Slayer

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Hell Awaits

Slayer - Hell Awaits ©1985 Metal Blade
1. Hell Awaits
2. Kill Again
3. At Dawn They Sleep
4. Praise Of Death
5. Necrophiliac
6. Crypts Of Eternity
7. Hardening Of The Arteries

Where would today's extreme metal scene be without Slayer's early delve into naughty topics and pushing of the envelope? It's funny to listen to Hell Awaits nearly fifteen years after the album's release as it is so quaint and mild in comparison to today's harsher acts. Admittedly my interest in Slayer has never really wavered outside a handful of tracks. To a large degree their brand of thrash was never as appealing to me as others, such as Celtic Frost, Coroner, Sodom and Destruction (perhaps some of whom enjoyed Slayer in their spare time). Needless to say, many of the metal bands I listen to in 1999 worshipped Slayer and that has benefitted me. But insofar as Slayer's music itself, I'm not really wild about it. To start with, Tom Araya's vocals are very one-tone and monotonous throughout. (On the flipside, you can actually hear his bass in the mix, unlike later albums.) Most of this music rumbles along without really doing much to reach out and catch my ear. It's very workmanship and decent, but unenthusiastic for me. Sure, Tom Araya's "Necrophiliac" lyrics are a hoot and you always have to bow to Dave Lombardo's ability, but I just can't find myself fully consumed by what they're doing here.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999

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Reign In Blood

Slayer - Reign In Blood ©1986 DefJam
1. Angel Of Death
2. Piece By Piece
3. Necrophobic
4. Altar Of Sacrifice
5. Jesus Saves
6. Criminally Insane
7. Reborn
8. Epidemic
9. Postmortem
10. Raining Blood

Psychotic proto-death metal, this is the benchmark for all death/speed/thrash metal albums. When it came out in 1986, there wasn't much in the way of "brutality". Celtic Frost, Bathory, Death, Morbid Angel, etc. - bands that would help define metal in their prime - were in the incipient stages of their existence and recognition. Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Anthrax, etc. were busy doing traditional thrash riffs and typical metal pentatonics, albeit extremely creatively at least in the case of Metallica and Megadeth. Bands were largely emblazoned for inserting quasi-melodic riffage and considerable speed into NWOBHM structures, but there wasn't anything precisely "over the top" at the time. Along came Reign in Blood to challenge the "status quo" (established unexpectedly in an already deviant sub-culture). It was single-handedly responsible for making "classic metal" a largely evanescent affair in the post-1986 metal period and making nihilism and atonality the main instruments of attack.

There is nothing remotely hinting at beauty or extended melodic nuance here: it's a mass of low-E rape and raucous dissonance - especially with respect to the solos. Slayer never gave a crap about music theory, or tried to fit a solo to a "scale"; actually, I'm sure I've read in interviews that they didn't even know much in the way of theory at all. But that's the best thing about them: blatant errancy works well if there's enough development in the framework of this errancy and enough talent is present to carry it through. The solos are wails, squeals, wild chromatics that would make classical musicians cringe and scream "wrong!" every other note. But who cares? It rules. The rhythm section is an arduous excercise in steady and rabid wrist-flicking, though they do use crunchy power chords and spooky whammy-effects to vary the pace and style. The lyrics are graphic and often-repulsive descriptions of concentration camps, serial-killing methods and miscellaneous ghastly topics...quite compatible with the music, of course. Besides, Tom Araya's great vocals are often so fast that in spite of clarity (due to the casual pitch in which he delivers them, and not the gutteral vomit of today's death metal frontmen) they are quite difficult to make out. Drumming is exceptional, and the fills are some of the earliest chaotic outbursts in death metal drumming that have now been studied, imitated, perfected. Double bass drumming is rampant, continuous and fast syncopation occupies the rest of the space.

"Angel of Death" is the absolute best track here; it is also the longest and the most varied. The riff spanning the interlude goes very well with the mid-paced narrative vocals and some distinctly audible bass, and then they go back to the initial ripping theme. "Necrophobic" is an impatient and morbid ditty, less than two minutes long and hurried almost to the point of incoherence. Extremely enjoyable, though. "Jesus Saves" and "Altar of Sacrifice" mark the central peak in songwriting, "Postmortem" is a crazy little shocker and the finale, "Raining Blood", is absolutely the heaviest, fastest track Slayer ever put out. Insane drumming, headlong rhythm and whammy tricks coalesce into a mass of noise: I'm not sure exactly which instrument fails to keep up with the others, or which oneGoes tOo fast, bUt thewhole thingjust brEaks|down|and|ends|abruptly.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 05/1999

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South Of Heaven

Slayer - South Of Heaven ©1988 DefJam
1. South Of Heaven
2. Silent Scream
3. Live Undead
4. Behind The Crooked Cross
5. Mandatory Suicide
6. Ghosts Of War
7. Read Between The Lies
8. Cleanse The Soul
9. Dissident Aggressor
10. Spill The Blood

A friend of mine rather knowledgeable in music has often stated that generally the first album you hear from any given band will often be your favorite. In the case of Slayer, this is very true for me. South of Heaven was my first actual induction into the Slayer world of thrash, though I was very aware of them based on reputation. In fact, in my small high school, the other metal head (yes, that's right - there were two of us) was actually a bit scared of Slayer due to that reputation.

Now obviously after Reign in Blood Slayer realized they just couldn't do another half hour of blazing speed assaults any longer so naturally they dropped down a gear or two. Tracks like "Behind the Crooked Cross", the haunting "Spill the Blood" and the superb "Read Between the Lies" are all more mid-paced, yet still aggressive. Rick Rubin's interesting production (which emphasized drums and guitar remarkably well but entirely buried the bass - perhaps providing more indirect evidence that Tom Araya won't be gracing bass player magazines anytime soon) created a whirly bird feel, with guitar riffs sounding like a menacing helicopter bearing down on you. With war themes prevalent on a couple songs, this effect works quite well. Araya's vocals are also another good point here. Rather than that monotonous growl he uses on most of the other Slayer albums, his voice here is often a droning and eerie sound. "Spill the Blood" benefits from that singing style greatly. And of course what Slayer review can't mention the fantastic drumming of Dave Lombardo, which propels the music along greatly?

South of Heaven seems to be one of the more forgotten Slayer albums but I will forever have a soft spot for it.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Undisputed Attitude

Slayer - Undisputed Attitude ©1996 American
1. Disintegration / Free Money
2. Verbal Abuse / Leeches
3. Abolish Government / Superficial Love
4. Can't Stand You
5. Ddamm
6. Guilty of Being White
7. I Hate You
8. Filler / I Don't Want to Hear It
9. Spiritual Law
10. Sick Boy
11. Mr. Freeze
12. Violent Pacification
13. Richard Hung Himself
14. I'm Gonna Be Your God
15. Gemini

As punk exploded into the mainstream in the mid 90s, everyone seemed particularly interested in grabbing a piece of the action. Bands who couldn't sell out a telephone booth in the 80s reformed to far larger audiences (and in some cases, the new audience was deserved). Everyone suddenly acknowledged their punk rock roots. In the case of Slayer, the members did in fact grow up in the fertile southern California scene and undoubtedly were influenced by what was happening around them even as they donned eyeliner and formed their horror movie metal act. As thrash metal blossomed, it can be argued that speed and thrash metal were the creations of metal bands who heard a few hardcore records and added their own flavor to it.

So as punk reached its critical mass in the mid 90s, Slayer saw fit to release a covers album featuring their take on their old favorite bands such as Verbal Abuse, D.I., Minor Threat and D.R.I. But rather than reinvent the songs, Slayer settles for merely ripping through the tracks with little care or infusion of character. Yes, it does sound like Slayer, but it sounds like Slayer going through the motions. The only notable aspect to this album is that on occasion, you can actually hear Tom Araya's bass. Assuming that he even recorded the bass tracks in the studio. Their cover of "Guilty of Being White" also irritated songwriter Ian MacKaye as Slayer decided to end the song with "Guilty of being right", rather than the original lyric. This of course brought up the accusations of the song being racist, rather than an anti-racism song as originally written. That begs the question why Slayer would honor an influential band by disprespecting the important intent of the song.

Undisputed Attitude is nothing more than Slayer playing fast and subtracting every element that made punk important in the first place. It is an entirely unbearable throwaway effort that oozes opportunism to cash in on a musical trend sweeping the planet. Slayer's original material very much stands on its own and there was simply no reason for them to embarrass themselves with a half-assed covers album that demonstrates they probably didn't grasp punk as it occured in the early 80s all around them. More tragic is the fact they didn't understand it when it reemerged in the 90s.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Diabolus In Musica

Slayer - Diabolus In Musica ©1998 American
1. Bitter Peace
2. Death's Head
3. Stain Of Mind
4. Overt Enemy
5. Perversions Of Pain
6. Love To Hate
7. Desire
8. In The Name Of God
9. Scrum
10. Screaming From The Sky
11. Wicked (Eur/Jap)
12. Point
13. Unguarded Instinct [Japanese bonus track]

Haha. Utter crap. Tom Araya sounds like a tired man spending his 40th year in jail - his vocals are defeated screams which are almost laughable at times. The music is mostly mid-tempo groove-metal ('cept for four tracks which I cannot be bothered to track down); influences from these crap Korn clones are obvious. Solos are rare, those that I did hear were unremarkable (is this the same band that did Reign in Blood...can someone remind these guys that they play in Slayer?). The songwriting is really horrible here - mediocre riffs abound, and there's no attempt to make them involved or non-linear. There's a disturbing inclination towards hooks (Mmm-bop) and catchy choruses - something that I haven't heard since South of Heaven (which was also forgettable, though not as bad as this). The drumming, though, is quite good - I just think Bostaph is playing in the wrong band. He should go join Testament, or something. The other three recently-converted-christians should either go back to doing what they're good at, or just retire. This is a disgrace - one far worse than the Loads or Cryptic Writings from their peers.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 01/1999

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