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This review is from: South Of Heaven (Audio CD)
Back in the day Slayer used to be quite quixotic. From the strange mix of glam and thrash on their debut to the almost doom metal stylings of Hell Awaits through to the out and out balls-to-the-wall reinvention of thrash on the seminal Reign in Blood, they actually came at their material from very different angles. This did not change with South of Heaven. Anyone listening to Reign in Blood would think this a different band. I suppose you could say this is their most 'thoughtful' release, if that actually means anything at all. It is fast but it is also melodic and there is a genuine effort shown to write coherent songs.
The change is heard right from the word go. The title track begins almost funerealy with a slow (for them) riff that permeates the whole song and a chanting chorus that sticks in your head and wont get out. A classic. 'Silent Scream' is segued in after the distortion from the first track. It is more akin to the Slayer of Reign in Blood. This is a fast thrash track. And it is a belter. 'Live Undead' is a great slow burner that makes most use of form and content: it's like a soundtrack to zombie attack in a graveyard. 'Behind the crooked Cross' is not as assured as the tracks that preceded it but it is still a great little mid-tempo chug-fest. 'Mandatory Suicide' - mmm. Not much I can say really except, heavyweight classic of momentous proportions! As with all super classics (Reign in Blood, Angel of Death, Hell Awaits to name a few from this band) it is beyond critique - it just IS. It's there. If you haven't heard it, well, it's the very essence of all that is Slayer. 'Ghosts of War' is a fun little thrash number with a great breakdown to end on. 'Read Between the Lines' is much like 'Behind...' and is a great song to listen to - it almost makes you want to dance. Almost. 'Cleanse the Soul' is one of my favourites. It takes everything that was great about Reign in Blood (the speed, passion, solos and breathlessness)and mixes it with the melodic core of South of Heaven, making it both fast, catchy and containing some outstanding solos. 'Dissident Aggressor' fits in rather well as the tone of the album suits this Judas Priest number better than it would even on Seasons in the Abyss. 'Spill the Blood' finishes it all off as it started, moodily, quietly and thoughtfully - one of the best 'slow' tracks Slayer have written.
As a whole, it all works perfectly, despite its difference from their previous release. It also solidified the sound they would use for the next few albums and brought them a lot of media coverage, although that was more to do with the content and artwork for 'Mandatory Suicide'. It's a classic. Buy it. Now.