
"Repentless" features one track, "Piano Wire," that Hanneman worked on, but most of the album was constructed by King Bostaph, who laid down tracks before Araya and new guitarist Gary Holt came in to add their parts. Bostaph says the album "sounds like Slayer. Anything other than that, it would be a failure." But, he adds, some of the material "is very punky. It really reminded me of some of the 'Undisputed Attitude' material. I really like that attitude."
And, Bostaph says, he and his bandmates are happy to finally have some fresh music to play after such a long wait.
"Sonically it's different than the older stuff," he explains. "Part of that is it's stuff I played on, so I'm actually playing my on parts, which is nice. I play so many songs that I have to cop somebody else's style on, which is a challenge and I'm happy to do that. But it's nice and refreshing to play my songs sometimes, too."
The 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival with
Slayer, King Diamond, Hellyeah, The Devil Wears Prada, Whitechapel and more.
Saturday, July 11. Doors open at 12:45 p.m.
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.
Tickets are $66.66 and $33.33 pavilion, $30 lawn.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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