Heavy metal has long been known for the directness and vigour of its iconography. The skulls, inverted crucifixes, bullet belts and tattoos of many metal fans are designed and combined to create a directionless sense of menace and rejection and to isolate their wearer from the constricting mores of society. That or they all just want to look cool. Either way Sanna Charles' God Listens To Slayer, a collection of photographs of the titular thrash bands' fans taken between 2003 and 2013 published by Ditto Press, throws a rare and non-glamourised light on heavy metal fandom, offering a peek at a subculture unused to having such a stark gaze trained upon it.
“Slayer really haven’t changed their formula, and that’s what people really love about them,” says Sanna Charles when asked about the reasons for the continual devotion of the thrash masters' fanbase. “They continually write about war, death, killing, the Antichrist, suicide bombers, more war, and constantly keep it fast. For the majority there is a lot of joy in its morbidity and hate”. It's a joy that is reflected in Charles’ photos, which show various headbangers relaxing, drinking, swimming and, of course, losing their marbles in the mosh pit. In the books introduction Iron Fist editor Louise Brown compares the rite of following Slayer to a pilgrimage, and it's a comparison that makes a lot of sense when faced with photos of steaming Slayer worshippers bunched together, hair flailing in fits of collective ecstasy.