Seasons In The Abyss


American Recordings, 1990

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Back in the '80s, none rivaled Slayer when it came to the title of "most dangerous band." Not Motley Crue, not even NWA. With their breakneck speed, gruesome artwork and Satanic lyrics, moralists had you convinced that listening to even one track would turn you into a depraved devil worshipper who would freely sacrifice neighborhood animals.

Listening to Slayer now, it's hard not to view their angle as cartoonish. Hell, some of their CDs have turned into great rage soundtracks while you are stuck in a stifling traffic jam or working in a kitchen during a brutal dinner rush. That said, you still don't question the band's no-bullshit attitude. In the same year that Metallica embraced mainstream with the "black" album, Slayer unleashed my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Seasons In The Abyss.

Their previous album, South Of Heaven, was more subdued than Reign In Blood (still, that's like saying speed is more subdued than cocaine). The slower grooves, combined with the fact that the band hand to follow-up a classic album resulted in mixed reviews. With Seasons In The Abyss, the band came back with a hardened aggression. Armed with a great duo (producer Rick Rubin and co-producer Andy Wallace), Slayer aimed for the jugular with the first track, "War Ensemble" and for the most part, never let up in the ensuing 40 minutes.

The signature buzz saw of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King are all over Seasons In The Abyss. Lyrically, the band members share equal time in the songwriting. If you need to know a theme for the album, you can make an educated guess with song titles like "Dead Skin Mask," "Skeletons of Society" and "Blood Red." It's no wonder Rick Rubin took to these guys -- he's a purist and in the world of metal, there was no band more pure in its power than Slayer.

That's not to say that all of the songs are straightforward thrashers. "Skeletons of Society" experiments with multiple harmonies and virtually all of the songs have an infectious hook attached to the apocalyptic nihilism. Much credit deserves to go to the band, especially Tom Araya's throaty delivery and great bass skills, but Rubin and Wallace deserve equal credit. Their work on other seminal '90s albums like Johnny Cash's American Recordings and Nirvana's Nevermind show that while shock may go a long way, the music must endure.

The Slayer trifecta of Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss have aged far better than virtually all of Slayer's peers. While the band is still able to scare the crap out of non-initiates, their musicianship ultimately makes the final impression when it comes to evaluating the band's importance in the metal world. If this is hell's soundtrack, I'll take Seasons In The Abyss over Creed's Weathered any day.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of American Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.