Review Summary: Join us in Hell! Or just headbang at the throne of the dark one. No, not Satan. Slayer.
Rarely does music sound so truly and horrifically evil as it does here. Slayer took the workings they made on debut "Show No Mercy" and intensified them to near perfection. They honed their craft, and in doing so created one of the absolute greatest metal albums of all time. That album is, of course, "Hell Awaits".
From the "Su nioj! Su nioj!" intro to the album cover of cattle and decapitated heads falling into a fiery pit of suffering, it seems as if the Satanic imagery and lyricism explored on "Show No Mercy" is comedically light compared to this. There is something truly unsettling about the introduction of an album being a group of demons enticing you to join them in Hell, but than again, what is more metal than that?
Gone are the influence ridden riffs, as now Kerry and Jeff are playing intense riffs that are now seen as the Slayer trademark. Tracks such as "Kill Again", "At Dawn They Sleep", and "Necrophiliac", hold some of the absolute greatest extreme metal riffs of all time in them. Riffs that are so iconic it's hard to really express in words how influential they have become as time has gone on. There are really only shreds of NWOBHM influence in these riffs, with "Necrophiliac" sounding a bit more old school British metal meets warp speed hellspawn. Now, for the most part, it has been replaced with pure malice and demon bile, thus creating some of the fiercest riffs to ever grace our blackened Earth. Kerry and Jeff, may he reign in peace, never really get much credit for their immense work in Slayer's early career. Sure, as time went on, things changed. But when don't they?
The real standout is Mr. Araya's vocal work. Devastatingly evil, and absolutely lightyears ahead of his time, there are growls, shrieks, and falsetto deliveries that must have sounded insane in 1985. Sure, Tom G. Warrior was UGHing all over the place in the early 80's with equally infuential and iconic group Hellhammer, but Tom Araya sounds truly horrifying on some of these tracks. When he says "I have seen the darkest pits of Hell!", you really do believe he really has. Again, as time went on, Tom may have lost some of his vocal prowess, but that's life. Can't stay young forever. But that doesn't diminish this performance or his current stuff. Because lets face it. Slayer still kills it. But "Hell Await" would sound a little less evil with Tom's insane vocal delivery. That's the key to delivering dark lyrics. Delivering them with the absolute darkest sound you can.
In conclusion, "Hell Awaits" is often regarded as one of the absolute greatest metal albums of all time, and rightfully so. This album so evil and dark it makes everything released after and before it seem lighter than a bag of fat free potato chips. As a whole, this is the best pound for pound release Slayer ever put out. Each song is a crafted beauty of evil and wretchedness, and each track paints a dark picture. One that has hung proudly in the halls of metal for almost three decades. You just can't beat this, and likely never will.