Review Summary: The Evolution Of Slayer3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Slayer release their 2nd official release and 1st EP, and they are already becoming a different, much less NWOBHM influenced force and are taking on a new, darker sound. The focus on more monotone and chromatic riffs and more characteristically Lombardo-ish drumming probably helped in pursuing this direction, as did the echoing production, giving the EP a ghostly charm that's not common among most metal albums. Like 'Show No Mercy' before it, 'Haunting The Chapel' is minimally produced: which works in their favour, as a modern production would kill the songs, taking away the character and the nostalgic atmosphere emitted by them.
The vocals on 'Haunting The Chapel' are very easily comparable to Cronos' growls in Venom, except Tom Araya sound even more livid, as you can very easily hear the cracks from his strained, raw voice, showing that Araya either may have been seriously infuriated at the time of the recording, or he was delivering rage with great conviction. The second one seems more likely due to Slayer's satanic pretence (because Slayer are not actually satanic). Getting back on topic, Tom Araya still does the higher screeches, and they are even more numerous than on 'Show No Mercy', but they benefit from the “ghostly” production, so each shriek sends chills up one's spine (although Tom Araya's bass work still isn't that impressive).
The guitar work on this album represents the classic Slayer sound, with the riffs having much more identity this time around than 'Show No Mercy''s usual NWOBHM influenced riffs and immediately find the style that Slayer would hold onto for about 15 years. What has also changed are the solos, which have now become the Marmite of Slayer: you either think they are complementary to the music, being just as insane, or as being just plain lazy and noisy, where they could have come up with something more creative (I lean more towards the former, but can understand why someone would think otherwise).
The element that have improved the most from the transition between 'Show No Mercy' and 'Haunting The Chapel', though, is Dave Lombardo's drumming. Like the guitar playing, the drumming has forged an identity for itself: speed, creative fills, subtle decorations to the riffs (like in the intro to 'Chemical Warfare'), impact – it's all there.
In terms of song-writing, though, this is sadly a step down from 'Show No Mercy', in variation at least. I know it's an EP, but even then, 'Show No Mercy' had the evil thrashers ('Evil Has No Boundaries', 'Fight Till Death' etc.), the mid paced riffer ('The Antichrist'), the more melodious offerings ('Tormentor', 'Crionics'), the blazing speed metal song ('The Final Command') and the epic ('Metal Storm/ Face The Slayer'). It's not really a varied album, and a lot of these do sound fairly similar, but even with that in mind, all the songs on 'Haunting The Chapel' fall into one category: thrash. To be honest, the songs are not even up to the task of maintaining consistency over the total 16 minutes of the EP: 'Chemical Warfare' is a great opener, but by the time the title track comes around, its feels quite dull and uninspired. Luckily, 'Aggressive Perfector' is the best song on 'Haunting The Chapel', sounding much more energetic and brutal than the middle two songs, which feel slightly forced.
All-in-all, a good bridge between the NWOBHM style of 'Show No Mercy' and the heavier, “hellish” sound of 'Hell Awaits'. However, this is far from Slayer's best work, and is a great example of going backwards in quality but forwards in innovation. Still, it's worth getting if you adore Slayer's signature style, and won't exactly stop long-time fa