South Of Heaven
Review by Death8699 on November 23, 2019.
This release was Slayer's 4th full-length studio effort. Though not as fast and speed oriented as their energized predecessor, Reign in Blood, the songwriting still showed a different approach by the band. Their tracks focused more on a slower and more diverse riff structure to them. The lineup consisted, once again, with Tom Araya on bass/vocals, Kerry King on guitars, Jeff Hanneman on guitars and Dave Lombardo on drums. These were the first founding 4 members. This lineup seemed to work the best for the band. They all reflected a more mature writing strategy, which focused more on constructing solid songs minus the craziness that occurred during the bulk of Reign in Blood. They slowed down to construct a solid, more mature release than on their previous 1980's releases.
Their genre still stays in the thrash metal category. That hasn't changed, only their musical focus was different. They seemed to show more catchy songs as opposed to a more blitzing array of riffs which were featured on their predecessor, Reign in Blood. Araya's vocal efforts were way less intense though there still were some screaming that he portrayed on the track, "Live Undead." With "Mandatory Suicide" there were some spoken parts near the end of the song. This wasn't featured on any of their previous 1980's releases, only on this one. Araya focused more on belting out contents that were mixed well with the music and were easier to understand. However, he seemed to lack some intensity to his outputs. It meshed better, because as was previously mentioned, they wanted to create a better constructed musical approach with this release.
The music contained crunch tone guitar riffs that seemed to accompany Araya's vocals more fluently. Tempos varied to some extent, but the guitars reflected a milder form of Slayer than on previous efforts. The music was wholly original and noteworthy. Songs such as the title track, "Silent Scream", "Live Undead", "Ghosts of War" and "Spill the Blood" were very catchy. Despite slowing down so much, these tracks carry with them an array of intriguing components. They still focused on an underground sound, which displayed the album's concept. Slayer's technical side of the riff-writing was shown on "Silent Scream", "Read Between The Lies" and "Spill the Blood." There was an actual clean tone introductory guitar piece during "Spill the Blood" which occurs towards the middle of the song. Something like that didn't accompany any of their past 1980's releases.
The production was solid and the mixing for each instrument came together well. Rick Rubin was, once again, involved on this end as well as the band. The playing, especially during the guitarists lead guitar works, were less technical than Hanneman's. If you look on the insert, it shows who the lead belonged to. This was mainly done because Hanneman didn't want the public to get confused and think that his leads were King's. He has stated this in previous interviews. Lombardo's drum efforts were phenomenal and was right on cue with the music. His playing was greatly conducted and quite technical. Not every track was entirely fast, however. Araya's bass guitar work was also right on top of the main rhythm guitar works.
Song contents focused more on warfare despite the album title. They were really intelligent and well thought out. The songs shied away from Satanism though they did contain some bits of anti-religion topics. They didn't form the bulk of writings. Though "Behind the Crooked Cross" steered away from warfare to reflect the downfall of religion. The bulk of their lyrical writings are a gimmick anyway. They're not professed Satanists. There is a cover song on here entitled "Dissident Aggressor." It was originally sung by Judas Priest. Slayer executed this cover very well and it fit well with the album's concept.
Even though Slayer's playing slowed down here, they still were able to concoct a solid and original form of writing to their songs. The music was quite memorable because of the unique guitar riff structures. They seem to get embedded easily into the listeners brain. The leads weren't as crazy as on Reign in Blood but that didn't take away from their wellness in execution. The band's overall playing demonstrated much talent. They focused on better conducted riff structures and time signatures much more so than with previous releases. This release was, by far, not stale or boring. A definite classic release by them which shouldn't be excluded in your Slayer discography. Worth picking up and it won't disappoint.
Rating: 9.5 out of 1056