Hell Awaits


Metal Blade Records, 1985


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


This review is actually an accident.

You see, I had intended on going back to the first release from the speed-metal band Slayer, Show No Mercy, to re-educate myself in this band's music and trace their musical progress up to their most recent work. Instead, I found myself in the car with Hell Awaits, their third album (second if you count Haunting The Chapel as an EP), my education shot down in flames.

Oh, it wasn't that I was disappointed with my selection; if anything, Hell Awaits proved that Tom Araya and crew demanded to be taken on their own terms - and if you accepted, then you had better prepare yourself for one intense musical trip.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Their overall sound was still coming together, and while this is a decent representation of what Slayer's sound was like in 1985, it still wasn't the perfect picture. (That would come on their major-label debut, Reign In Blood.) Possibly this is because the music industry (even a label dedicated the genre like Metal Blade) didn't quite know what to do with such a sound at that time in metal's history. After all, while there had been bands with Satanic leanings, and there most definitely had been speed metal bands, nobody had combined the two with such furious power as Slayer had.

You can tell this from the title track alone - though I do admit, after spending so much time listening to Live - Decade Of Aggression, I do miss hearing "The Anti-Christ" immediately following this song. The way that the band - bassist/vocalist Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo - handle the style and speed changes on this particular track is nothing short of phenomenal. There's a reason why this track has remained a fan favorite all these years.

The entire first half of Hell Awaits taps into that power and keeps the listener engrossed from note one to the end. "Kill Again" is a track that is one of those "coulda-shoulda-woulda" songs (that is, it should have been a breakthrough hit for them), while "At Dawn They Sleep" just oozes intensity and power from every beat.

The second half of this album falters only slightly - and this is not to say that tracks such as "Necrophiliac" and "Crypts Of Eternity" are bad. But they pale a little bit in comparison to the highlights of Hell Awaits. Even so, they're still guaranteed to warp the paint off your car. I do like the way they go back to the album's opening riffs at the close of "Hardening Of The Arteries," thus ending the album. Nice touch.

Hell Awaits is a great portrait of a band just about to make its big break onto the metal scene, and it's just as enjoyable today as it was 15 years ago. Evil never felt so heavenly.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen 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 Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.