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It's pretty surprising just how quickly the thrash forefathers ditched the NWOBHM and set about exploring a much heavier and darker route; one year prior to this Slayer sounded like a particularly out of control but still pretty melodic speed metal band and now, well, they're this heavy, dark thrashing sort of outfit. They weren't the only band to make a move of this sort, either. What the hell happened between '83 and '84?
"Haunting the Chapel" sees Slayer ditch the NWOBHM-ish vibe on their debut and play a rather ferocious brand of thrash that's still fast, heavy and ugly to this day. No attempts at melodic vocals, no Maiden-esque "Crionics" style tracks, a muddier, much more fierce production, far more riffs crammed into each song, a relentless pace set by Lombardo's typically energetic and bombastic drumming. It's freakin' cool and really heavy, and with the constant chromatic and low-on-the-fretboard riffing it's not hard to see why Slayer get so much credit behind death metal.
"Chemical Warfare" is a good enough example of what you're in for; just massive, super fast riffs pounding your head into a fine, misty pulp with Araya's great (oh, how the mighty have fallen) and authorative vocal, man, the dude had a fine shout/growl back in the day. I could swear the "chorus" riff sounds vaguely Hellhammer-ish, so naturally it's really cool. The band's in top form throughout most of the songs; KK's improv solos are only vaguely annoying, Lombardo does his double time snare abuse to absolute perfection, Henneman cranking out typically great riffing with that signature dark style of his (always rated him as a much better guitarist then KK), the whole thing sounding somewhat like two guitars and a drum kit being chucked in a washing machine, fast, chaotic and really awesome.
No surprise really but the worst song is where Slayer slow it down (relatively speaking, of course) and go for some sort of hardcore/speed metal tune. "Aggressive Perfector" is a bit of a shame really, I don't even know why they put it there. It's not a bad song, but after the steamrolling thrash of the previous songs it comes off as rather lame and weak, especially as it's the final track. Perhaps a B-side off Show No Mercy? Regardless it's the obvious weak point, which is a shame as the other tracks are excellent.
It's somewhere between Show No Mercy and Reign in Blood in terms of quality for me; Slayer were clearly working their sound out at this point and hadn't really morphed into that hideous, multi-limbed thrash beast that they'd be on the next few albums. Oh well. It's still a really good EP that is well worth buying.