Monday, 17 December 2012

CD Review: South Of Heaven, by Slayer (1988)

Slayer slow down the pace and amplify the power. South Of Heaven emerges as a mammoth album, the more deliberate speed providing the oxygen needed for the band's aggression to flourish. With rich melodies enriching the band's sound, South Of Heaven is not just a stellar thrash classic, it also points the way to melodic death metal.

With longer track lengths, more complex arrangements, and domination to spare, everything on the album is infused with black depth. Dave Lombardo's drums are thunderous in their intensity, and most tracks truly kick off once he barges down the dungeon door to lay down monstrous foundation stones. Tom Araya's bass rumbles in the background, the rudder steering the band ever south, while his vocals alternate between dangerous and tortured. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman share sometimes chaotic guitar soloing duties, but the album is less about solos and more about thoughtful composition. South Of Heaven's stunning sound is defined by the mesmeric guitar riffs and doom-laden intros underpinning most of the tracks.

The opening 50 seconds of the title track are an invitation that cannot be refused to join the band on a journey to whatever lies south of heaven, the hauntingly melodic riff promising lethal pleasures. Track one blends into track two, Silent Scream continuing the adorable horror show with a staccato riff that tickles while it kills.

Ghost Of War is possibly the strongest track on the record, with an increased tempo giving way to a devastating riff at the 1:50 mark, a searching theme of marching troops instructed to take no prisoners while the incessant strumming puts flame-throwers to shame. Read Between The Lies is a non-stop assault with an iniquitous melody forcing submission. The carnage is brought to a close with the devastating Spill The Blood, another formidable intro transitioning into a legendary riff and beseeching Araya vocals.

South Of Heaven is thrash at its best, attitudinal power harnessed into controlled momentum, perfecting a genre while opening doors to metal's new frontiers.


Tom Araya - Bass, Vocals
Jeff Hanneman - Guitars
Kerry King - Guitars
Dave Lombardo - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

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

Average: 8.40

Produced by Rick Rubin and Slayer.
Recorded by Bill Fresh, Peter Kelsey, Andy Wallace, Steve Ett.
Mixed by Andy Wallace. Mastered by Howie Weinberg.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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