‘Slayer Is Damn American’ - Why Soldiers Love The Heavy Metal RockersSlayer doesn’t shy away from writing about war and the plight of soldiers. Five Finger Death Punch has also built a strong relationship with members of the military. FFDP released an over-the-top video for their new song. Why are metal bands revered by those in the military? Read on.
Slayer is part of the listening regime for military men and women tuning in around the globe to the Armed Forces Network, also known as AFN. That’s where Angel Orozco, a former marine, comes into the story.
Orozco wasn’t familiar with Slayer, before enlisting in the service in the early ’90s. “I’m a Mexican-American guy from Whittier, California,” he says. “Back when I was growing up it was a lot of Chicanos listening to their parents’ oldies music. That’s what I knew.”
But then he joined the military. “I came into this huge melting pot of people. I was stationed in Okinawa (Japan), and I had a roommate, somebody I had never met before. It was 1992, and Seasons in the Abyss hadn’t come out too much before. And my roommate’s alarm clock music was ‘War Ensemble.’” Orozco laughs. “I would hear that every morning. That’s how I got introduced to Slayer.”
Orozco retired from the marines in 2009 and landed a gig with AFN.
“We entertain the troops that are serving overseas,” he explains. “We’re in 170-plus countries, and all the ships at sea can get American Forces radio services. And we have a number of radio services, with stations ranging from pop and classic hits to classic rock and talk radio. Right now, our alternative station is the channel I use to create more ‘edgy’ music specials.”
Perhaps the highlight of Orozco’s time with AFN thus far was getting an exclusive interview with Slayer’s Kerry King, who in 2010 chatted with Orozco while he spun the band’s then-new album, World Painted Blood, in full.
“Kerry came into our studios in Riverside (California) and talked with me for a couple hours, and we were able to broadcast that to our troops overseas,” Orozco recalls. “It was such a great experience because I wanted to repay everything that Slayer had done for me, and also maybe introduce young troops to the band the same way I had been introduced to them decades earlier when I first joined the military.”
In the military, Slayer is more than just morning music.
“When you’re in the Marine Corps there’s a lot of energy. And weekends in the barracks will get pretty rowdy and pretty loud, especially after a Slayer album just dropped.” And the Slayer love extended far beyond his barracks. “It felt like everywhere I went I would run into all these Slayer-loving Marines. The band was pretty much the soundtrack to my time in the Corps.”
In addition to getting to meet one of his heroes, Orozco says he was also impressed by the guitarist’s connection to the military, as well as his knowledge of what Slayer’s music means to armed servicemen and women.
“He talked about how, at shows, all these military guys would come up to him and tell him how Slayer has gotten them through tough times,” Orozco recalls of King.
“There’s a lot of mental stress in the military. Times are crazy, and almost all these servicemen and women have been in combat zones. So for them to be able to have Slayer’s music as a release from all of it, I know Kerry was taken aback to hear that and was really appreciative that people would share their stories with him.”
As for what he believes to be Slayer’s appeal to military men and women, beyond the obvious intensity of the music? “Slayer is damn American,” Orozco says. “These guys, they’re kind of us.”
There’s also the fact that the band doesn’t shy away from writing about war and the plight of soldiers, whether it’s the aforementioned “War Ensemble” or something like “Eyes of the Insane,” from 2006’s Christ Illusion.
“Slayer makes that connection,” Orozco says. “It’s like it’s hand-written for us. And I think that goes a long way when somebody can speak on your level and from that human-nature side of reality.”
“I know the type of people that join the military, and ten and twenty years from now, they’ll be jamming out to Slayer in the barracks, even if they aren’t born yet.” – Angel Orozco
Orozco continues, “Life isn’t about Maybachs and diamond rings for military people. These are young men and women who are just starting their lives and have thrust themselves into the defense of this country. And for a band like Slayer to support that and try to relate to what they’re going through; it’s an amazing thing that hits at the core of U.S. military men and women.”
It’s also something that connects with new generations of servicemen and women.
“I find that Slayer is just as popular with the military youth now as when I was in the Marines twenty-one years ago,” Orozco says. “There are some bands that just don’t go away—even if they retire.”
Orozco says, “I know the type of people that join the military, and ten and twenty years from now, they’ll be jamming out to Slayer in the barracks, even if they aren’t born yet. It’s just part of the DNA of young warfighters to go toward music that fires them up. And that’s exactly what Slayer did for my friends and me. So I’m trying to make sure people still have that outlet. As long as I’m at AFN, I’m going to work to keep people informed and entertained by Slayer.”
As for Orozco himself, he’s been to multiple Slayer shows at this point and has big plans for their final tour.
“I’m still in contact with fifty of my former Marines, and we’re planning to go to shows all over,” he says. “There’s a connection between us all that just sticks. For any of us, when we hear a particular Slayer song, we go, ‘Oh, man, this reminds me of the time when I was serving over here or over there.’”
With the first name of Angel, it’s not difficult to figure out what Orozco’s favorite Slayer song is.
“Of course, ‘Angel of Death.’ I mean, my name is Angel Orozco. So how cool is that?”
Watch and listen to Angel’s favorite song below.
Five Finger Death Punch is another metal band near and dear to the military. The group just premiered a slapstick new video, “Sham Pain”
Five Finger Death Punch is probably the least cool metal band around right now. Critics pretty much hate them, metal elitists sneer at them and consider them knuckle-dragging, lowest-common-denominator purveyors of post-Pantera crap.
But you won’t get many who serve in the armed forces to agree with the critics and purists.
Five Finger Death Punch have succeeded by building a relationship with listeners in the military, in a way other bands haven’t.
As long as there’s been metal, there have been metal songs about war, and they’ve frequently expressed solidarity with soldiers.
Think Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”; Metallica’s “Disposable Heroes” and “One”; Motörhead’s “Voices From The War” and “When The Eagle Screams.” Even Dream Theater made “The Enemy Inside,” a song about battling PTSD.
But 5FDP have taken things much farther than their peers. Not only do they employ the imagery of combat in many songs, but they also actively support soldiers in a myriad of ways.
When they were promoting their twin 2013 albums The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volumes 1 and 2, frontman Ivan Moody told ArtistDirect, “When we were over in Iraq playing our USO tour, I had one soldier come up to me, and he laid a burnt iPod down on the table. He didn’t ask me to sign it. He wanted me to keep it. I looked at him a bit funny at first. He told me one of his closest friends went out on a mission and didn’t make it back. Let’s leave it at that. When they found him and his things, his iPod was stuck on ‘The Bleeding.’ The last thing he was listening to before he went was one of our songs. I literally teared up.
Around the same time, in an interview with Loudwire about the video for “Wrong Side Of Heaven,” Bathory said, “Generally the band employs a lot of veterans anyway, in the past and in the future. Every time you can help with something it’s great, so we had many drivers, those were veterans, guitar techs, so it’s an ongoing thing, and every time we can employ veterans we do.”
That song was intended to draw attention to the plight of veterans with PTSD, and the group set up 5fdp4vets.com, which sells merchandise to raise money, and provides links to organizations that offer help.
The dominant message to many of 5FDP’s songs are about violent rage and alienation from society:
- “Jekyll And Hyde,” begins with the words, “There’s just so much goddamn weight on my shoulders/ All I’m trying to do is live my motherfucking life/ Supposed to be happy but I’m only getting colder/ Wear a smile on my face, but there’s a demon inside.”
- The song “My Nemesis” includes the line, “Don’t need the memory/ Already wear the scars.”
- “Hell To Pay” begins, “Feels like I’m running in place/ A past I can’t erase/I’m breaking, breaking apart/ (I know they’re after me)/ It’s like I’m fading each day/ They took it all away/ Left nothing, nothing but scars/ (They make it hard to breathe).”
The imagery is pretty universal; pissed-off teenagers could undoubtedly hear it speaking to them.
But the 5FDP audience skews a little older than that (as evidenced by the number of physical CDs they sell), and their words are likely to have a stronger resonance for people who’ve served in combat and come back changed, whether physically, or mentally and emotionally. Combine that with things like soldiers donating their dog tags to 5FDP for display as part of their touring stage backdrop, and you’ve got a relationship between band and audience that’s unique and powerful.
A new record is on the way from 5FDP. And Justice For None will hit stores and streaming services this Friday, May 18.
We don’t know what the tone of the full LP will be, but the band released the video to the first single, “Sham Life,” and, from what we’ve heard, the message is different from the seriousness of soldiers protecting the Homeland.
“Sham Pain is a lyrical snapshot of probably the most chaotic, yet the biggest year of our career,” says guitarist Zoltan Bathory.
“So far we’ve come out of every bear attack relatively un-scraped, and the band is tighter than ever. Life is not so difficult if you don’t take yourself so seriously. As long as you can find the humor in everything you are winning, and the winning is strong with this video, as it follows the footsteps of our NOscar winning masterpiece Jekyll and Hyde. It was a simple process: we lit the set on fire and then made our poor director Rob Anderson’s artistic sense into a piñata. Whatever he could salvage became the music video.”
Judge for yourself. Watch the video below.