Review Summary: The beginning of a more brutal sound for Slayer, and an excellent EP containing one of Slayer's best songs.
This review's probably going to be a little shorter than usual, because Haunting the Chapel is only a four song EP. I feel that it merits its own review, though, because of its importance in showing the quick evolution of Slayer's style. Slayer are known for being deliciously evil, with lyrical topics typically dealing with serial killers, Satan, anti-Christianity and (particularly, later on) hatred for society or people in general. On Show No Mercy, they played early thrash metal that was a bit more subdued, often with more NWOBHM influences (as was typical in earlier thrash debuts). They're more known for a more brutal style of thrash, though, and the transition from Show No Mercy to the heavier and more progressive Hell Awaits can be found here. They've even finally tuned a half-step down, too! You wanna see a quick indicator of how much darker this album sounds? Look at the cover art. Both this and Show No Mercy have the "Slayer pentagram" logo in full focus. But Show No Mercy has this goofy looking demon guy on the cover holding a sword. The silly demon dude is dropped, and only his sword remains, dripping with blood. The item's title and the pentagram also drip with blood. The production, while being better thanks to the drums not sounding ridiculous this time, sounds more menacing than before. I don't know why, but I guess it has to do with the way the guitars sound more...low-end this time.
The CD version of this album (which you're more likely to have) comes with Aggressive Perfector. It was originally recorded for Metal Massacre III, which is why it has way worse production than the other three songs. It's alright in its own right, if primitive. It was re-recorded for Reign In Blood, and that version's better, so get your hands on it if you can. Now onto the main songs, the ones that came with the original EP. Chemical Warfare is the best song on here, and one of the best Slayer songs. It's just about 6 minutes long, which is indicative of the direction taken on Hell Awaits. It's also super goddamn heavy, featuring a classic main Slayer riff. Two minutes in, they slow down after a long rasp from Araya. His vocals are ***ing vicious on here! Then they go back into the intro riff, before ripping back into full speed! There's a brief little mini-solo/lead that's actually pretty good. Araya comes back in with more awesomely venomous vocal delivery. "Steal the soul and send his corpse to HEEELLLLL!
" The actual "main" solo to this song is great. Slayer solos are always hit-or-miss with me, and here it definitely hits. An evil laugh from Araya follows this. "See the sky burning/The gates are ablaze/Satan waits eager to meeeerge!" The lyrics to this song are deliciously evil in classic Slayer fashion. They still have the Satanic themes heavily common on Show No Mercy, only now they don't have the goofy/cheesy factor that album had, in delivery mainly. The conclusion's a little drawn out, but I at least appreciate the last actual proper riff, which would be reused at the beginning of this song's sequel, Ghosts of War.
Captor of Sin is alright. I don't think it's as good as the song before or after it. It's okay on its own and attempts to be a cool little stomping, galloping slower number, but it's just not that memorable. The title track is great, though. The riffs and again delectably vile lyrics would be enough to make it good enough, but it just doesn't have enough speed...good thing that it doesn't take too long to eventually go into full speed. The lyrics are a major part of enjoying this song for me, and during the speedy part, they're delivered at rapid-fire, nearly unintelligible pace. "Destruction of the church, we'll burn the CROSSSS!
" Come on, you gotta love that.
Overall, I'd recommend it to every Slayer fan. Many versions of Show No Mercy feature the three "main" songs from here. Other versions feature Aggressive Perfector and Chemical Warfare. Slayer's goofy Satanic appeal to their early work is in full force here. Musically, though, they really started to mature here, and the classic Chemical Warfare displays the progressive yet brutal attack that would define Hell Awaits. 4/5.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS/BEST OF:
Haunting the Chapel