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zZounds' Legends of Tone: Slayer

Unleash Slayer-Inspired Tone

Since their formation in early '80s Los Angeles by guitarist Kerry King and drummer Dave Lombardo, Slayer has thrashed their way to the absolute top of the metal ranks, alongside bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. The hard-hitting, high-gain riff assaults put forth by Kerry King, the late Jeff Hanneman and now Gary Holt are regarded as some of the most influential in metal. Known for their use of cranked Marshall JCM800 heads and walls of 4x12 cabinets, King and Hanneman created crushing tone to heighten the intensity of Slayer's all-out attack on listeners' eardrums.

In this edition of Legends of Tone, we've rounded up our picks for modern, accessible gear that harnesses the brutal tone of Slayer.

Looking for tips to get that relentless Slayer tone? Join us as we deconstruct the sound of Slayer on the zZounds Blog!

Check out our Legends of Tone: Slayer video!

Check out more legendary artists in our Legends of Tone video series »

Marshall JCM800 2203 Guitar Amplifier Head

The JCM800 2203 is one of the most highly respected 100-watt Marshall heads in the company's long history. Evolving from the legendary 100 Watt Plexi head, it was Marshall's first amplifier to feature a master volume control. With a single channel and no onboard reverb, the JCM800 2203 is a true workhorse, and so well-suited for Slayer's aggressive tone that Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman both relied on it as their main amplifier.

This reissue of the classic 2203 sports the same distinctive roar and simplicity as the original, with the addition of a series effects loop and true bypass switch that takes the loop completely out of the circuit, ensuring that the raw tone isn't compromised when effects aren't in use.

New, $2,599.99 | Learn more »

Marshall 1960B Straight 4x12 Cabinet

If there's one thing that encapsulates the raw power of Slayer's live sound, it's a wall of Marshall 4x12 cabs. The perfect partner in crime to the JCM800 2203 head, this Marshall 1960B cabinet is the weapon of choice for Kerry King as he slings crushing riffs around the world. While Slayer's been known to rock upwards of 36 of these bad boys at a time, the tone you can achieve with one is plenty.

Loaded with four Celestion G12T-75 speakers and clocking in at a cool 300 watts of power handling, the Marshall 1960B can accommodate pretty much any head you throw at it -- the ideal cabinet candidate for nailing the Slayer guitar tone.

New, $949.99 | Learn more »

Dunlop GCB95 Wah

While the Slayer sound doesn't lean too heavily on the use of effects, one thing's for sure: You're going to need a wah for solos. Kerry King has meandered over the years from using rackmount wah units, to various signature wahs, but he always seems to gravitate toward classic Dunlop Crybaby wah pedals. The solos in songs like "South of Heaven" and "Angel of Death" just wouldn't be the same without some heavy Crybaby usage.

Look no further than the Dunlop GCB95 Original Crybaby to replicate the Slayer solo sound. This even-keeled reissue of the original is built like a tank and harnesses the quintessential wah sound without any additional tonal coloring.

New, $79.99 | Learn more »

ESP LTD Arrow 401

Known for sporting some pretty menacing-looking axes, King and Hanneman both shaped their look and sound around angular B.C. Rich guitars. Notably, Kerry King is usually seen playing guitars with his signature "King V" body shape, loaded with EMG 81 and 85 pickups. The perfect accessible alternative, fully rigged to annihilate Slayer riffs, is the ESP LTD Arrow 401.

The Arrow 410's angular shape, set-thru neck, EMG 81/85 pickup configuration and Floyd Rose bridge make it a go-to instrument for replicating King's tight, chugging rhythms and lightning-fast soloing. And with a price tag well under $1k, it's an affordable alternative for working musicians.

New, $799 | Learn more »

ESP LTD Gary Holt GH-600

After Jeff Hanneman's untimely passing in 2013, Exodus guitarist Gary Holt took the reins as a permanent member of Slayer, performing on their 2015 album, Repentless. Holt's sound is a natural fit for Slayer thanks to his use of EMG-loaded ESP guitars and towering Marshall stacks. His relationships with ESP and EMG have made for a slew of signature pickup sets and guitars.

Gary's signature guitar, the ESP LTD GH-600, delivers on thrash metal sound and style. A pair of powerful and sleek EMG 89R and 81R red pickups, a sturdy mahogany neck and a Floyd Rose locking tremolo combines to create an axe that can stand up to the rigors of Slayer riffage.

New, $1,049 | Learn more »

MXR M108S 10-Band Graphic EQ

When his trio of Marshall JCM800 2203 heads isn't mean enough, Kerry King looks to the MXR M108S equalizer pedal to create thrash-approved, scooped rhythm tones and boost his cutting solos. When tweaked, the M108 can create raging sustain and feedback, while coaxing more thunderous low end from your rig than you may have thought possible.

While King pushes multiple amps with his dual-output signature version of this EQ pedal, MXR's standard version is more than capable of bringing the best out of your amp. With ten carefully chosen frequency bands, and both input and output level controls, the M108S will let you fine-tune and sculpt your guitar rig into the perfect Slayer tone machine.

New, $129.99 | Learn more »

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