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The ultimate live album in the early history of the "Big 4" in american thrash. Yeah, when we think deeply about it, there are few contestants against this one. Megadeth, perhaps, made a couple of nice live albums as well. Yeah, and Metallica, yeah, why not. And Anthrax? Ehm, nope. Only Megadeth lies near in what's about live performances.
Anyway. The thumping bumping here is a blast. You know, Lombardo rules it, no matter how hard you can try, he rules it. The strongest force in here relies on Dave's insaniac patching. And that's it, you know. Even if here we get one of the most astonishing performances by Araya in the vocals, so fresh, vivid and deadly, heavy lies the crown, but rests on Lombardo, easily. Mr. King might be a king, but the king is Dave, you know. Hanneman does it pretty well, but Lombardo is the fucking antichrist!
Being that said, and leaving away the funny paragraphs, the whole band works tight and oiled. There is no weakness in here. Just pure, plain and simple thrash deadly metal. As I stated before, Tom Araya licks out one of his finest vocals ever. Listen to the opener "Hell Awaits" or the closer "Chemical Warfare" and you will get a glimpse of it. Obviously, the bass lines are not the best thing he does, figure out dude that he sings like a devil while he plays and that's not an easy stuff to do. But somehow, the bass sounds pretty remarkable in this album, so no complaints about that.
For me, the only mistake in the recording is the faded and distant sound of the guitars here. Mr. King deserves more amplifiers and Hanneman's back ups too. But we want more, this is almost-death metal, the roar must be hellibilly destructive. In my opinion, the stuff wasn't about the live performance itself, but the production and mixing of the album. I think they lowered the sound of the guitars on purpose. I don't know why, or is it just an illusion in my head, but to me seems to be like that.
So, anyway, I want this to be a short review so I'll finish it here: this is a very good live album, the best ever made in early thrash period. Araya is better than ever, Lombardo thrash thrash thrash thrash fucking thrashes and rules, King and Hanneman, while they sound a bit faded, perhaps because of the final mix of the album, do it pretty well and the thing is totally aggressive, deadly, evil, punching and insane. If you ever wanted to buy a live album by the "Big 4" of bay area thrash and you never knew where to start, here you go, "Decade of Aggression" is the safest play.
Highlights: Hell Awaits. Die by Sword. South of Heaven. Dead Skin Mask. Angel of Death. Black Magic. Expendable Youth. Chemical Warfare.
A slight mistake: The production, in my humble opinion. They could have done it better, specially in the mix of the guitars.
There are those live albums which have gone into history. We never stop talking about Live After Death, Unleashed in the East or No Sleep 'til Hammersmith. I’ve never heard anyone really bash or discard ‘Decade of Aggression’ yet for some reason this live album is often overlooked. I wonder if this had something to do with the chosen songs because it can’t be because of the production nor performance.
No overdubs here. Yes, a few minor mistakes here and there which are to be expected playing live and when keeping up the pace as much as Slayer does here. But there are no real big mistakes, the band really plays strong. Especially songs from Show No Mercy turn out great here. Everything the original recordings, from my perspective, lacked in terms of production, is done right this time. The Antichrist and especially Black Magic sound better than ever. Now this is the true potential these songs actually had.
With 5 songs, half of the Reign In Blood album is well represented. But one could complain about the low amount of songs from Hell Awaits. Only the title track is on the regular Decade edition. Very poor indeed but the Haunting The Chapel songs ‘Chemical Warfare’ and ‘Captor of Sin’ do make up for it. Obviously there are a lot of songs from the Seasons album here since they were promoting it at that time. But 8? The special edition even has 9! That’s just too much really. 5 would’ve been just right, leaving out the somewhat lesser material like the slow paced ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Expendable Youth’ and replacing them with 'Silent Scream' and 'Ghosts of War' since I could really do with more aggressive versions of those. Or even replacing the song ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ because that one takes up around 7 minutes. Honestly, they could’ve played ‘Necrophiliac’ and ‘Hardening of the Arteries (without the intro-reprise)’ here instead. Would’ve made a lot of people happier I’m sure.
However Slayer do manage to make even the least interesting songs become part of this 90 minute thrash fest. When all are played with this intensity and equal production it often even becomes painful to realize how much aggression, which Slayer obviously do posses, was lost due to the production on some old Slayer albums with the exception of Reign In Blood. Take for instance ‘At Dawn they Sleep’ on the deluxe edition which completely shatters the original, I stress, in terms of energy and aggression. Or the earlier mentioned ‘The Antichrist’.
Now I could go on how Araya isn’t always as perfect as he was on previous regular studio releases but for a live recording he’s holding up strong here considering the circumstances of being on tour and the necessary pace and energy throughout a thrash metal performance. And same could easily be said about the rest, including Lombardo. The songs here were taken from three performances in 1990 and 1991. And the sound of each song or performance fortunately doesn’t differ that much from the other as for instance that horrible A Real Dead One album by Iron Maiden.
As just being a Slayer live album it is simply great. But when also even considering the time of its release and how other thrash metal live albums sounded, it is even close to perfect. Just remember how awfully produced Nuclear Assault's Live at the Hammersmith Odeon, Dark Angel's Live Scars
And Death Angel's Fall From Grace were. They were superb bands when they recorded those albums but the production almost unbearable. For some reason the best thrash metal live recordings up till then were either VHS releases (Oidivnikufesin!), loose tracks or EP’s (Testament, Sacred Reich and Forbidden at the Dynamo for instance) and this was the first complete live album which also sounded worthy.
The other three of the big four failed to release a live album at this time, the breaking point of thrash metal. Metallica’s Binge and Purge box just came too late and incorporated too much nineties songs already (although the Seattle '89 video is truly great but should have been released…in 1989 or 1990 already!) and Anthrax’ Live The Island Years sounded hideous and also was released years overdue. And let’s not start about Megadeth, who took 17 years from their debut to finally release a full length live album, probably due to Mustaine’s brilliant vocals live.
Thus Decade Of Aggression can also be seen as a testament to the heydays of thrash metal. The Clash Of The Titans tour, the last explosion of thrash metal as one of the biggest metal scenes of the eighties before the nineties took over and the metal scene shattered into dozens of subgenres which still divide a lot of us to this day.
The only reason I bought this album was because I magically found it in a local record shop's bargain bin for $3 ($2 if you count my discount card...whoopie!). I wouldn't have minded seeing Slayer "back in the day," when they apparently actually moved around on stage and were exciting and stuff. However, I questioned the ability of a live album to capture the intensity that supposedly made Slayer such a great live band a long time ago. So is this worth getting or isn't it? Well...
The track-listing is excellent; this album was recorded during the tour for "Seasons in the Abyss." I happen to really like that album, and it is well-represented here. This comes at the end of a fairly long string of superb releases, so there's plenty of high-quality material to choose from. "Hell Awaits" continues to be a killer opener and pretty much every release is well-represented...
...with the exception of the album "Hell Awaits." This is less of a detriment for me because aside from the first two songs, I'm rather lukewarm towards "Hell Awaits," but many Slayer fans will see this as a major slight. That killer "Your time...slips...uh...way..." break in "Raining Blood" lacks the power of the original. Jeff Hanneman doesn't use the wah-pedal at all, leaving some of his solos to pale in comparison to their studio counterparts. The majority of the songs are (for the most part, just slightly) inferior to their studio versions....
...However, on disc two, there is a section with several songs from "Show No Mercy" and "Haunting the Chapel" where the live versions are so intense and may even surpass the originals. Slayer really gets into a groove and the best part is album closer "Chemical Warfare." The songs from those first two albums sound slightly thrashier and Araya's more mature vocals add more menace than was present on the originals. Dave Lombardo does a fine job, as is expected, and he really adds something to those older songs now that he's more experienced. The guitar-playing throughout is pretty spot-on, including the solos for the most part.
So is it worth the money? I'll let that be up to you, although if you can find it in a bargain-bin like I did, it's a must-have. I'm sure I will only listen to it every once in a while, but when I'm in the right mood, it really hits the spot. Perhaps this album would have benefited from stronger representation from the first two albums, but considering which tour this is from, it is to be expected that nearly every song from "Seasons" would be played. Sadly, "Decade of Aggression" marks the beginning of the end for Slayer, it would only go downhill from here.
Usually, thrash metal bands sound better live than on the studio and this record is no exception. As for myself, I'm not a big fan of live recordings, but this one is pretty damn good and an excellent introduction to Slayer, if you don't know them. There are stuff here from their debut, [i]Show No Mercy[/i], from Hell Awaits, from South of Heaven... well, every album they had released, circa 1991, is perfectly represented here on Decade of Aggression. Seasons in the Abyss probably is the most represented album, with lots of tracks out of that album being played on this live recording, especially on the second disk.
So, we begin with “Hell Awaits”, the perfect opener in my opinion. Creepy intro, perfect build-up and then everything explodes, when the pair of guitarists play the fast main riff and Lombardo starts playing that fast beat... Awesome headbangable stuff, I'm not a big Slayer fan, in fact I despise most of their material (they are pretty boring, most of the times, and modern Slayer is just crap), but this tune sounds just killer live. Out of nowhere, during “Hell Awaits'” instrumental section, “The Anti-Christ” kicks in, with its NWOBHM-influenced main riff. This version of the tune sounds much better than the original one, it's a bit slower than the opener but still excellent. There are lots of other thrash classics on the first CD, from the legendary “Raining Blood”, to the midpaced but still heavy as hell “South of Heaven”, from the epic “Seasons in the Abyss” (probably Slayer's best song, together with the before mentioned “Hell Awaits”), to the crushing “Angel of Death”. “Dead Skin Mask” also deserves a special mention. Almost all of the tunes featured on the first CD are performed flawlessly, except some problems Araya seems to have with his voice (on “War Ensemble”, for example, he kind of loses his voice during the last part).
The second CD is a bit of a let-down compared to the first one, since the songs featured on it are infinitely weaker. Still, the ultra-fast “Postomortem” and the classic “Mandatory Suicide” deserve to be heard. On the other hand, tracks like “Hallowed Point” or “Captor in Sin” are all quite forgettable and almost useless, if you have already heard the studio versions.
Another complaint I have with the album is its production. I know, there's no overdubs, but the sound quality could have been a bit (well, much) better. At times, it's almost impossible to hear the guitar riffs and the double-bass drums are too damn low in the mix (hell, it's Lombardo, let me hear his pedals!). Araya's voice could habe been a bit higher in the mix too, but that's a minor issue after all.
So, a pretty good live album, the first CD is perfect headbangable material, but the second one drags Decade of Aggression down a little bit. Still, nice live recording, excellent for those who want to know who Slayer are.
Best Moments of the CD:
-Probably, the first part of “Hell Awaits”.
A live album from legends Slayer ought to be raw and evil and intimidating, right? This thing sounds like mud from start to finish, and while some would argue that this is the idea somehow, I'd prefer a somewhat more polished sound to reflect their status as a professional band. "Somewhat" being the key word, as metal shouldn't be *too* clean sonically; a balance needs to be struck and Slayer didn't do too good a job doing that on this album. I think that their quality standards needed to be shored up, and this goes for the material itself as well as the performances.
I only gave this a 60 because this, in my opinion, shows just how Slayer were starting to go downhill at this time. You can especially hear it in Dave Lombardo's drum performance; he claims that he was having back problems and that Rick Rubin told him to raise his drum throne, and when he did it affected his double kick technique, which I think is a bunch of nonsense. His playing on this album is weak and sloppy and disappointing.
The soloing is disappointing as well; Jeff Hannemann sound like he plays the same solo on most every song and Kerry doesn't fare much better. Araya, ugh, how the mighty have fallen is the first thing that comes to mind on this album. His patter between songs is unimaginative and minimal and sounds like he says the same thing every night in every city. And his vocals are even worse live than they'd become in the studio by this time. He doesn't even come close to pulling off the scream at the beginning of "Angel of Death" or adding anything other than weak whining to the songs at hand.
The material is for the most part pretty good, don't get me wrong. But the horrid sonics and the lifeless, unimaginative, phoned-in performances render them powerless; even the last gasp of aggression known as "War Ensemble" suffers terribly from these factors. But they just had to go and stick several of the slower, interchangeable tunes from "Seasons in the Abyss", like "Expendable Youth", on this, and I hated that song--then again I hated half of that album due to the fact that half the songs were boring and interchangeable.
So overall, this is far from what I'd call essential. Get everything up until and including "South of Heaven" and forget about everything else they've done since then.
This record is what every live record should be: raw, unproduced, rough sounding stuff. This being said, there is not a single moment on any track where the band sounds off-tune or unsure of themselves. Sure, Tom Arayas vocals might not always be perfectly audible, but at least they sound pretty much the same as in their studio records, which confirms the fact that Araya is without a doubt, one of the greatest singers/screamers throughout the entire genre. Elsewhere, the band are all excellent, Dave Lombardo's drumming never misses a beat, and the dueling guitars of Kerry King and Jesff Hanneman are as close to perfection as one could hope for. What does this all mean, you ask? It means that Slayer are doing what they do best, playing with extreme passion to their devoted fans, something which they started out doing in 1983 when they first started and which still continues today, which proves that Slayer are one of the best live acts in the world!
As for the tracks, they are all excellent, a tremendous batch of Slayers best material. Sure, there may be a couple that have been left off, but how can you fit all of Slayers best songs on a 2-Disc record? Standout performances includes old classics such as "Hell Awaits", "Angel of Death" and "Chemical Warfare" which for some reason stands above all other tracks when performed live.
All in all one of the best live albums ever recorded, something that their many followers should look to as a template for live performances
I'm a new Slayer fan, but heck I love them! Initially I wasn't impressed by Slayer's music since the first albums I got in contact with were the newest ones, probably the crappiest ones. This album is the one through which I learned to listen to Slayer, as I was introduced their most popular songs.
It sounded very unmelodic at first, and it was hard to tell the songs apart, but it takes some getting used to. Raw and aggressive stuff - more so, albeit lighter, than Metallica.
I never consider studio albums among my favorite albums - they're only like small samples of bands, the songs are distinguished into the better songs and the worse songs, and of course, live albums sound better. On this album, almost all the songs are "the better songs". Some of the most euphoric and catchy songs are the legendary "Angel of Death" and "Jesus Saves", the ultra-violent "Captor of Sin" and "Altar of Sacrifice", the rocking "Blood Red" and "The Anti-Christ"... there's so many that I feel like being unfair to the songs I don't list. I feel bad about saying that my most favourite song "Raining Blood" (it's probably cuz it has been raining for a whole week straight now, where I live, and I love listening to this song during a storm!). But I consider nearly all of the songs here excellent, and no bad songs - well, I might skip "Born of Fire" and "Expendable Youth" when listening, just to get to my more favorite songs. This album is not worth dying for, but it sure is worth killing for.
This was my first Slayer album...not a good choice because not being familiar with the songs, there were some occasions where I couldn't tell where one ended and the other began (Die By The sword/Black Magic being one of these)! Once one is familiar with the songs (pretty much all of which are blinding, btw) then you will have no problems enjoying them in this raw form.
First off, 21 songs for the price of a regular album is a damn fine package. The only other album like this I can think of is Halford's Live Insurrection. 8 of these songs come from Seasons In The Abyss, which is quite a hefty representation (nearly the whole album) but works because Seasons was fucking great! I only wish they'd replaced Born Of Fire with Skeletons Of Society, but no worries. About half of Reign In Blood is represented and the albums/EP before that are evenly represented. It's cool having all these songs together with a consistant sound quality (the production on the early albums was quite different to what came after), and some of the earlier ones sound better here, especially Die By The Sword! There's the odd missed cue and so forth but it just reminds you that it's LIVE, Tom also fails to hit some of the high notes, but that ain't *too* much of a problem.
Anyone wanting a savage album or wanting to check out some unfamiliar Slayer choons would be recommended to get this! It's damn fine!
No, they could not have played EVERY good Slayer song. But they did play so many, and so very few of the forgettable and otherwise crappy. And besides, like all good heavy metal bands, Slayer sounds better live. Yes, they fuck up a few times, but if you want technical perfection, go suck on some Dream Theater!
They start off with Hell Awaits, which is the perfect intro - next moving through classic after classic: The Antichrist, War Ensemble, South of Heaven, Raining Blood. All of those are instantly recognisable, totally great thrash songs. Then, Altar of Sacrifice is pretty decent, and comes off nicely live, even though the studio version feels like it's missing something (eight more riffs and another minute of thrashing). Then, Jesus Saves is cool, and we get to sit through Dead Skin Mask, before getting to Seasons in the Abyss, which is the song Dead Skin Mask wishes it could be. Both are midpaced, both are grim, but one just totally shits on the other. Funny how things work out.
The last two songs on disc 1 will attempt to rip your fucking eyes out, and you'd better let them: Mandatory Suicide and Angel of Death. Perfect headbanging material.
Disc two begins with two more songs from Seasons: Hallowed Point and Blood Red - both average material from the album. Then, they play some really old stuff: Die By the Sword, Black Magic, and Captor of Sin. No complaints. Then, they throw in the awesome Born of Fire, which is one of the forgotten Slayer classics.
Postmortem next, though I still say after all these years that it should be exactly before Raining Blood, and no place else. Then, two more average Seasons songs: Spirits in Black and Expendable Youth. They actually manage to save the best for last: CHEMICAL FUCKING WARFARE. This song does not get nearly enough credit for being the be-all end-all of 1984 thrash metal, but at least they included it here, so I won't have to hurt them too badly (no wait, they did release albums after this which seriously sucked... [sharpens knife]).
The setlist - you really can't get better. Maybe a few less songs from Seasons (it was their new album at the time) and SOMETHING more from Hell Awaits - I mean, has everyone heard Kill Again enough times? I didn't think so. Or At Dawn they Sleep or Necrophiliac? But still, it would've been too much to ask for them to bring out Crionics or Aggressive Perfector or Ice Titan or Witching Hour, so you can't get better than this. Oh yeah and it's live, and it rips shit up, and if Slayer's not coming to a town near you 5 times this year (implying that you live in Antarctica), then you NEED this album.