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Surely everyone, metal fan or not, recognizes the name Slayer by now. If only the same could be said for their second album Hell Awaits
, which has recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Slayer didn’t begin as the unrelenting, controversial thrash act they are today. At one point they were little more than a NWOBHM-worshipping band who differentiated themselves by garnishing their music with an aggressive attitude and writing evil, violent lyrics. It may sound simple, but this otherwise anticipated formula paved way for a unique sound and ultimately a whole new world of heavy metal. Suddenly, riffs were heavier, drums were louder and faster, singing was replaced by shouting and screaming, and solos were played at warp speed. In an age when songs of love and partying were considered acceptable, a new wave of music swept over the world where death and Satan were commonplace. Thrash metal had breathed its first breath, and for those too weak to withstand its wrath…Hell Awaits
“Relentless Lust Of Rotting Flesh, To Thrash The Tomb She Lies…Heathen Whore Of Satans Wrath, I Spit At Your Demise”
It may not have been until Reign in Blood
that Slayer truly found their musical footing, but they weren’t exactly clueless in the beginning. After Show No Mercy
’s visibly British metal sound, it was time for America to kick it up a notch. What they produced was 37 minutes of Satan’s own personal soundtrack. Riffs and lyrics are as evil and menacing as ever while the vocals could turn wine back into water with the bread to match. At Dawn They Sleep
(a wholesome, family-oriented song m/) both feature demonic guitar histrionics from the underworld. Tom Araya’s voice, while obviously hindered by the mediocre production qualities, still succeeds in throwing out some torturous shouts and Angel of Death
-style high shrieks (see Crypts of Eternity
Even though Sebastian Bach may not put them in the most devilish light, the title track Hell Awaits
is a lesson in malevolence set to music, commencing with inhuman chants and a slow instrumental buildup into what has been effectively referred to as “the heaviest riff ever”.
“No Apparent Motive, Just Kill And Kill Again…Survive My Brutal Thrashing, I'll Hunt You Till The End”
Musically, Slayer wasn’t at all behind the times, as the riffs and solos were faster and more technical than most bands were putting out at the time. Multiple shred hysterics were delivered via the legendary guitar duo of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. Screaching harmonics and “tremolo bar wankery” highlight their demonstrations in Hell Awaits
, Kill Again
, and Hardening of the Arteries
, all of which are smothered in Chemical Warfare
-type riff chaos. Easily the only drawback of Hell Awaits
, a staple in the thrash metal genre, is the production. While the drums cut through powerfully, the guitars sound held back while the bass is all too prominent. This is painfully evident on Kill Again
and Crypts of Eternity
as well as every other instance where Araya overshadows King and Hanneman. Despite the technical lack of proficiency in Slayer’s sophomore effort, there’s no doubt that the merciless wickedness that went into its making blazes brightly throughout all seven songs.
“Angels Fighting Aimlessly, Still Dying By The Sword…Our Legions Killing All In Sight, To Get The One Called Lord”
To recap…what happens when two parts New Wave of British Heavy Metal, two parts all-American extreme thrash, and one part pure evil is turned into music? Slayer puts out another album, and this concoction was fresh and distinctive, if undernourished, on Hell Awaits
. Sinister riffs with the most aggressive voice in metal highlight Dave Lombardo’s percussive blast-fest and an unholy amount of screaming guitar shredding. While later Slayer albums too often overshadow it, Hell Awaits
is as much a thrash classic as any Reign
- Absolutely malevolet riffs!
- Fast, brutal, and innovative
- Poorly produced yet conveys the intended feel
- Hell Awaits
- At Dawn The Sleep
It’s very tough to single out songs here, so do yourself a favor and check out the entire album. Your bleeding corpse will thank you.