Review Summary: Two songs away from perfection
Following the controversial release's of South Of Heaven and Reign In Blood, Slayer had a reputation to maintain but also a goal. They had to combine the infamous speed of the latter with the slow tempo heaviness of the former to create a truly special album. The result, of course, was Seasons In The Abyss, an album that has a nice ratio of slower numbers to neckbreaking thrashers.
Kicking things off is fan favourite War Ensemble. This is one of the most highly revered Slayer tracks, and with good reason. It brings back memories of Angel Of Death from 1986's Reign In Blood, in that it starts off with bonebreaking speed, before slowing down a little in the middle, and then exploding again. Which of the two songs is better is a debate not for mortal men, however, i will say that the faster sections of this song are a lot tighter than those of Angel Of Death. This is a great opener.
What follows are three mid paced songs, Blood Red, Spirit In Black and Expendable Youth, each of which are decent listens, before we go into another of Slayer's more popular numbers. Dead Skin Mask is a very slow, haunting song, with disturbing lyrics, a creepy guitar riff to it, and some chilling vocals from Tom Araya. However, what makes this song as good as it is is the scary little girl voice added in towards the end. This song really is not for the faint hearted.
Hallowed Point is probably the fastest number on here, and one of the faster tracks that Slayer have ever put out. The lyrics are graphic about gun crime, the drumming speedy, the riffing intense. The vocals spew hate, and this song is quite possible one of the best songs the band has ever put out. It is extremely aggressive, and it does not bore, as it only lasts 3 and a half minutes, making it one of the shorter tracks on display here.
The next two tracks are the weakest tracks here. Skeletons Of Society is one of the slowest songs the band has ever put out, but is also one of the most boring ones. The chorus is fun to sing along to, but that is all that this song really has going for it. Temptation is a speedier song, but it features silly dual vocals that ruin the song for me. It is not completely unlistenable, but when compared to the rest of the album, it really is poor.
However, the last two tracks more than make up for this. Born Of Fire is one of the faster tracks, and a return to the Satan-obsessed lyrics of Slayer's earlier material. However, it is the final track, the title track, that is the best to be found here. It starts extremely slowly, but not boring slow like Skeletons Of Society. It then continues to build up before settling into a nice pacing, with one of the finest vocal performances Tom Araya has ever put in. If this song does not send a chill up your spine, you must already have died.
The one thing about this album that is slightly offputting for me is the production. The cymbals always clatter too much, which really does my head in, and they are far too loud in the mix. The guitar tones can be a little weak and stale. The only thing that is constantly produced well is Tom Araya's vocals, which are perfectly mixed, and contain that raw edge to them that he would lose on later releases.
Overall, this is one of Slayer's better releases, settling into a nice mix between the speedy thrashers and the slower numbers. Take off Skeletons Of Society and Temptation, and this would possibly be there finest work. The title track, Hallowed Point, War Ensemble and Dead Skin Mask give this song an edge over many of their albums, and they are some of the best the band has ever put out.