South of Heaven



by TheSonicAbyss USER (1 Reviews)
August 21st, 2013 | 19 replies

Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dividing both fans and critics, this enduring album might be the heaviest of all time. Forget what you've heard about Araya's "singing" or the slowed-down pace of some of the songs. This is a classic and perhaps the most enduring of the whole Slayer cat

Ahhh...the Slayer album that divided both fans and critics equally. For that reason alone, respect is deserved...especially coming on the heels of the undeniably classic Reign In Blood in 1986. South of Heaven is the album that started my transformation into a fan of the band, as I didn't think much of them at the time of Reign In Blood's release. I just didn't care for what they were creating...until this disc.

Many fans slag this album because they were a) expecting Reign In Blood pt 2 or b) they didn't like the fact that Tom Araya sings on some tracks. Quite frankly, both of these factors are part of what makes this the most creatively diverse and enduring album by the band in my opinion. Indeed, for my ears, South of Heaven is the heaviest album of all time.

Yes, there are other albums with more ridiculous amounts of distortion, more abrasive vocals, yada yada, but the heaviness of this album is amazing in that Slayer are creating relentlessly defiant and agonizing wails using the same warm tube-amp driven guitar tones most people use to create actual melodies. What pass for melodies here are the sounds of absolute hoplelessness as Araya and Co. create a monumental "F*** You" with this album, as if to say " want me to sing" Yyyeahhh...ok, I'll sing for you. How's spill the bloooooooood!"

Yep, what many critics have described as Araya sounding "bored" singing on some tracks sounds more to me like a vocalist creating dark, agonizing melodies to match the tone of the lyrics. The pacing of the music allows each horrible syllable of Araya's poison (straight from history and the evening news) to be more clearly understood, only adding to the menace...kinda like the dream/nightmare we all have at some point where we're running away from someone or something but can't run fast enough because our feet are heavy as concrete. The impending menace of this album is much like what I would imagine it would be like to not be able to wake up from the aforementioned dream.

Dave Lombardo is just a monster on this album, whether driving the speedier tracks like Silent Scream or providing relentless power groove on tracks like Behind the Crooked Cross or Read Between the Lies. Y'know, that flat, dry drum sound sure adds to the overall dark emptiness of the album's sound while Lombardo pummels you with impossible fills.

And the guitars...dear God, it sounds as if Kerry King and Jeff Hannemann (RIP) found some guitars that just were not made to create melody. The riffs, licks, and impossibly tonal/atonal solos sound like the guitars are absolutely kicking, screaming and fighting off any attempt made to create melody, resulting the the dark, dismal, empty and indeed evil sound on the whole thing. King and Hannemann's ability to create atonal disharmony and turn it into riffs/solos is unparallelled.

From the opening intro of the title track, through Silent Scream, Behind the Crooked Cross, Mandatory Suicide, Ghosts of War, Read Between the Lies and album closer Spill The Blood, Slayer has created an album that not only exists in its own world, but exists in its own world within the mighty Slayer catalogue itself. This is the album that bridges the gap between Sabbath and Priest and Slayer's own modern and speedy permutation.

Tom Araya himself describes the album as a "slow grower" that most people appreciated later on. If you love heavy music, this is essential listening. It may not grab you right off the bat, but repeated listens will reveal more dynamics and texture than you'll find on any other Slayer disc. I like pretty much everything in the Slayer catalogue from Reign in Blood to the present, but South Of Heaven is the disc I return to with alarmingly more frequency than the rest of the catalogue combined.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
August 20th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

"Yes, there are other albums with more ridiculous amounts of distortion, more abrasive vocals, yada yada"

"create a monumental "F*** You" with this album, as if to say " want me to sing? Yyyeahhh...ok, I'll sing for you. How's spill the bloooooooood!""

Ughhh....such an awful review. This seems to be your first, so I'll cut you a little slack, but your writing needs a substantial amount of improvement.

Digging: Jeff Rosenstock - POST-

Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2013


before you see the light YOU MUST DIIIIEEEE

August 20th 2013


I don't see the point with extreme metal genres such as Thrash... still respect them though...

August 20th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

dude how did you never go through a thrash phase? maybe i'm just getting old but thrash was always a rite of passage at some point for extreme metal fans

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

For some reason most reviews that start off with an ahhh are always bad

August 21st 2013


That's just harsh bro.

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Thrash has never interested me.

Staff Reviewer
August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 4.5


Digging: Heavy Sentence - Protector / Darkest Hour

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

Fantastic album, not the heaviest of all time (who cares?), but a very intense and superbly crafted beast.

The menacing groove, the changes in pace, clinical drumming, some excellent and more varied vocals and unnerving guitars create a superbly dark soundscape.

For me I rate this alongside Prong's 'Beg to differ' as a more avant garde clinical metal masterpiece.

August 21st 2013


For some reason most reviews that start off with an ahhh are always bad

This doesn't apply to soundoffs.

Ahhh, The Snow Goose!

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

second best Slayer

Digging: Corrosion of Conformity - Deliverance

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

Silent Scream is underrrated.

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

My highlight would have to be Spill the blood.

August 21st 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

i hate tom araya singing so much ruins any track its on

August 21st 2013


I don't like this review. I will not neg this review.

August 21st 2013


I won't either. This is obviously someone new to the game.

October 2nd 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

it seems like it's your first review so i won't neg this you could improve on the writing though and be a little more descriptive but all in all good job

May 26th 2014


Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, I'm new to the "game." Each and every one of you was once new to it, as well. I appreciate the non-condescending comments and constructive criticism...I really do. But Judio! (love that all-important exclamation point in the name) saying "I'll cut you some slack" and "your writing needs a substantial amount of improvement"...who the hell are you and why would I care about your slack? This is my writing style, take it or leave it. None of you who say I could improve say a thing about HOW I could improve. Just potshots and worthless criticism. I didn't come here in order to conform to anyone's opinion of how I should write.

I'll take apert's comment "i hate tom araya singing so much ruins any track its on" OVER sideburndude's "For some reason most reviews that start off with an ahhh are always bad" any day. Apert gives an honest opinion and actually says something. Sideburndude is throwing darts.

Thank you again, all who gave comments with actual substance. And to the potshot people...please grow the hell up.

June 15th 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

Greater detail of the album and songs will make a more enticing read.


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