Two-Sided Review By:
Josh Keen (Bron-Yr-Aur) and Grant Hunter (south_of_heaven 11)
Reason For This Kind of Review:
Sputnik is a great site. But too often are there albums with reviews that only put them in an amazing light. So Josh and I decided to create a new style of reviewing, one to offer two different views of a single album in an easy to read review. The format is relatively simple to follow, as we'll cover four main topics: Guitar-Work, Vocals/Lyrics, Drums/Bass, and Overall Impression. Both of us will give our respected opinions on each area, followed by a conclusion. The overall grade that you see up top is a combined score of what our ratings would normally be by ourselves.
'Show No Mercy
' was the first album to be released by the notorious Thrash-Metal band Slayer
. Consisting of a less harsh, and slightly more blues influenced riffs , 'Show No Mercy
' is often pushed aside by critics, being called 'non-essential' and 'significantly less entertaining' when compared to their future releases. However, most Slayer
are slowly uncovering this forgotten album, and immersing themselves in a younger, thinner-sounded Slayer
Topic One: Guitar-Work
- Part A: Riffs
: It's not hard to view this as Slayer's
first album. The tone is weak, the guitars sound whiney, and the drums feel flat occasionally. But that doesn't mean it sucks. At all. It's still jam-packed with hard-hitting, dark atmospheric riffs. Many of the songs on this album feature some of the most straight forward riffs Slayer
have ever written, such as 'Evil Has No Boundaries
', 'Die By the Sword
', 'Fight Till Death
', and 'Show No Mercy
'. But although each of them is rather simple, there's a slight hint of Blues/Punk in each that give them a unique feel. Others, such as 'The Anti-Christ
', the intro to 'Fight Till Death
', 'Metal Storm/Face the Slayer
', 'Black Magic
', and especially 'The Final Command
' feature a style of Blues-Rock that no one would ever expect to see Slayer
put out. But just because some of those are different doesn't mean their great. 'The Final Command
', while cool at first, becomes very repetitive, and that interesting little riff in the beginning begins to feel bland. 'Metal Storm/Face the Slayer
' fails simply because of its length. They tried to make it into two songs, something that Megadeth
accomplished with 'Holy Wars/Punishment Due
'. But this is Slayer
, and too long of a Slayer
song is not a good thing usually.
: Glossing over the problems with the guitars' tone, and the obviously amateur soloing, Slayer
actually does show a knack for riff-writing, granted it is rather under developed and dull at times. 'Die By the Sword
' is probably the most consistent offering on the entire album when it comes to guitar playing, and it's really the only one on the album that could truly stand up to later thrash masterpieces like 'Altar of Sacrifice
' (from 'Reign In Blood
'. As for song length, crafting epic tunes may not be the brightest of ideas for Slaye
r, as I don't honestly think anyone would one to hear Tom Araya for six or seven minutes.
- Part B: Solos
: Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman aren't exactly praised for their solos. Kerry King's method of soloing by critics is as follows, 'grab the guitar neck and hang from the whammy bar as if your life depends on it', which I won't even argue with it seeing that it's true. But that's a problem at points, and also a good thing at other times. I'll defend Kerry and Jeff's solos from 'Reign in Blood
', seeing as how the chaotic solos they fire off match the tone of each song. However, on this album and 'Hell Awaits
', they haven't even come close to that chaotic feel that they will later accomplish. So that leaves us with crazy, mindless solos without a crazy, mindless song. The two don't go together to well. And the overuse of the whammy-bar hurts my ears at points, like the abuse it takes on tracks like 'The Final Command
' and 'Fight Till Death
'. But, there are some redeeming parts. The two fastest tracks on here, "Evil Has No Boundaries
' and the title track, have some of speed that would allow for shredding solos, so those fit fine. Also, on the 'The Anti-Christ
', Kerry and Jeff fire off some of their most melodic solos ever, a huge plus.
: I have nothing to debate you with here. The solos are more or less mindless wankery, but one should be aware that these solos did set the bar high for their respective style, and also provided the base for what would soon become a Slayer
trademark of tedious fretboard masturbation. All in all, the solos seem to be simply to take up space.
Topic Two: Vocals/Lyrics
: It's amazing what puberty can do to one's voice. Tom's later voice will sound dark, and gruff, while here, you can really hear how young he is. His voice is slightly higher, and feels a bit more accessible. He doesn't sound quite as smoothed out and sinister as he did on 'South of Heaven
', but his higher voice seems to match the slightly-less chaotic tone on this album. On the opener, 'Evil Has No Boundaries
', Tom lets loose one of his famous blood-curdling screams that was praised on tracks like 'Angel of Death
', but on this one, it's even higher. His voice seems to have bit more of a range here, like on tracks like 'The Anti-Christ
' where he quickly goes from his fast-pitched talking to a quick, low grunt and then let out some wails. But let me say this right now: if Tom sounded like this on later releases, people would hate him even more. His voice only sounds more appealing here because of the less-brutal songs.
As for the lyrics, well, they're not quite as bad as 'Hell Awaits
', but they're close. Lines such as 'Watching disciples, Of the satanic rule. Pentagram of blood, Holds the jackal's truth
' ('The Anti-Christ
') flood over this album like a plague of locusts. They're cheesy. When Tom screams out, 'Life slips away, As demons come forth. Death takes my hand, And captures my soul.
' on 'Black Magic
', it's hard to take him seriously at all. All of the lyrics on this album seem to be about equal in the all their cheesy glory, so if I had to pick the best ones, it would have to be a line from the opener, 'Evil Has No Boundaries
': 'Blasting our way through the boundaries of Hell, No one can stop us tonight!
', which I actually thought was a relatively cool line and I now say it when I try and pick up chicks.
: I've honestly never liked Mr. Araya's vocals until 'God Hates Us All
', where he ditched the obnoxiously high wails and opted for a more gruff, James-Hetfield-wishes-he-sounded-like-this type of singing (and I use that term ridiculously loosely). The problem with Tom is it seems as if he happened to call up Jeff or Kerry when they were desperate for a vocalist, and he got stuck with the job. Aside from being painfully amateur on this album, his lack of creativity with lyrics (though I presume Hanneman and King had something to do with the crafting of these as well) is downright funny when he fails (which, unfortunately is the majority of the album), but deviously effective when successful, such as on the aforementioned 'Evil Has No Boundaries
Topic Three: Drums/Bass
: Dave is always one of the highlights on a Slayer
album. The rate at which the man is able to play is incredible. But usually when the songs get slower, his drumming becomes a bit more basic (save the tracks on 'South of Heaven
'). And here, since it's not as fast as I have stated before, Dave is plagued to fall into the category of 'good, not great'. Most of drum beats are very basic throughout, but every now and then his fills are just insane, such as on 'Tormentor
' and 'Black Magic
'. But for the most part, Dave is just there. But that's not that bad of a thing here, considering how the recording made the drums sound very wimpy. However, on the title track, Dave does showcase some of his best drumming this side of 'Angel of Death
' with an amazing drum solo/intro.
As for Tom's bass playing, it's still virtually non-existent. However, due to the thin sounding guitars, you can make it out more clearly at points, such as on 'The Anti-Christ
', where you can hear him thumping away. Nothing special at all though, so don't expect many variations.
: The problem with Dave is most of the things he does on drums are standard thrash procedure. He is a very good drummer, but he doesn't attempt to branch out much on this album, and he really wouldn't until, I'd say around 1990's 'Seasons In the Abyss
'. Throughout the album, aside from the occasional fill, it seems Lombardo is merely attempting to increase the level of chaos; make the song a bit more relentless, and often at the expense of keeping time. As for Tom, it's almost laughable to expect to hear him on any Slayer
album. Even when you can make out what he's playing, it's very primitive, lets-hang-onto-the-root-note Gene Simmons type of playing. I honestly wonder whether or not the band just picked him because he was around and they needed a bassist and vocalist. In the later years, his voice did develop into a distinctive and fitting match, but here he appears to be more of a liability than anything.
Topic Four: Overall Impression (Best Songs, etc)
: If you've been reading what I've had to say, it'd sound like I would give this album a 3.5-4. But you're wrong. So what if Tom's voice is higher, the solos don't really fit in, and Dave's drumming is just good if the songs are just pure bliss' Songs like 'Evil Has No Boundaries
', 'The Anti-Christ
', 'Die By the Sword
', and 'Black Magic
' are all classics. And the best part is since they aren't as fast, they all don't sound the same. Which is usually unheard of for a Slayer
album. Each song feels unique, and while some fall flat, like 'The Final Command
', it gives you a whole other look at Slayer
: Really, my overall impression is of the band is they were a rather pedestrian, amateur band who had yet to figure out what they want to do. Sure, they offer some good tunes, such as 'The Antichrist
' and the surprisingly proficient 'Black Magic
'. Unfortunately, the bad far outweigh the good, and the only person whom I would recommend this to is someone who truly adores Slayer
. For the rest of you kind and gentle folk, might I recommend Evanescence'
: 'Show No Mercy
' is just a younger, more innocent (irony') Slayer
. What they lack here in brutality they make up in creativeness. Except for the lyrics, which still, and never will be very good. But the riffs are the sellers of this album, and each one is unique. If you enjoy Slayer
, you're a damned fool if you don't buy this. And same goes for if you enjoy 'Thrash' metal in general.
Grant's Overall Grade
: Quite frankly, my final conclusion is that they were a rather derivative thrash band, one who's intent was to ignore the basic premise of melody in a rather vain attempt to play as fast as they could and as loud as they could. Again, there are good songs. There are even more bad songs. While thrash peers like Metallica would rely on skill (yes, they knew how to play their instruments), Slayer
relied on a Satanic gimmick, one which was often difficult to take seriously given the lyrics. This is worth a listen to anyone who likes metal, however, as it is a piece of history, but overall this is an album I can't see myself listening to often, as it really is nothing more than an average thrash album with a good tune here and there. On a more positive note, if I ever felt a pang to play Dungeons And Dragons
, I would definitely want to play with these guys.
Overall Grade (Combined Scores)
Die By the Sword