SLAYER bassist/vocalist Tom Araya spoke to Revolver magazine about the progress of the recording sessions for the band's eleventh studio album, due later in the year.
"We're in kind of the beginning stages of the finishing stages, if that makes any sense," he said. "We're doing the mixing and mastering now, but we still need to sit down and figure out the album title, the album cover, the song titles, and the song list. We've recorded 13 songs for it; we'll probably put ten on there, but who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky and we'll put all 13 on there!"
The follow-up to 2009's "World Painted Blood" was recorded over a four-month period at Hollywood, California's Henson Studios with producer Terry Date, who has previously worked with PANTERA, SOUNDGARDEN and KORN, among others. The CD will be released on Nuclear Blast through the band's own label imprint, closing out a 28-year relationship with Rick Rubin and American Recordings. It will also be SLAYER's first album without the group's co-founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away in May 2013 from alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver. He is credited for writing many of SLAYER's classic songs, including "Angel Of Death" and "South Of Heaven".
"The whole process of this album started three years ago, when Jeff was still a part of it," said Araya. "There is one track on there that we recorded with him, that he did play on, which was completely done except we hadn't finalized the vocals for it. So we were fortunate to have something that he had participated in."
According to Araya, it's been "just odd and strange" making the new album without Hanneman "because he's never gonna be there again, you know?" he said. "Even when we were doing stuff without him while he was still alive, that felt strange. Yeah, I missed him during the process. But the way things turned out, I think he was definitely a part of it, even if he wasn't there physically."
Joining Araya and guitarist Kerry King during the sessions for SLAYER's new album are returning drummer Paul Bostaph, who replaced Dave Lombardo last year, and guitarist Gary Holt (also of EXODUS), who has been filling in for Jeff Hanneman on tour for the past four years.
Asked if he has found himself tempted to write the kind of songs that Jeff might have contributed to an album, Kerry told Metal Hammer magazine in an early 2014 interview: "I think that would be shooting myself in the foot. I can't pretend to be Jeff. We both learned from each other in 30 years of writing together. As far as going out of my way to write something that Jeff might've done? I won't do that. If it happens to end up sounding that way, good for me!"
At the time of the Metal Hammer interview to it was still undecided as to whether any of Hanneman's previously unused ideas would make it to the next SLAYER album. "There was a song we finished on the last record, but I know for a fact [Jeff] wanted to rewrite the lyrics on, so that one got to deconstruct and make better," Kerry said.
"I've said, and I'll continue to say, that if we use any of Jeff's songs, I don't want it to come out just because Jeff wrote it. I want it to come out because it's awesome," he added. "We've just got to put out something that I think Jeff would be proud of."
Regarding what fans can expect from the new SLAYER material, King said: "I've got a surprising amount of heavy stuff for me. I do tend to lean on the fast side, but I have some exceptionally heavy tunes, Like, 'Wow, man, where did that come from?' I expect my stuff to be angry and fast, but it's all over the map. I'm stoked. We'll have enough so we can pick great stuff whether we use any of Jeff's material or not. It should add up to as good a record as we can hope for with one of our original songwriters being gone."