"South of Heaven" were still there, but it was broken up more with what we saw from "Reign In Blood", which of course meant fast and technical riffing, plus an aggressive persona that is unstoppable. In other words, a blend of the two different sides that we have seen from the band, fused into one mouth watering piece of thrash candy.
One thing that is new though is that "Seasons In The Abyss" is a seamless album, transitioning between tracks very smoothly. This of course makes the album a lot easier to listen to in its entirety, but the individual songs do not suffer from this. Every song starts and ends in a natural way, and that just shows what a good connection the band had with Rick Rubin, even if he used the polisher a little too hard here.
The album opens with a killer song, and one of the band's all time classics. "War Ensemble" is just how you would want a Slayer song to be. It is fast, technical, fierce, and has a pair of amazing solos. King and Hanneman delivers big time, putting out some sinister riffs that just crushes your skull. Let us also not forget that breakdown that leads to a classic Araya scream. It may not build as much tension as the opening to "Raining Blood", but it makes sure that the solo hits you hard.
While the album does not reach those kinds of speeds or thrills again (except in "Hallowed Point" were the pedal is to the metal from start to finish), it makes sure to stay fresh and strong throughout its run time. "Spirit In Black" has a smooth speed that just suits well, eventually transforming to that classic Slayer thrash that we all know and love. "Dead Skin Mask" shows off more of the mellow side of the band, a slow tempo song that creates a disturbing mood. It is what the band tried to create on "South of Heaven", but was not able to. Then we also have "Temptation" that uses an interesting technique that I like to call "The Double Araya". Simply put, Araya sings in harmony, using two separate vocal tracks to give the illusion that the band cloned him and created a singing two headed monster. Have to admit, that would be sweet if it was possible.
While my inner Slayer fan is usually attracted to the faster stuff, the slower title track strikes as my favourite track of the record. "Seasons In The Abyss" has a mysterious doom like start, not too far from what Black Sabbath did in their early years, building the tension up in a horrifying way. The tempo suddenly ramps up, transforming into a charging stead fast beat that is both bone chilling and hair rising. To top it off, we get yet another amazing solo that just fits so god damn perfectly in there. If your head is not rocking back and forth to this song, then maybe you should go look for a band that is more suitable to you, like One Direction.
This album also marks the last time we will hear from drummer Dave Lombardo (at least until he returns to the band in 2001), and while his style is perfect for the band, it is very rarely I think "damn, I love the drums on this track". It is probably because Slayer is so riff driven, but it still needs someone to bring some impact into the songs, and Dave does so nicely. No matter what, it is always a bummer when an original member decides to leave, putting a dent in the band chemistry that is not easy to get rid of.
Slayer had all the ingredients to cook up a tasty thrash meal, mixing their two latest recipes into one. The end result is a very diverse record that takes the best parts out of their two styles, creating a symbiosis that is so beautiful to hear. This album is the successor to "Reign In Blood" that everybody wanted, and that "South of Heaven" could never be. A great album that has just the right seasoning for success.
Songs worthy of recognition: Seasons In The Abyss, War Ensemble, Dead Skin Mask, Hallowed Point
Rating: 9/10 Temptations
More reviews of Slayer
Show No Mercy
Reign In Blood
South of Heaven