The band was originally known as Dragonslayer before shortening its name to Slayer. Contrary to what some believe, the name was not chosen as an acronym for Satan Laughs As You Eternally Rot; rather, this wording, found on the liner notes to Divine Intervention, was added as a backronym after the name was shortened. Araya has jokingly stated that they chose Slayer because "it was cool, easy to chant".  The backronym might orginate from the line "Laughing as you eternally rot" from the song "Live Undead" (South of Heaven, 1988).
Slayer's first album, Show No Mercy, was released in 1983 on Metal Blade Records. It contains fan favorites such as "Die By the Sword", "The Antichrist" and "Black Magic." It was essential in gaining the band a cult following and respect in the metal community.
The band's second release, the Haunting the Chapel EP, was considerably darker and more thrash-oriented than its predecessor, and is considered to have laid the groundwork for what the band's classic sound would become. It opens with the now classic "Chemical Warfare," which is typically one of two songs the band plays as a live closer.
The band's second full-length release, Hell Awaits, expanded on the darkness of Haunting the Chapel, as hell and Satan were common song subjects. Musically it is the band's most progressive offering, containing only seven tracks, three of which clocked in at over six minutes. The intro to the album is a demonic-sounding voice repeating "Join us," reversed on tape to play backward, and ending with an ironic "Welcome back" before the title track proper begins.
After being offered a recording deal by Rick Rubin's Def Jam Recordings, the band signed and quickly began working on its third album with Rubin as co-producer. The result, 1986's Reign in Blood, has been called a "thrash metal masterpiece" and even credited with almost single-handedly inspiring the entire death metal genre, at least in North America. Kerrang! called Reign in Blood as "the heaviest album of all time". In 2003 Slayer played the album in its entirety throughout their fall tour (something they never did on the original album tour). A DVD of one of these performances was released with the title Still Reigning. Closer "Raining Blood" culminated with the band being drenched in a rain of fake blood. In 2006 Metal Hammer named Reign In Blood their number one of their top two hundred albums in Metal Hammer's lifetime. It also came in at number one in their top twenty thrash albums.
South of Heaven, released in 1988, marked a significant musical departure. To contrast the aggressive assault put forth on Reign in Blood, Slayer consciously slowed down the tempo of the album as a whole. They also added elements like undistorted guitars and toned-down vocal styles not heard on previous albums. Some critics praised the album as demonstrating Slayer's desire to grow musically and avoid repeating themselves. But the new sounds disappointed some of the band's fans who were more accustomed to the style of earlier releases. Even though fans remain divided on the subject, two songs from the album ("Mandatory Suicide" and "South of Heaven") have become almost permanent additions to the band's live setlist. Following the release of South of Heaven, the band recorded a thrash-metal cover of Iron Butterfly's signature song, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. This song was included on the soundtrack to the movie Less Than Zero.
The follow-up album, Seasons in the Abyss, was more of a return to the sound of Reign in Blood and was greeted warmly by fans. A video clip for the title track had the band playing in the Middle East, shortly before the start of the Gulf War. Vocal overdubs on "Temptation" and a child's voice pleading underneath the track "Dead Skin Mask" (about necrophile Ed Gein)–as well as the title track, which originally made use of a flute–were the most obvious signs of the band's growth.
A double live album, Decade of Aggression, was released in 1991, and aside from a brief tour the next year (including an appearance at the 1992 Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, nothing new would be heard from Slayer until 1994's Divine Intervention. The new record boasted songs about Jeffrey Dahmer ("213," his apartment number) and Reinhard Heydrich ("SS-3") amongst other themes of murder and the evils of church and government. Live Intrusion, a video of concert footage, was released the next year and features a joint cover of Venom's "Witching Hour" with Machine Head, who were Slayer's support on the spring 1995 tour. (Relations between Kerry King and Robb Flynn have since badly deteriorated.)
Undisputed Attitude (1996) found Slayer reaffirming their love for hardcore punk. The band covered songs by Minor Threat, T.S.O.L., D.R.I., D.I., Dr. Know, Verbal Abuse, and even Iggy and the Stooges. Song's "Can't Stand You" and "Ddamm" were previously unreleased punk songs written by Hanneman in 1984-1985 while in an unnamed side project. The album's ending track was an original song entitled "Gemini".
Diabolus in Musica (Latin for "The Devil in Music") was released in 1998 and marked, along with an altered logo, a change in compositional style for the band. This style incorporated a new groove into some song structures and fan reaction was divided. Nevertheless, a successful world tour followed.
God Hates Us All, Slayer's most recent studio album, was released on September 11, 2001. Some promotional material announcing the album title and release date drew an unintended connection with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They have also released a live DVD (War at the Warfield) and box set (Soundtrack to the Apocalypse) featuring rarities, live CD and DVD performances and various Slayer paraphernalia.
In 1996, a lawsuit was brought against the band by the parents of Elyse Pahler, who accused the band of encouraging their daughter's murderers through their lyrics. The lawsuit was thrown out in 2001, for multiple reasons including "principles of free speech, [lack of a] duty and [lack of] foreseeability" - California Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County.
The band received their first Grammy nomination for "Best Metal Performance" on January 8, 2002.
Slayer's new album, Christ Illusion to be released on August 8th, 2006.