For me, Seasons In the Abyss is Slayer's pinnacle. It is Metallica's ...And Justice For All. It is Fear Factoy's Demanufacture. It is Pantera's Far Beyond Driven. Oddly enough, all of these albums mark the change of style for each band. While Metallica released the hugely popular (and in my opinion grossly overrated) Black album in 1990, Slayer come out with Seasons. It followed their thrash/speed/(whatever other genre people come up with) metal albums, being Reign in Blood and South of Heaven (plus earlier, rawer stuff). These two albums were different in many respects, but on the whole represent their earlier, thrashy style. After Seasons, Slayer changed drummers and released Devine Intervention and Diabolus in Musica. These two albums, in my view, embraced the emerging Nu-Metal of the 90's and were in that mould. I feel that Seasons in the Abyss sits in between, but is somewhat closer to their earlier music. It is thrashy in some songs, but not anywhere near "let's see how fast we can play" like their earlier material. With the scene set, onto the album;
1. War Ensemble
This is how one begins a metal album. It is fast, it is aggressive, it has killer riffs and solos, and it has awesome drumming. The song itself is war being fought as a sport by, I assume, America and given the year in Iraq. There is a small drum solo at 2:13 which pricks up your ears before the song slows a little to consolidate after the initial charge. The song slows to a trot with the guitars and drums tapping with the beat and Tom screams WAR! as the second solo arcs up, and other verse and chorus brings the song to an end. I don't give 5 often... 5/5
2. Blood Red
This one has a bit more of a slow chunky riff compared to War Ensemble and compliments it well. It has a catchy beat and I always find myself nodding to this one. The solo is also good in this one with both guitarists alternating the duties, definitely improvements seen from earlier solos. The song ends somewhat abruptly and goes straight in track 3. A good consolidator.
3. Spirit In Black
We are met with one of the best riffs on the album, and then the song quickly moves on. Another great solo, which continues on with a wail through the following chorus. This one is hard and fast, which scents of their Reign in Blood. Again, a second solo and another verse round out this one well.
4. Expendable Youth
Starts with a chugging riff and a big gong hit (thatís G ong) gives this song an eerie feel. The drums punching in is an album highlight for me (listen to this bit!) and slow double kick matches the riff. The song grinds on with a slower beat and is a good rest between the three previous tracks. Not a standout, but still a great song.
5. Dead Skin Mask
Just like South of Heaven, this one actually creates an atmosphere, a facet Slayer did not have in the earlier material. It starts with the songs main with being alternated between guitarists, and Tom speaking in a very deep and calm yet somewhat disturbing voice. This song seems very thought out with a lot more care taken for what is happening, when and how. The song builds to peak at the solo and lets you wind back down, to finish with the chorus and a high squeaky voice muttering something. "The dead have taken my soul, temptation has lost all control" Yeh!
6. Hallowed Point
This song bolts out the stalls and does not slow the whole way. Nothing much happens for 1 minute and 11 seconds except a lot of fast guitars and drumming, then... there is this awesome break down and lone guitar moment which stands this track out. This sort of stuff was not seen much on their earlier stuff and, for me, gives Slayer that little bit extra musically. The song does slow a little sorry, but it leads straight into the next track without a break in sound, and is another slow one so it works really well. 4.5/5
7. Skeletons of Society
Like I say, another slow chunky song. Sort of similar to track 4, but not likely to get stuck in your head like 4. The standout aspect of this song is the chorus, where Tom speaking in between singing. It sort of sounds cool, and this song is not a bad one, but is a filler between the albums highs. 3/5
A return to fast and thrashy for this one. The verse is peculiar with two voices, both Tom's, singing. The first sounds slightly muffled and the second one starts before the first has finished the line, barbershop style! It works really well though. The lone guitar intermission is the best I've heard, yep, better than Angel of Death which would be second. If a band wanted to copy a lone guitar bit then I would suggest this one. An awesome solo follows, then the song slows and breaks up a little before the lone guitar bit returns to, and the rest of the instruments join in to round this one out. 4.5/5
9. Born of Fire
This one could have been on Reign in Blood or Hell Awaits. It is pure thrash with an average solo, as seen on those albums. The finishing riff and second solo are a little slower and more coherent, and give this song credibility. The only weak song on the album 2/5
10. I was up late one night as a 15 year old watching rage and Les Claypool was the guest programmer (Aussies will know what this means), anyway at like 2 in the morning this video is played, and I am thinking to myself, who the hell is Slayer and where can I get it. This was my first taste of Slayer, and changed my taste in music to heavier music. The song itself, looking back now, is not as good as others on the album, or other favourites of mine, but it is THAT song for me. It starts slowly with the intro, and builds for 1:44 to break into the faster verse riff. In the chorus Tom sings with a chanting type style which works really well. One thing about his singing is you can understand for the most part what he is saying. The song ends with the intro repeated and ends the album well, good closure. 4/5
This is a very solid album. For me it was my initiation into metal and lead me to the rest of Slayer and so many other heavy bands. Definitely an essential addition to my collection.