Saturday, June 27, 2009

Testament - Souls of Black (1990)

In September 1990, Testament released their fourth full-length, Souls of Black. Recorded in a different studio and produced by a different guy than the previous albums, this one made some corrections to the sound as it had developed on the previous record. The more melodic vocal approach remained, to a degree, though the emphasis was placed back where it belongs with regard to the overall sound; the guitars. In a sense, one could say that this album bears elements from each of its three predecessors while also having an identity of its own.

The title track was my introduction to this band, many years ago. I'd read of the band, but not heard anything. It was late one summer night when I called in to 'The Haunted Mansion' and requested that they toss in some old Testament. For a show that specialized in Black, Death and Doom Metal, it was a little difficult to make a proper segue into Thrash, but as Obituary's "Chopped In Half" faded out, I heard the sound of thunder that would lead into "Souls of Black". Despite being rather mid-paced, it was memorable enough to get stuck in my head and give me cause to go searching for Testament albums, first running across The Legacy. It took me until October or November to get my hands on this one, and it was certainly worth the wait.

The intro, "Beginning of the End", is a brief acoustic bit that serves a an adequate lead-in for the first real song, "Face in the Sky". As it begins, the pace is still more relaxed, similar to the previous album, though the delivery is far more energetic. Skolnick's lead work is on target, as well. The guitars sound a lot stronger than they did on Practice What You Preach, while the drums and bass aren't anywhere near as annoying as on that one. The guitars have a bit of an edge to them, again, which makes all the difference in the world.

The pace picks up a bit with "Falling Fast". Throughout this album, there's somewhat of a dreary feeling, similar to that felt on a cold and rainy day. Even as the songs speed up and give off a little more energy, everything remains laced with a somber sentiment. The reverb on the vocals gives some distant, ethereal quality, but never overpowering the guitar riffs.

As the thunder roars and a brief bass line rolls forward, the title-track lumbers forth. This is a mid-paced affair, though extremely memorable with regard to both vocal and guitar melodies. Of course, the solo is one that will pierce your skull with great ease. It's a fairly simplistic song, but sometimes less is more. The next track, "Absence of Light", follows a similar pattern.

"Love To Hate" sees the pace pick up, at times. Of course, the days of The Legacy are long-gone, but it's enough to provide the necessary variation for the album. It is here that some of the lead techniques found on The New Order seem to be employed with greater success, blending well into the piece as opposed to being somewhat detached. As with the rest of the record, the vocals and guitars share the responsibility of providing memorable melodies.

The intensity increases, if only by a slim margin, for "Malpractice". This may have something to do with the motivation behind the lyrics for this one. From the first verse, one can sense the frustration and anger.

"We all will go and stay sometime
Soon to be victim of a crime
Loss of blood and death is near
Take a number, can you wait right here"

Even two decades ago, it was clearly evident that the medical establishment is nothing more than a joke. It is a business, like any others. Hiding behind false sentiments of wanting to help those in need, the truth is that these butchers care for nothing but the almighty dollar. Chances are, they'll do more damage than good as a sort of job security. Most anyone should be able to identify with the lyrics, here.

"One Man's Fate" opens with an ominous feeling, assisted by the sweeping arpeggio riffs that Testament are well known for. This one keeps up the pace of the previous song, alternating between faster moments and more relaxed ones. As with the album as a whole, this possesses more of an organic feeling, as the riffs seem to have more room to breathe than in the past. The incredible solos compliment the song well. The tone seems to get a little darker, working well to blend into the mood of the song that follows.

Testament's previous attempt at a ballad yielded horrid results. However, "The Legacy" is a powerful piece of music, eliminating the flaws from previous attempts and delivering something far superior. This record truly possesses an autumnal feeling, in some sense. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I obtained it during the season of dying, but there seems to be some somber tone that is ever-present throughout the recording, similar to the feel of feeling the cold autumn winds chill you as the naked trees stood as claws against the grey sky. This song is very introspective and poignant, possessing a lot of feeling. Chuck Billy's vocal performance is top notch and the guitar melodies slither through your being, injecting venom into your very soul. There is a strong epic sense, here, almost giving the feeling that life is soon to end.

Before you are able to take that final plunge, "Seven Days of May" gives a much-needed does of adrenaline. Like a second wind, it enables you to continue on when, moments earlier, you were prepared to lay down and expire. This one is filled with energetic thrash riffs, though never reaching a frenetic pace by any means. The only way to really describe it is to say that it sounds like Testament. This could never be mistaken for anyone else, as their sound was well-defined by this time.

Technically speaking, Souls of Black may not be the best Testament album, though it's probably my second-favourite one (after The Legacy, of course). Perhaps, it is the result of sentimental reasons, or maybe it's simply because the album is very strong and consistent. Often times, this one is forgotten, but it stands as the final record from the band's classic era. There would be one more release with the original line-up, but that one is quite removed from their earlier output, stylistically. This is highly recommended.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss (1990)

In October 1990, Slayer returned with their fifth full-length, Seasons in the Abyss. This album was the last to be recorded with the original line-up, at least for well over a decade. Long ago abandoning the dark, Satanic themes, this record is much like the two that preceded it in that the lyrics focus on subjects such as war and serial killers. Rather than pursue any sort of musical progression or experimentation, Seasons in the Abyss works like a 'best of...' in the sense that it takes the speed of Reign in Blood, the mid-tempo sections from South of Heaven and even a small bit of the eerie nature found on their earlier works, in an effort to put display the full spectrum of their capabilities with a refined production. For the experienced Slayer fanatic, there are absolutely no surprises here; however, that is not to say that the album is boring. It is very consistent and presents exactly what one would expect from a Slayer record.

I didn't get this album until a few years after it had been released. Busy at the time with the Black Album and Rust in Peace, I had no idea something like this was lurking around the corner. This one was purchased along with the earlier ones, yet suffered the fate of being the last Slayer album that I really explored. While it lacked the dark feeling of the old albums, I still appreciated the solid songwriting found on this one. The intensity of some songs were a perfect fit for the anger that I felt quite a bit of the time, while the creepy atmosphere of others suited the constant stream of horror movies that my best friend and I were viewing. Listening to this, now, takes me back to ninth grade, as I was prone to drawing (or carving) the Slayer logo on whatever surface was nearest to me. It was a simpler time, to be sure...

The album starts out with the most intense song the band had written in years, "War Ensemble". While most Thrash Metal bands were toning down, Slayer managed to up the ante, nearly causing the listener to overdose on adrenaline. Musically, this is the successor to "Chemical Warfare". The production is clear and powerful enough to blow your brains right out of your skull. It could also be compared to "Angel of Death", yet possessing a little more of a punch. There are no wasted riffs, here. Everything is crisp and precise. One may think is is a straight-forward speed assault, but there is a section where the tempo drops a bit, leading to a great moment around the 3:30 mark as Tom screams, "WAR!!" Intensity is the only word to truly describe this song.

"Blood Red" picks up with only a split-second to rest, in between tracks. This one is a bit more relaxed, utilizing a tempo and riff style that could not be mistaken for coming from anyone else. This is the shortest song on the album, clocking in under three minutes, yet it does not give the impression that anything is missing.

Once again, hardly a moment is given before "Spirit in Black" erupts from the speakers. This one features several memorable riffs and killer solos, especially near the end. There is a slightly darker tone to the vocals, which is much appreciated. The speed picks up, around the middle, including some lyrics that seem to hearken back to their glory days.

"Hear the piercing cries of all who found that hell awaits"

"Expendable Youth" begins with a fairly catchy riff, one that is sure to stick in your brain. So far, Slayer has done quite well to differentiate each song from the next, giving each its own personality and feel. This one is, mostly, a mid-paced affair that serves more as an appetizer for the main course of Side A, "Dead Skin Mask". That one was one of my favorites, early on, and the main thing I remembered about this song was the anticipation for that which followed. As such, the last line always echoed in my brain as the first eerie strains of the next song started.

"Death, the only solution"

Side A ends with the creepiest riff that Slayer had recorded in years. Tom's spoken word part added to this eerie atmosphere. This song was inspired by the well-known murder and grave robber, Ed Gein. A staple of their live set, "Dead Skin Mask" is mid-paced and dreary. The vocals seem to match the psychotic mindset of the character that inspired this story.

"Dance with the dead in my dreams
Listen to their hallowed screams
The dead have taken my soul
Temptation's lost all control"

To really appreciate the feeling of this one, you should listen to it in total solitude and utter darkness. Only the most jaded could listen to this without getting chills up their spine, as the voice of a child begs to be freed, during the final chorus. This effect has long since faded, but during the first listens, it could not be denied. Actually, in a somewhat humourous side note, I had no idea who the song was written about when I first obtained this album. As such, I thought the girl was screaming, "Mr. King, let me out of here!"It took a few years before I discovered that it was Mr. Gein, rather than Slayer's guitarist. Somehow, it added an even more sinister feeling to think that the victim was begging for mercy from one of the band members. Almost made you wonder where the recording came from. Ah, the idiocy of youth.

Side B starts out with a fairly intense track, "Hallowed Point". This was isn't as totally barbaric as "War Ensemble", but it's in the same vein. It's full-speed, all the way, with lyrics that most could identify with. The lyrical theme is that of a killing spree. This is always a favourite to listen to while driving, as that is when I am, often, in my most murderous mood.

"Skeletons of Society" flows directly from the final moments of the previous song. This one is, probably, the catchiest one on the whole album. It's mid-paced, but still interesting enough to hold your attention. Tom's vocals help this out, as he utilizes a lot of variation, rather than maintaining a flat tone throughout. Dave Lombardo keeps a steady pace as Hanneman and King trade guitar solos. They seem to be putting more thought into them, compared to Reign in Blood.

The next track is also the first to feel sort of generic. "Temptation" isn't the best song on the record, though it's not bad. It's faster than the last one, and features some decent riffs. The vocal effect takes away from the feeling, to a degree. Supposedly, Tom and Kerry had conflicting visions of how the vocals should sound and two takes were recorded. As the story goes, the first vocal track was never erased and when the producer heard heard both, together, he suggested keeping it that way on the album. Later in the song, the pace slows down a bit and there seems to be only one vocal track.

"Born of Fire" continues on as the previous song, and was actually a leftover song from South of Heaven. Supposedly, King had trouble coming up with lyrics, so it was put on the shelf. Oddly enough, the vocals sound more in line with the sound that was prevalent on South of Heaven. It features a decent amount of riff changes and works well to build tension as the album nears its conclusion / climax.

Creepy and epic-sounding riffs introduce the final song, "Seasons in the Abyss". When I first heard this, I was incredibly impressed. I think it was the monumental build-up. This one features so many different elements of the style that Slayer utilized on their later (at the time) albums that it is somewhat ironic that it closes out the classic era of Slayer. They also made a music video for this one, though why they filmed among the pyramids of Egypt is beyond me. After a couple years, it became apparent that this couldn't really hold up like the earlier works, being a little too repetitive and simplistic, but it's good for what it is.

Seasons in the Abyss marks the end of an era for Slayer. It was not only the last album that they recorded with the original line-up, for sixteen years, it also served as the final true Thrash Metal record that they made. This was before they allowed modern influences to creep in and corrupt their sound. Or, if they did the same thing back then, they simply had better taste and were influenced by superior bands. While it is weak when compared to the old Metal Blade releases, Seasons in the Abyss is the final record worthy of being released by the once-mighty Slayer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Testament - Practice What You Preach (1989)

Within a couple months after getting The New Order, I tracked down Testament's third full-length, Practice What You Preach. While it took years for the flaws to become evident in the former, the latter was a little difficult to digest, right from the start. The first thing that I noticed was the odd production, which seemed a little bass-heavy. The overall sound was a bit softer than on previous records, lacking the sharp edge that was present in the past. Through Eric Peterson's desire to gain more exposure and Alex Skolnick's wish to experiment, to a degree, Testament fans were greeted with the black sheep of the early albums. Released in the summer of 1989, just a year after The New Order, it proves that interesting things can happen when bands are in such a hurry to capitalize on their own momentum.

The title-track bursts forth with high energy and great thrash riffs. It's catchy, powerful and makes a pretty decent impression. More importantly, it's good enough that the listener agrees to make an effort toward ignoring the odd production to give the record a chance.

"Perilous Nation" opens with a bass solo, with the rest of the instruments slowly building to join in. Immediately, one notices that the song is based more on the soft vocal melody of Chuck Billy, rather than the guitars. It's not terrible; it's just a little too mellow for the taste of some.

The next song slowly builds up, as Chuck lets loose a fairly deep Death Metal growl. Once the track really gets going, it becomes apparent that this was quite out of place, as the feeling is far too relaxed for such things. Again, "Envy Life" isn't all that bad. If you're a die-hard Testament fan, it's adequate enough if you can manage to not compare this to their brilliant debut album. The problem is that it is dripping with the fact that this is starving for attention from the masses.

"Time is Coming" maintains this docile pace, while still possessing some decent riffs. Of course, the dark atmosphere found on The Legacy is long-forgotten by this point. Even as "Blessed In Contempt" promises a little more intensity, in its opening moments, it fails to rise above the mediocrity that plagues this record. "Greenhouse Effect" is more of the same.

The beginning of "Sins of Omission" is mostly memorable due to it reminding of some 80s TV theme, like Knight Rider or something. The song is no different than the rest that have been offered up, here. The vocal lines are memorable, but the music remains soft and mediocre.

The pussification of this band reaches its climax with "The Ballad". There are a couple bleak melodies that could have been used elsewhere, but the overall feel of this song is total boredom. As it progresses, there's an incredibly lame section where it all builds up as the lyrics become far too optimistic and weak. The song then speeds up, yet manages to possess absolutely no aggression. Their later attempts at such a song were far more successful than this pile of steaming feces.

"Nightmare (Coming Back To You)" was one of those songs that sounded very familiar from the first listen. Obviously, I'd never heard it before, but it was so generic that I might as well have listened to it a million times already. It's the fastest song on the record, but it still suffers from weak production and songwriting, completely neutralizing any attempt at aggression or fury.

By the time the album reaches its conclusion, with "Confusion Fusion", I can only feel a great sense of relief. This instrumental has a few interesting ideas, but the overwhelming feeling is that of joy at the thought that this abomination is nearly complete.

Despite pandering to the mainstream, Testament could have made a much better album and still accomplished this. Neutering the sound and making it so soft and non-threatening was the first mistake. Including weak ballads and devoting too much of the album to raping the legacy of the band was absolutely unnecessary. They could have used the more melodic approach on a handful of songs and retained enough thrash to please their core fan base. However, dumping 90% of the riffs into the first song (as someone once described it) is never a good idea. Everything is downhill from there. Practice What You Preach is only recommended for rabid Testament fans that want to own everything they put out. It is hardly essential for anyone else. It's not totally worthless, but it's too close for comfort.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Testament - The New Order (1988)

In early 1988, less than a year after the release of The Legacy, Testament returned with their sophomore effort, The New Order. Despite being recorded in the same studio by the same line-up and produced by the same guy, it failed to reach the level of brilliance found on their debut. Perhaps it was the haste with which the band wrote and recorded another album. Whereas the tracks on The Legacy had been cultivated for years, the material found on The New Order didn't have the time to be perfected before being put on record. The result was sort of mixed.

I initially purchased this album just a few months after their first one. I was highly impressed with it, in the beginning. Again, I wasn't as analytical about everything back then; at least, not until I'd owned something for six months or so. It took quite some time for this album to leave my stereo. However, in the months and years that followed, it would become clear that it simply lacked the staying power that The Legacy possessed.

From the opening moments of "Eerie Inhabitants", you will notice a bit more effort being put forth to create an atmosphere that removes you from the mundane existence that you were cursed to be born into. There are similar pieces, throughout the album, such as the instrumental "Hypnosis" and the first minute or so of "Trial By Fire" and "Disciples of the Watch". For some, these atmospheric melodies hold no value and are deemed little more than 'guitar wankery'. Personally, I disagree with this narrow-minded view.

Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, concerning that issue, there is plenty of intense thrash to satiate your hunger. The first song displays a good balance between straight thrash and the more melodic side. There are flashes of brilliance, reminiscent of their debut album. Side A has very little to complain about, with the exception of the feeling that some parts (a chorus here or there) seem too accessible and generic. The title-track and "Trial By Fire" are guilty of this. The production is still strong, putting the guitars at the forefront where they belong. Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick are the stars of this album, naturally. Clemente's drumming is fairly basic, but he is consistent enough. Chuck Billy doesn't sound as dark in his vocal delivery, but this is a symptom of that which infects the whole album. Greg Christian, on bass, doesn't appear to stand out too much, though he'd get his opportunity on the following album. He's audible, more or less, but not anything to really devote great amounts of attention to.

On Side B, "Disciples of the Watch" proves to be a very strong track, though the chorus gets a bit tedious, all these years later. Though there are several points during the album where things feel a little too generic or light-hearted, it's the Aerosmith cover song, "Nobody's Fault", that really destroys the momentum of the record. To make matters worse, this was one of two songs chosen for music videos. The only reason this song seems to blend in as it does is due to the relaxed atmosphere that is prevalent on The New Order. As many times as they repeat the word 'sorry', during the chorus, nothing can really salvage the album from the damage done by this song's presence.

The record gets back on track with "A Day of Reckoning". This one turns out to be one of the better songs on here, with a a nice vocal melody in the chorus. This one feels more genuine that some of the others; it's neither designed for radio nor created with hopes of becoming some 'thrash anthem'. It is what it is.

"Musical Death (A Dirge)" is an introspective, somewhat depressing, instrumental piece that closes out the album in a somber manner. The opening guitar melodies really dig into your heart, like rusty knives. As it progresses, there's a nice epic feeling as the energy builds toward the climax.

All in all, The New Order isn't a terrible album. But it reeks of that 'could have been better' feeling. As a matter of fact, they left off what would have been one of the best tracks on the record, "Reign of Terror". They recorded this old song, yet only released it as a B-Side for the Trial By Fire E.P. It was a stronger song than most found on the album and could have, easily, replaced the awful Aerosmith cover. The New Order isn't essential, like The Legacy, but it's a fairly safe purchase for die-hard Testament fans. Just keep your expectations low.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Slayer - South of Heaven (1988)

South of Heaven is the fourth full-length album from Slayer. Released in July 1988, this record was met with a mixed reaction from fans and media alike. After the speed-fest that was Reign In Blood, the guys made a conscious decision to slow things down. The result was not perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Slayer's creative juices were soon to dry up, in the coming years. For whatever the songs may lack in intensity or darkness, they make up for by being far more well-developed than many of the tracks on the previous album. Brilliant or not, at least the ideas are developed and filled out, being taken to their logical conclusion.

For me, this album came at a time when I didn't analyze music to such a severe degree. It never crossed my mind that it wasn't as dark as Hell Awaits or as energetic as Show No Mercy or as brutal as Haunting the Chapel; To me, it was simply another Slayer record. It was there to be enjoyed as yet another piece of the puzzle. As a matter of fact, this may have served as my introduction to the band, though it wasn't fully digested until some later time, by which I'd dug deeper into their albums and become more familiar with the early releases.

The title track begins with a haunting melody, imbuing the listener with a sense of dread. It slowly builds up, creating tension. The vocals seem a bit cleaner, yet filled with evil as Tom says:

"Before you see the light, you must die!"

The pace is fairly relaxed, especially for a Slayer record. The doom aspect that was present on Hell Awaits has returned, yet in a different form. This is still dark, by comparison to the output of their Thrash Metal peers, but it is pretty tame when laid side-by-side with their earlier works. As the opening song of the album, it serves well to set the tone and let listeners know what to expect. The riffs and lyrics are very memorable and it all does well to add another dimension to the Slayer sound.

"Silent Scream" arises from the feedback that ends the previous song. Here, the pace has quickened and the intensity has increased. The vocals are somewhat restrained, having a rather calm feeling. The solos are decent enough and the whole thing comes off pretty well. The idea may be somewhat rehashed, but the delivery is adequate enough and it fits well at this point of the album, providing variation in the tempo.

The pace changes, yet again, as "Live Undead" begins. One of the great things about this album is that the riffs are easily distinguishable from each other. It takes mere seconds of a song to identify which one it is. This one is more mid-paced, possessing some nice double bass and solos. However, it's when the song speeds up a bit that the genius comes through. One of the best moments of the record comes around the 2:13 mark, as Tom returns to the high-pitched screams of earlier years. Of course, the lyrics have long ago lost the power and darkness that they once held, but they have not deteriorated so far as to be bereft of any quality.

"Laughing as you eternally rot
Searching for human flesh and life's blood"

"Behind the Crooked Cross" returns to the Nazi theme, explored previously in the song "Angel of Death". The vocal delivery is a bit flat, sounding a little too clean for some tastes. Regardless of this, the riffs are very memorable and the song moves along well enough. The pace picks up, after a minute or so. To compare the musicianship of South of Heaven to Reign In Blood is to have no real comparison at all. Where the former lacks power and intensity, to some degree, the latter was filled with too many half-developed ideas. Lyrically, this is another anti-Nazi song, which seems to have been fashionable at the time. The lyrics are memorable and easy to sing along to, if that's your wish, but they're quite tame when thinking of older songs.

"March on through the rivers of red
Souls drift, they fill the air
Forced to fight, behind
The crooked cross"

Side A ends with "Mandatory Suicide". This one begins with another easily identifiable riff and even the drumbeat could not be mistaken for being the work of anyone other than Dave Lombardo. This song is nothing groundbreaking, but it's good for headbanging as you're driving down the highway at 90 mph. It's no wonder that this was a good seller for the band, as it is very catchy. By this point, it is obvious that the band has truly loosened their grip on most all Satanic or occult imagery in favour of a morbid fascination with war. This was, of course, present from the very beginning, but it took a few albums to usurp the throne as the dominant theme.

Side B starts out with "Ghosts of War". I've always heard that this song was supposed to be a 'sequel' to "Chemical Warfare", especially something about the intro. Maybe I'm listening to it wrong, but I never really got that. Perhaps, it's like those paintings that you had to stare at with your eyes blurred to really see. At any rate, this song doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor, but it's pretty decent in its own right. At this point of the album, Tom's vocals seem to have gotten a little rougher, thankfully. The speed and intensity of the song is much more in line with what Slayer fans were probably expecting from this record. About halfway through, it slows down, but the mid-paced riffs are quite similar to those found on their debut album, possessing a lot of feeling. Following this, there's a thrash break that is designed for maximum headbanging during live shows, more than likely.

"Read Between the Lies" is up next. It picks up from where the previous song left off, keeping a sense of continuity throughout the album. Much like all of their Thrash Metal peers, Slayer had to write a song regarding the lame televangelists that were quite popular in the mid-to-late 80s. Whether it's Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament, et cetera... it's difficult to think of a band that didn't approach this topic, in some manner. To me, it almost seems too easy of a target. The song is as solid as the rest, but the lyrical concept leaves something to be desired. Of course, this song features one of the only references to Satan:

"They claim your trip to heaven's nearby
You may believe it but Satan wouldn't lie"

That is quite weak when compared to earlier albums that contained the terms 'Satan', 'Hell' or 'Lucifer' in every single song. It just seems that the approach is watered-down. Pointing out the hypocrisy of a televangelist isn't quite the same as depicting scenes of demons and ghouls killing priests and burning down a church.

"Cleanse the Soul" maintains a fast pace, fitting in perfectly. Again, the cleaner vocal style takes a little time to get used to, but it works. This is one of the shorter songs on the album, but it still manages to forge an identity of its own. Oddly, as with some of the other songs here, this one works best in the context of the record as opposed to standing out on its own. The tracks, here, are like links in a chain. Alone, they don't do so much, yet they stand together to create something unique.

Next up is the Judas Priest cover, "Dissident Aggressor". Priest was one of the main influences on Slayer, in the early days. This is more easily heard on Show No Mercy, but this cover song pays tribute to them adequately enough. They, easily, take the song and make it their own. Interesting to note that they exchanged high-pitched vocals for a similar sound from the guitar.

The album comes to its conclusion with a song that was a favourite of mine for some time; "Spill the Blood". The intro is eerie and sets a ghoulish tone. As the guitars and drums kick in, the song remains mid-paced, though picking up the speed by a fraction. The clean vocal delivery, here, almost sounds lifeless as if Tom Araya is in some sort of trance. In this case, it kind of works to the benefit of the atmosphere that the song is attempting to create. In this piece, there are flashes that are reminiscent of earlier works, in terms of darkness. However, it does not quite reach the heights (or depths, rather) of the old records. Lyrically, this song possesses some of the more interesting ideas expressed on the album.

"Spill your blood, let it run on to me
Take my hand and let go of your life
Close your eyes and see what is me
Raise the chalice, embrace forevermore"

South In Heaven is unique within Slayer's catalogue. It represents the only time that the band truly attempted to add depth to their sound. Apparently, it took some time to grow on their fan base, but it would seem that this was the last of their classic era. The album that followed belongs to this era as well, though it seemed to be more of a mixture of all the releases that came before it. Though this record may not hold up to such scrutiny as this, it is actually a very good album. When not compared to the earlier works, it is easily enjoyable and features many memorable songs. There is a great deal of variation between tracks and a dismal feeling that is carried throughout most of the album. This one is highly recommended for those looking for something beyond the full-speed approach of Reign In Blood.