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And what a taste it is. A stepping stone from the sound they pioneered on Show No Mercy and the more vicious sound they’d pioneer on Hell Awaits, Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel is a small slice of extreme metal history that has weathered the passage of time exceptionally well. With its bassier and generally more imposing production and its choice selection of songs, the thrash connoisseur would do well to feature this in their collection: though it’s only three (or four) songs in length, Haunting the Chapel is a top-shelf thrash album and one of the best EPs ever.
Opener “Chemical Warfare” is the heaviest song of 1984. Hands down. So heavy, that I’d go as far to say that death metal pretty much started right here. Dave Lombardo’s powerful, relentless drumming, the devious tremolo-picked guitars, and the maleficent (read: magnificent) guitar soloing were without parallel. Everything that was devastating and merciless about Show No Mercy has been pushed to its logical extreme and there’s no turning back now, unsuspecting listeners. The vocals and lyrics are more aggressive than before and the riffs are as tight as a bombshell on the precipice of detonation. A representative of their mid-paced repertoire, “Captor of Sin” wastes absolutely no time on anything other than kicking ass, lead guitar ablaze from moment one. The riffs and lyrics here are also very indicative of what would come but a year later in much greater volume. However, despite both of these being excellent tracks, it is the title track that stands as THE thrasher of 1984. “Haunting the Chapel” is a masterpiece in all regards. Riff-wise, it starts quicker but the verses epitomize mid-paced thrash riffing. And then it blasts into no-holds-barred destruction, with among the most evil harmonized guitars and solo trade-offs the band has ever done. Lombardo shows no mercy while Araya spits out the first of what would come to be a legion of anti-Christian-themed lyrical odysseys. Together these tracks three represent the peak of Slayer’s material along with the two full-lengths that immediately follow them.
And though it’s not a part of the original EP, most versions you get nowadays will feature a fourth track, “Aggressive Perfector.” This one is the last of the Show No Mercy style thrashers with its catchy chorus and NWOBHM-gone-to-hell style riffage and though not up to the same level as the EP proper, is still a worthy addition to the Slayer catalogue.
If you like the darker side of thrash (and you very well should), you’ll enjoy this. And since it’s far from being out of print, there are no excuses not to enjoy it either.