Undaunted as ever by the stupidity of the mainstream pop-culture media, Slayer released its massive three-disc, one-DVD boxed set (or four-disc, one-DVD boxed set, for those with the dough and the desire for the limited edition) right around the time of Rolling Stone's Slayer-less list. Intentional or not, Apocalypse serves as yet another example of Slayer's persistent, ramrod-stiff middle finger thrust under the nose of the Music Business Establishment: The Man makes a list of his friends' 500 favorite albums (a whole lotta Don Henley and James Taylor), while Slayer makes excellent, punishing, cathartic music. Soundtrack to the Apocalypse collects the finest moments of Slayer's twenty-year career and packages them with all the bells and whistles of the modern boxed set. There's a lengthy, rambling essay about the importance of Slayer, color photos galore, the aforementioned DVD and, most importantly, both versions of the set contain Disc 3, entitled "Shit You've Never Heard." For the Slayer fan, this is akin to finding your own copy of the Necronomicon bound in tanned human flesh. Rare, unreleased tracks recorded live in Tom Araya's garage, Jeff Hanneman's home recordings made with a drum machine and a four-track and choice live tidbits, all with very little track duplication. This disc alone may very well be worth the price of the entire set, depending on your devotion to the cult.
On the downside, the Soundtrack contains almost nothing from Slayer's Metal Blade albums, with the exception of a few live versions of songs from the early days. And there is no version of "Kill Again" to be found anywhere, which is a terrible oversight. But these are minor complaints, especially if you spring for the deluxe set, as the extra disc is a live show from 2002 with Dave Lombardo restored to his rightful position on the drum throne. And what a show it is: Slayer strikes hard and fast, ripping through songs with its vaunted "Fury of Punk/Badass-ness of Metal" style. Old classics and new favorites are slashed through with a speed that surpasses the original album versions (hard to believe anything could be faster than the original "Angel of Death," but there you have it) without losing any of the vicious precision that Slayer prides itself on. Is this essential listening for Slayer fans? Duh. Is this essential listening for the list-makers of Rolling Stone? It shoulda been, judging by their belief that Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (#487) matters. Their loss.