1990 was a pretty amazing year for metal. Phenomenal albums such as Judas Priest's Painkiller and Megadeth's Rust in Peace were released. Other fantastic albums such as Pantera's Cowboys from Hell, Anthrax's Persistence of Time, and Gamma Ray's Heading for Tomorrow were recorded and hit stores at various times during the year. And of course, there's Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss. After 1986's lighting fast effort, Reign in Blood, an album to this day that's being hailed as a classic by many a fan, and 1988's slower, more sinister, South of Heaven, Slayer returns once again with another well received record.
Seasons in the Abyss has Slayer returning to the fast, thrashy style that their name pretty is synonymous with over the years. Fan of heavy, balls out riffage? Thunderous drumming? Chaotic shredding? Seasons in the Abyss is for you. The album is a 42 minute trip through a thrash metal paradise complete with buzz saw guitars screaming through your ears, brutal (the good kind) drumming, and tortured vocals. This area is definitely where the band excels; so that this is an excellent record shouldn't be much of a surprise at all. If you like any of Slayer's previous albums, or even thrash metal in general, Seasons in the Abyss will not put you off. However, if you do not enjoy the genre, this album will not likely change your mind.
There are two elements present in Seasons in the Abyss that stand out among the 42 minutes of chaos. The first thing, my personal favourite part about the album, is the guitars. The Kerry King/Jeff Hanneman tandem definitely impresses, whether is be through consistent riffs, or their constant shredding. The riffs the two piece together are first class among the genre crowded, especially the ones found in the title track. Backed up by the ever popular drummer, Dave Lombardo, the two never produce a lacklustre rhythm. Another highlight, riffwise, is the intro to Dead Skin Mask. The very metallic tone combined with the spoken verse produces a very creepy sounding atmosphere. As soloists, I'll admit that Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman aren't the most precise of them all, but their style fits the music well. The shredding found on the album is very infectious, and while it isn't the best you'll ever hear, it is still satisfying.
The other element present in the album that I liked was the lyrics. Well, maybe not the lyrics themselves, but their themes. Call you what you like, but I am not too fond of the anti-religion (or other similar) themes present on some of their music. So I tend to avoid most of Slayer's work. What made Seasons in the Abyss stick out to me, among Slayer's other albums is that these themes are generally not present. Instead the band journeys through angry (obviously, this is Slayer) social commentaries. One theme that stands out is found on, again, Dead Skin Mask. The song tells the morbid tale of serial killer Ed Gein. The lyrics are quite/very disturbing, especially near the end, where the voice of a frightened young boy follow Araya's lyric. Quite creepy, if I must say so. War is also a reoccurring theme, getting references in songs like War Ensemble, Blood Red and Expandable Youth. The lyrics aren't great, again this is Slayer, but they convey the writer's point quite nicely.
Again, 1990 was a very good year in metal. Many of the genre's most popular bands released some of their best albums (or their worst if their name is Iron Maiden). Slayer is no different here. Though it isn't as good as Megadeth's Rust in Peace or Judas Priest's Painkiller, Seasons in the Abyss is a very solid record that holds its own against the stiff competition. With its intensity, aggression, and other classic Slayer elements the album should be a very welcome addition to any thrash-head. Unfortunately, this would be the last album to feature drummer Dave Lombardo until 2006's Christ Illusion. Too bad, as the man's crushing drumming definitely adds to the musical experience of the album. A week ago I'd probably have been the only person who hadn't heard this album, but if I would still recommend it to listeners anyways. Go buy it again or something.
Seasons in the Abyss
Skeletons of Society
Dead Skin Mask