"Dave needed to be away from us, and we needed to be away from him," says King now. "He's played with some musicians, not just dumb-ass thrash guitar players. That only makes us better when we apply thrash, and he applies his drums to what we're doing. He's had 12 years of different schooling that he may never have gotten. When he came back, we were all grown up now, and nobody had problems or issues. It was cool."
The process of making Slayer records hadn't changed much in Lombardo's absence. "We're trying to capture our live sound, and I play fucking loud," says King, whose favourite subjects remain bleak themes of insanity, death and "religion-bashing, making people think for themselves." A prime example was 2001's God Hates Us All, a title King now has tattooed in huge Gothic letters along his left arm.
Rush-hour traffic is enough to fuel the rage. "All I need is a day in public and I'm tired of people," King says of his typical lyric-writing inspirations. "People need a lot guidance, and there's not a lot of guidance out there, so there's a lot of situations that are very maddening to me."
At home between tours and recording sessions, King spends his free hours watching football, raising Carpet Python snakes and checking out new metal bands. He's a fan of Marilyn Manson and expects to share a few glasses on absinthe on the road with the shock-rocker this summer, as both acts induct another generation of fresh new metal fans.
"In the last 10 years, we've had girls in the pit, throwin' with dudes and holding their own every step in the way," says King. "It used to be girls were girls, and they might show up with their boyfriends. Now girls are fuckin' into it. And they let you know."
Heavy metal parents also bring the kids. "You'd be surprised how many fucking diapers I've signed," says King.
Singer Tom Araya credits Slayer's longevity to a core mission based not just on speed but on a persona that's darker and heavier than the rest, despite such signs of mainstream acceptance as Grammy nominations and awards. "I credit that to kids discovering Slayer in junior high school," says Araya, at the studio in a black corduroy hoodie, strands of gray in his goatee. "Or the friend hanging out with his buddy who's listening to something he thinks is heavy. And he goes, 'Ha! Heavy?' It's like the Twilight Zone movie: You want to hear something really heavy? Listen to this."
Outside the door of the Slayer sessions is a sign, lifted from some local club: "Absolutely no ins or outs — two drink minimum." Earlier, Araya was wailing and raging some vocal melody ideas for one of guitarist Jeff Hanneman's tunes, but right now the focus is building up King's 2:51 minutes of thrash and burn.
The speed of the tune is almost too much in places, and King rips through a few takes before he's satisfied. But he gets there quickly enough, finishing initial overdubs for three songs in just one session. He then hands the camouflage guitar to his tech, whose eyes grow wider as he says, probably not for the first time, "The strings are hot!"