3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
, 10 Sept. 2008
This review is from: South Of Heaven (Audio CD)
Following the unsurpassable 1986 album "Reign On Blood", where Slayer took thrash metal to an extreme (perhaps not of speed or of heaviness but of horrifying believability), they changed tack somewhat for the 1988 follow-up, "South Of Heaven". The sound is richer and fuller; Tom Araya's voice is deeper, less screamed and more clearly enunciated (which make the stories of war, abortion and insanity all the more compelling); the drums really pound, and there's greater variety in the dynamics. (Also, Kerry King wrote much less and Tom Araya much more of the album, which might account for the songs being less throat-rippingly intense, and more about the build-up).
Song for song I think this is undoubtedly one of Slayer's best, on a par with "Reign In Blood". (The subsequent "Seasons In The Abyss" which caps Slayer's golden age, falls down a little, while "Hell Awaits" and "Show No Mercy" have only flashes of their utter brilliance).
"South Of Heaven" for example is a fantastic opener - an eerie guitar opening leading to a mid-paced metal assault that is really full-bodied. It takes its time, unhurried and utterly assured, and builds to an awesomely intense ending. "Silent Scream" on the other hand pounds hard from the beginning, and has a chorus highlighted by Dave Lombardo's intense-as-hell drumming fills, not to mention guitar solos swapped telepathically by Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. "Behind The Crooked Cross" is also relatively mid-paced, with an excellent lyric narrating the story of a Nazi trapped by his role and no longer able to express his humanity. "Mandatory Suicide" meanwhile has an almost shocking ending, with Tom Araya speaking, dead-pan, over increasingly intense and heavy sounds which fill you with absolute dread. And "Read Between The Lies" show just how sincere Slayer's contempt for Christianty's social control is - which makes their Satanic trappings (and demonic cover art) seem never put on (as with bands like Venom or Iron Maiden) but genuine and forceful.
Which goes to show how forceful Slayer are - they never sound contrived, artificial or ironic. Everything is real, everything is meant. It's remarkable how powerful this album is and has remained in the twenty years since its release - testament to the power, anger and control of Slayer.
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