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Seasons In The Abyss completes Slayer's triptych of albums for Def American with Rick Rubin at the helm. And like the previous South Of Heaven and Reign In Blood, Seasons consolidates gains made previously and has stood the weathering effects of time with ease. That it is not quite as good as those previous two albums is no real knock against it, though it does falter on the precipice of being Slayer's last truly great record.
Slayer truly flourished under Rick Rubin, trimming the fat, dialing back the effects and just going for the jugular with a bone-dry/air-tight production that has really stood the test of time. Whereas other late 80's thrash albums have a dated feel in their production, Seasons just rips from the first note of 'War Ensemble' onward. And 'War Ensemble' is a totally whiplash inducing evil thrash monster. Written (like all of Slayer's best tracks) by Jeff Hanneman, it blasts forth like artillery, harkening back to the nastiest tracks off Reign In Blood yet betraying a further depth of Hanneman refining his hardcore punk leanings into trickier metal territories. 'Blood Red' is a nice slowdown into atmospheric darkness, showing Slayer operating in Hegelian synthesis with their previous two records, though one could argue that the continuing alternations between brutal thrash and slower grooving numbers gets a little monotonous over a slightly padded 42min run time. I find that a minor quibble personally as the songwriting here is generally excellent.
To pick at the one minor scab that keeps Seasons from outright classic perfection, it would be the slightly dreary 'Skeletons Of Society,' with its relatively bland mid-tempo riffs extended past the point of redundancy -- a minimalist, low-brow groove that would sadly haunt this band for the rest of their career. Otherwise though, its all winners. True favorites over the years include 'Spirit In Black,' a galloping onslaught of thunderous thrash and primitive grooves. This tracks grows through several different iterations and is absolutely blazing by the finish. 'Dead Skin Mask' is as catchy as it is creepy, highlighting Slayer's bizarre fascination with the most disturbed mindsets. 'Temptation' is also killer, though different from the norm, focusing on heavily accentuated hardcore/crossover grooves of the NYHC variety. Written by King, 'Temptation' points the way toward a better incorporation of these influences than what actually came to pass from his pen.
The masterpiece though is the title track, six-minutes and thirty-six seconds of Stygian darkness culled from the depths of Hanneman's songwriting ability. This was the track that originally got me into Slayer with frightened baby-steps towards a band that in 1990 was still utterly terrifying to those of us unexposed to true metal. Perfectly coupled to Hanneman's morosely parched and dying sounds are Araya's lyrics of sanity lost amid ritual sacrifice. The lyrics throughout the album are particularly sharp and diverse, tackling everything from otherworldly horror to modern-day warfare to late-80's cultural alienation.
With Jeff Hanneman's passing fresh on the mind, this record becomes even more poignant for as it stands, Seasons In The Abyss completes a three album run of excellence nearly unrivaled in all of metal. Despite later declines, inner-feuds and departures, and underwhelming returns, one truth remains: these early albums are utterly unfuckwithable. Slayer forever!
This album is great, however most people sling a ton of shit at it for whatever reason, calling it middle of the road because it's the best of Reign in Blood's over the top aggression and South of Heaven's slightly more subdued approach. To my ears, this album and South of Heaven seem like they spent more time during the writing process, whereas with Reign in Blood they got on a train of hatred and aggression and let it guide them to violence and destruction.
Anyways, enough comparisons....
First off, the bass seems pretty buried as usual. Multi-tracked guitars that will dominate the sonic landscape as well as Tom Araya probably following the root note of the guitars for the most part will result in the bass getting buried. To be honest with everyone though, unless the bass is obviously there, I genuinely cannot hear bass on just about all releases and not just by Slayer, but metal in general. Really isn't a whole lot to say about the bass here, but I'm sure Araya is doing a good job keeping up with Hanneman and King.
Next, the guitars. This is probably one of the more well-rounded albums as far as the guitars go. There are lots of excellent riffs here, with all of the things Slayer had become known for at the time: aggression, speed, haunting melodies, those spastic solos that all Slayer fans seem to like that don't do anything for me, and some nice thrashing as well. To elaborate on the solos, I've got to give them some credit for actually trying to create melodies instead of the usual random fret noise. In particular, Spirit in Black has my favorite solo on any Slayer song I've ever heard, and I love the riff right after the solo when the band drops out and then come back. It's pretty fucking heavy and kick ass. Overall, the melodies for the leads and rhythms seem more well thought out and intelligent compared to previous albums.
Dave's drumming is still intense as all hell here. I feel sorry for the drum heads, hardware, kick pedals, and sticks because Dave is relentless and punishing. He throws in a lot of double kicks, fills, and time-keeping snare as well as accenting it all with the cymbals, which has me thinking he might be the biggest talent of the band. He's like Neil Pert on steroids and cocaine; steroids because of how powerful his playing is and cocaine because of how fast and quick his playing is. While I think KK and JH definitely stepped things up on this record, Dave as usual gets the MVP of the record and of the band, to be totally honest.
Back where we started off...Tom Araya, this time to discuss his vocals. He certainly is better than Anthrax's Joey Belladonna and Testament's Chuck Billy as well, though Joey has his moments. Tom does less shouting, though it's certainly not gone. During parts of the album, like parts of Hallowed Point, he tries to do more of a rough singing sort of approach.
Overall, I think this album is a nice mix of the aggression displayed on Reign... while using longer songs like on Hell Awaits and South of Heaven, occasionally slowing down to allow the melodies to stick and become more powerful. To some, this is an awful mix, but I like it a lot more.
In closing, I think this album is a must for any thrash fan. Songs to definitely check out would have to be War Ensemble, Spirit in Black, and Seasons in the Abyss.
"Seasons In The Abyss" is an interesting album. It's often considered to be the last really decent Slayer record, yet it's also the one that divides the fandom in two, some considering it a classic, while others deride it as a lame, poorly-produced effort. I'm in the middle ground, as my dumb ass usually is. While it is certainly a big step down from "South of Heaven", it's not awful, but really not too great either.
The band is really just okay on this one. Araya's bass is now pretty much nonexistent, and he still won't scream; he mostly just depends on that yelling and shouting, not to mention a fair amount of clean growling going on too. Hanneman and King's guitar work is still really good; lots of riffs to go around, but here they sound like they're going through the motions a bit. Lombardo is still probably the only full-on ass-kicker here, again turning that kit into mush from his aggressive hammering and relentless cymbal-slaughtering.
The production is unusual, sounding loud, raw and often sounding a bit too clean, though I do dig the guitar tone. I guess they were going for a more modern production, which would explain the somewhat proto-groove tendencies of some of the songs. Take for example the lame and overrated "Dead Skin Mask", which would be total shit if it weren't for the guitar tone. But man does it sound like a Slipknot song at times, with those whispered vocals sometimes popping up, not to mention the limp dick solo and repetitive riffage. Other songs aren't as as bad, like "Blood Red" or "Born of Fire", but man oh man are they uninspired; very, very fillerish.
At least the better songs outweigh the weaker. "Skeletons of Society", while itself also being fairly groovish in nature, is at least much catchier than "Dead Skin Mask" and has a stronger solo. Speedier numbers like "Hallowed Point" with its killer solos or the particularly catchy "Spirit In Black" are quite good as well. Then the opener "War Ensemble". Oh boy, definitely a Slayer classic. Not "South of Heaven" or "Hell Awaits" great but still a very solid and awesomely aggressive number, complete with the immortal line "The final swing is not a drill, IT'S HOW MANY PEOPLE I CAN KILL!!!" Lastly, the epic title track and closer. Not my personal favorite, I do like it a lot less than most fans, but still the song has great mood, buildup and riffage.
Overall, "Seasons In The Abyss" is a mixed bag. Not a bad bag, but not top of the shelf either. Some of the songs kick a great amount of ass or are just lame or forgettable. I don't know what else to say except that while the album is worthwhile, don't expect "Hell Awaits" or "South of Heaven" here. Do try to appreciate as the last solid Slayer album, before the boys slipped down that hill into an abyss of mediocrity and total shit from which they have yet to escape...
When I first heard this album, my first impression from the recording quality was the absolute pits. But then something happened that doesn't really do: it grew on me and I understood with Rick Rubin as the producer, he achieved that "raw" sound in the lurk vibe, which made the guitars, vocals and drums more life-like. Like the music flowed well with that audio, that production quality. Again, it took time before I realized that this is what made Slayer dominate during the 80-90's was their old school type of recordings.
There is no into to this one just fast guitar riffing right from the beginning. Of course there's so much variety in the tempos here, the guitar riffs are thick, heavily distorted, with leads that are wickedly fast. Every song you don't know what to expect speed-wise. It goes from fast to moderate to slow. All of the tempos vary depending on which song you choose to pick out. This album is entirely original from every aspect.
Musically the riffs are really catchy and well thought out. An experience here is a good one if your genre is thrash metal. Riff-wise Jeff and Kerry put together some bar chords that are thick sounding, fast tremolo picked outputs as well, and moderate to mild and I mean mild like on "Dead Skin Mask". That song is a great example of exploring the life of a murderer Ed Gein. A child's voice is featured on that one towards the end of the song. Really eerie.
The lead department on here is still good. Hard to hear the difference between which guitar player is which, either Jeff or Kerry. You'd have to look on the insert to finalize who plays which solo. The riffs here are incredible. Fast, furious, ferocious, aggressive, unrelenting, then for varieties purposes, a song about a serial killer like I mentioned. Pure ingenuity on here. Amazing riffs that astonish the listener. The riffs go well with the lyrics too!
There is less focus on Satanism and anti-Christianity lyric-wise on this album. The lyrics talk about more about war that anything else. It seems like they put in an extra effort than just mindless evil, brutal words. More of dealing with like I said war and somewhat to dealing with politics plus anti-Christianity, though not that much. War is what comes out of this abomination than anything else. Very aggressive album.
If you don't own this Slayer album, do yourself a favor: pick it up as soon as possible! Talk about aggression here, hate, and just an overall chilling experience to listen to. Not knowing what to expect here is key, but once you've heard the album a couple or more times, the more it will make sense to you. Slayer totally captivates thrash metal and plays it with vigor. All of the guitars, vocals and drums are an especially violent revolution. Own it now!
Being a death metal fan, I owe a lot of my musicianship to Slayer, simply one of the most important, most influential, and one of the best metal outfits of all time. "Seasons in the Abyss" was my third contact with the band after "Divine Intervention" and the live album "Decade of Aggression". 8 of the 10 songs featured on this album are played live on "Decade", so the only two novelties for me were "Skeletons of Society" and "Temptation". Nevertheless, and although I love the live versions of the songs, when I heard "Seasons in the Abyss" as a whole, I was in awe. From the opening lines of "War Ensemble" to the slowly fading chords of "Seasons", this album is a timeless masterpiece.
It is by far not the fastest nor the most brutal Slayer album, but it is the thickest. Every song has a sort of underlying groove that actually builds up a chilling atmosphere, a raw and thick feeling that something lurks in the shadow ready to jump on you and eat you alive. Sometimes the fastest and most brutal isn't the heaviest. This is one such case.
Some tracks stand out as absolute classic killers: "War Ensemble" wraps you up in belligerent aggression and mesmerizes you with that insane riffing that builds up until Araya screams "War Ensemble!!!" and gives way to a sonically murderous chorus. "Spirit in Black" has the first real scarified mood on the album with the sick lower-pitched vocals by a surprisingly versatile Tom Araya. Such versatility spreads out to the entire band in the next track, "Expendable Youth", where a slower pace actually adds to the intensity of the song structure and makes it a hell of a heavyweight. "Dead Skin Mask" is simply one of the best Slayer songs ever. It is the perfect soundtrack to a dense psychological horror movie with its slowed down tempo that will make your blood temperature rise slowly but steadily, especially as Araya keeps repeating the chorus and the girl begs to be set free. The guitars fading out are just eerie. Then come lots of creepily dense songs such as "Hallowed Point" and "Temptation", but there are also typically thrash-forward songs as well such as "Skeletons" and "Born of Fire". The title track finishes the album, summing up perfectly the whole thing. It starts out with a slow pace and slowed down tempo, then begins to build a tension that culminates in pure thrash metal power while never falling into any sort of relentless chaos.
Through this album, Slayer proved that an excellent thrash album does not have to be played at 100 miles an hour, nor does it have to be full of chaotic riffing. This is a perfect bond between thrash power and melody.
For the first time in their career Slayer released a copy of an earlier album. The growth of their first 5 years obviously stagnated and now the band focussed more on perfecting and crystallising everything they had tried earlier. The result is called “Seasons in the Abyss”.
Whereas South of Heaven did have a few faster songs, they increased the amount a bit here to achieve a better balance. The best example of the slow-fast approach the band attempted on South Of Heaven and perfects right here would be ‘Spirit In Black’.
As far as slow material goes, ‘Dead Skin Mask’ and ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ simply continue the slow eerie slow thrash approach the band experimented with on South Of Heaven. Both these songs have good melodies and keep up the tension throughout. The band, especially Araya, sound a lot more at ease this time on this kind of material making the songs sound convincing as hell.
Next improvement was that the faster songs on ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ were much better than the ones on South Of Heaven. Okay, they’re not on par with their best efforts from Hell Awaits nor Reign In Blood, but especially ‘War Ensemble’ and ‘Born Of Fire’ are simply superb well composed furious thrashers with a high level of catchiness.
And of course there were the groovy mid paced songs. Remember how Araya almost single-handedly killed ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’’ on South Of Heaven? Well, he has learned much, found his strength again and really adds something to ‘Blood Red’, ‘Expendable Youth’ and ‘Skeletons Of Society’ this time. I wish he had given a performance like this two years earlier.
Now what is it that makes this album still not good enough to be called an excellent slayer album? Simply two things. Lack of true character and production. The lack of character lies in the fact that the band only uses old tricks here and mainly focuses on three key types of songs, strategically placed upon the album. A very contrived album to be honest and of course playing very safe.
The production, though better than South Of Heaven as far as drums and vocals go, still falls a bit short concerning the guitars. King & Hanneman both have a ‘fluffy’ sound which suits the mid- and slow paced material better than the really fast songs. As far as the guitars go I still prefer the much sharper Reign In Blood or even Divine Intervention approach. Thrash guitars should have more definition than here on Seasons in the Abyss.
“Seasons in the Abyss” is just good. Nothing more, nothing less.
Throughout the 1980s, Slayer had been perhaps THE leading force in extreme thrash metal. While their contemporaries like Metallica and Megadeth were gradually streamlining their sound and appealing to major audiences, Slayer seemed to be doing anything to make sure they stood alone. And indeed, they did. While "Show No Mercy" and "Hell Awaits" were definitely feral, unrelenting, brutal examples of no-frills thrash, "Reign in Blood" took those elements into then-unchartered territory. It was a half-hour slab of flesh-ripping sonic torture, dragging you in and pummeling you with a psychotic, bloodthirsty frenzy, clearing out just as fast as it had arrived. Perhaps the band themselves realized they couldn't possibly top the speed and mayhem on "Reign in Blood", so 1988's "South of Heaven" was confusing to many fans because the songs were, for the most part, slower and more doomy in approach. It's a criminally underrated album, but in my opinion it's one of their highlights. Then came "Seasons in the Abyss" in 1990, which was their highest charting album at the time and their best-selling. Many fans have remarked it's kind of a middle ground between the speed of "Reign" and the slower, more sinister atmosphere of "South of Heaven". That's about as good a description as any.
"War Ensemble" starts things off in fine form, with perhaps their most recognized guitar riff next to "Angel of Death". This is one of the fastest songs on the album, and one of the longest. Dave Lombardo proves once again why he's regarded as one of the best metal drummers of all time, while Tom Araya shouts and screams over the racket like a demented Gen. Patton barking orders. The soloing by Jeff Hannemann and Kerry King is still plenty atonal and shrieky, but there's also a subtle sense of melody seldom heard before, or after, this album. "Blood Red" is a more mid-paced number with some catchy riffs during the chorus. The song concerns the Tiananmen Square massacre in Bejing in 1989, where over a thousand protestors were slaughtered. This album is really where Slayer's current lyrical fixation of tyrannical governments, social decay, and criminal insanity came into full focus, abandoning the Satanism of past albums. "Spirit in Black", though, makes a brief return to their early lyrical musings, and this song is also a fast, ripping example of their style of thrash. Tom's vocals are actually intelligible throughout most of the album, making the lyrics easy to follow. "Expendable Youth" weaves a tale of adolescents wasting away in inner-city gang violence. Tempo-wise, this is one of their "slow" songs although "slow" and "Slayer" put together really shouldn't mean such a bad thing like a lot of these reviewers seem to think. This isn't surprising for the band, since Los Angeles was pretty much a war zone at the start of the 1990s. It's a stark, blunt depiction of the cruelty and the waste of gang violence, the pointlessness and futility. Next up is "Dead Skin Mask", a chilling soliloquy about Ed Gein, the "Plainsfield Butcher" of the early 1950s. Tom's vocals take on a detached, ghostly, droning quality which fits the song VERY well... perhaps TOO well. The voiceover at the end of one of Gein's captives lends the song a gruesome, ghastly ambience. A sickening, deathly dirge, and then "Hallowed Point" rips wide open, hammering you from all directions. The lyrics are pretty graphic, seemingly a demented tale of a mass murderer, and it's one of those classic Slayer songs you just need to thrash around to.
The last half of the album to me, for some reason, seems to lose some momentum, but still provide a nice, stiff kick in the teeth. "Skeletons of Society" is a post-apocalyptic tale of a world falling to pieces, which at the time, I'm sure, was very appropriate and could easily be set to a montage of news footage of some recent events of today. "Temptation" is not exactly a blindingly fast scorcher, but at the same time, not a "South..." type funeral march. It juggles the two styles, and due to a studio mistake, Tom tracked two different vocal takes for this song. The first take was supposed to be erased because Kerry had his own idea for how Tom should sing the song, but the first take remained along with Tom's re-recorded vocals and the double-tracked vocal lines create a spooky vibe. "Born of Fire" is a short, to-the-point thrasher, marking another return to the Satanic lyrics of Slayer's past. To be honest, this song is forgettable compared to the closing cut, the monstrous, overpowering title track. A doom-laden, foreboding opening section with some haunting, well-played clean guitar lines, conjuring a picture of a deranged killer sitting in his hideout, surrounded by the dismembered bodies of his victims, ripping his own face to shreds and screaming at nothing but the dead audience spread around him. The song is one of Slayer's longest, and definitely their darkest, ever. I read somewhere it was inspired by the crimes of Ted Bundy (who, prior to the album's release, had been executed for the savage murders of some thirty women) but whatever the inspiration was, it's perhaps Slayer's most intricate. haunting song.
There is a lot of dissention over this album. Some fans love it; others despise it, citing the seeming "commercial" edge. I've never been caught up in silly purist bullshit, and I strongly suggest this album for all Slayer fans who are perhaps a bit more open-minded, and for thrash fans in general.
If there is one position that a thrash fan would never like to be put in, it is a state of cognitive dissonance between what he personally enjoys and what the scene may see as inferior material. Although not quite as strict in its limited stylistic evolution as black metal, there are certain avenues that tend to be unacceptable in thrash metal quarters, and slowing down and utilizing groove more often than in a few sporadic changeup sections tends to fall into that. But there is a fine line between what constitutes all out groove metal in all of its dim witted majesty, it’s mostly poor panhandling half-thrash predecessor, and what is instead a better fit of catchiness and aggression than what is normally accepted as standard.
There’s this bandwagon mentality that tends to accompany either absolutely loving or loathing this release, because there isn’t really anything on here that is offensive or boring, nor is there any fits of unfettered speed and rage. The production, the riff collection, the vocal delivery, and every thing else is an even match of the fast paced Slayer that pushed the boundaries in the mid-80s and the seasoned discipline of a soldier. The mixing quality is just a tiny bit short of the extremely polished sound of Metallica’s self-titled, while the lead guitar tracking is as crystal clear as the glass door of an unused shower, and the bass being about an inaudible as was the case on Metallica’s “And Justice For All”.
The solos themselves are the overall highlight if you’re looking for something that breaks out of the solid arrangement category and represents the more out-of-control side that Slayer was better known from earlier in their career. Hanneman and King dish out the usual neo-tonal smatterings of rapid scale ascensions and 3 and 4 note clusters and sequenced patterns, which negotiate this cleaner cut version of the band well when considering how their style was originally crafted for a much more extreme sound. Even when things slow down the leads somehow manage to maintain their extreme edge, serving up a better version of the half-thrash atmosphere than what was encountered a couple years later.
When the songs are faster and closer to the Reign in Blood/Hell Awaits sound, everything manages to maintain a solidly good to exciting ratio. If there is a best of the fast paced thrashers it’s “War Ensemble”, which is almost a more compact and controlled version of “Hell Awaits” meets a more discernable version of “Angel of Death”. The structure is a little more of a methodical fast to slow and back to fast thrasher than the epic riff machines it sounds similar to, but it gets the job done nicely. “Hollowed Point” and “Born of Fire” reach the closest to the bash your best friend’s head in with a shovel, vomit on the masses brand of speedy thrash that most in the scene eat up, but are constructed much more symmetrical riff and lead break wise than the pre-South of Heaven material. Everything else in the fast category tends to fall into a middle ground between these two extremes, and consequently don’t stick out quite as much.
The slower material gets a little bit mixed, but nothing really crosses over into being the brain killing, chug-a-chug tribal groove that dominated the mid to late 90s. “Dead Skin Mask” and “Expendable Youth” are a little too slow and not quite as interesting as the bulk of South of Heaven’s parallel material. The vocal delivery on the former is a little bit awkward, and the spoken section is more silly than scary, but the music itself stays interesting. “Skeletons of Society” is probably the simplest and most groove-like of all the individual songs on here, but it also proves to be the most fun and head nod worthy. If you don’t like simplistic riff work and a catchy chorus, it will obviously not appeal to you, but if we have nothing but thrashers from start to finish the intended effect tends to diminish quickly.
As is usually the case on a good Slayer album, most of the greatest ideas are reserved for the title track. Instead of a fairly repetitive doom riff that sounds like a slow version of “Reign in Blood” (South of Heaven), the intro has this dark atmospheric quality that sounds middle-eastern, but with this almost Southern sounding slow riff superimposed upon it. When it kicks into the main riff it takes on a heavier mid-tempo character but with an underlying epic feel. The chorus is extremely memorable and occurs with the same regularity as your typically structured song. What it may lack in total numbers of riffs it makes up for with a perfect execution, as Tom Araya gets about as close to melodic singing as he has ever gotten. The lyrics are also extremely progressive and intellectual in comparison to past work, taking a sort of philosophical approach that matches up with similar progressive death/thrash albums of the time such as Death’s “Human” and Darkthrone’s “Soulside Journey”.
As far as the reputation that this album has gotten over the past 18 years or so, everyone opining on it tends to sound like a seasoned critic yet misses the mark entirely on this album. It isn’t the poison groove pill that many think it is, nor is it quite a classic in the same vein as “South of Heaven” or “Hell Awaits”. It’s sort of a compromise between those two contrasting eras of Slayer with some very limited modern elements. There comes a time where you either let a collective misconception of this album’s nature based on the time of it’s release and what was going on around it prevent you from enjoying it, or you simply tune out all the chatter and let your own ears be the judge of things. If you choose the latter, you will likely find yourself enjoying this as much as most other top tier thrash metal releases.
For such a loud and fast album with so many riffs, 'Seasons In The Abyss' sure is a boring one. This is the first time I've had an entire album full of songs I remember very well, not because they're actually good, but just because they're designed to be memorable. I actually find the benighted later albums of Slayer to be more interesting than this; at least they're less middle-of-the-road. I hate mediocre things much more than I do genuinely bad ones, so this album gets a lot of ire from me.
So there's two songs on this album: fast, thrashy ones, and slower, more melodic ones. Neither category is very exciting, particularly when the latter ones are so openly groove-laden and overtly accessible. 'Dead Skin Mask' is the most typically scorned for its fairly dumb main riff and silly vocal performance, but I think 'Skeletons Of Society' is even more fundamentally awkward and openly unnecessary. The title track is probably the best song on here, probably because it sounds like it came from earlier in the band's career, to some degree. It's at least moderately entertaining, most of all in the enjoyable if somewhat cheesy chorus.
The fast songs all just run together. 'War Ensemble' is a kind of Slayer classic, though I'm not sure why: it's just a collection of fast riffs and drumming and vocals with no real substance to it. It's just a list of thrash conventions, really. I like 'Spirit In Black', 'Hallowed Point', and 'Born Of Fire'; they more or less sound aggressive and convincing. But then there's tracks like 'Expendable Youth' which are just complete abortions from top to bottom, or 'Temptation' which isn't offensive but just fizzles out lamely. 'Blood Red' is filler. Oh wait, it looks like that's all the tracks. There's little content here. Four out of ten tracks are worth listening to. Not a very good ratio by Slayer standards.
Production and playing are adequate if unexceptional, as you would expect.
Honestly, I just expect more from the band, and if they can't deliver more, I expect much, much less. This is an inoffensive album which occasionally gets my head nodding, but apart from that, doesn't really move me in any way. It's still Slayer; there's a lot of atonal solos, 'classic' thrash riffing (though it seems more by-the-numbers and uneventful than ever), and Araya screams and shouts a lot and supposedly plays bass though you couldn't tell it from the mix. If you particularly care a great deal about Slayer, get it, otherwise, Slayer is dead, 'Reign In Blood' is the best album ever because it's the fastest, Slaaaaayeeeer, 'Hell Awaits' was better, etc.
What Metalhead doesn’t know Slayer? Slayer remain one of the most popular, recognized and influential (for better or worse) bands in the history of the Metal. A typical discussion of fans’ favourite albums almost inevitably brings up this album. Many consider it as a classic album worthy enough to be placed alongside Reign In Blood. This was among the first albums of this band that I ever bought and throughout my teens always considered it to be among the best albums Slayer had to offer. Now, with the benefits of age and many more years experience of metal and other forms of music, I’ve come to a different conclusion.
After releasing the hyper-fast and aggressive Reign in Blood, Slayer countered by going slower (in a relative sense) with South of Heaven. As a follow up to the latter, Slayer sought to combine these two elements in this album. The results, as often is the case when one tries to reconcile two antithetical elements, is middling at best.
The album opens furiously with War Ensemble, a wonderful thrash fest of a song that is justifiably considered a classic song nowadays. This track just sears with intensity and compositionally speaking, is a very well written song and has always been one my favourite songs by this band.
Blood Red is next, and to be honest, I never grasped what the hype about this song was. The intro riff is mildly interesting and the main riff is typical of Slayer’s use of melody, but this song has never gelled with me. This song never really develops into anything interesting and its only redeeming quality is that it’s the shortest song on the disc. Spirit in Black also suffers from this: a somewhat interesting intro riff is lost in an abyss of indifferent and unoriginal riffing. I’ve always felt Born of Fire and Spirit in Black should’ve been fused together and the result would’ve been one awesome song, as opposed to two mediocre ones.
Expendable Youth is one of the mid-tempo songs and to be honest, its one of the most boring songs this band has ever written. This song makes Gemini sound like a Cryptopsy song. On South of Heaven, when Slayer somewhat slowed things down, they at least had great riffs to compensate for the relative lack of speed. The riffs in this song are dull and uninteresting. There is nothing to make this song compelling. How and why people rave about it is beyond me. Skeletons of Society is another mid-tempo song that is completely forgettable.
Hallowed Point is a pretty good song, but I’ve always had the impression that Slayer ran out of ideas for this one after the two minute mark and so Kerry King and Jeff Henneman decided to fill-out the time by trading solos. Temptation, despite making a cat headbang in one briefly popular internet video, is another mediocre song that isn’t memorable outside its intro.
Dead Skin Mask and the title track are songs that I still enjoy today but this album has little to offer me nowadays. This album is too self-conscious and deliberate for its own good. By attempting to reach a compromise between the dominant, and in Slayer’s case contradictory, aesthetics of South of Heaven and Reign in Blood, they compromised the quality of their music. Previous albums had their hiccups and small flaws, but all were still excellent albums that are justifiably heavily praised to this day. This album has some great ideas, but many of them are squandered by this band’s insistence on providing some sort of a balance. Essentially, Slayer are intentionally watering themselves down and lowering their standards. Would you expect to find any sub-standard elements on any of this band’s previous albums? Of course not. But this album is filled to gills with mediocre riffs and boring songs. Needless to say, this is a betrayal of what this band once stood for. This album is but the first step in Slayer’s steady and ongoing decline and sadly, things have only gotten worse.
Opinions vary on the subject, but if you ask me, this is when Slayer started to suck. The ferocious attack of their early material has been softened up and even their powers of heavy metal songwriting have failed them.
The best song on the album is in fact the worst one, and that would be “Dead Skin Mask”. Predictable, chorus-driven, and centered around a distinctive riff, it’s what gets played on the radio in Hell. If it’s a pop song by the standards Slayer set on earlier albums, give it credit for being a really good one.
Taking a close second is the title track. This is the only song on the album that actually has a tune, and then only during the chorus. Araya’s attempts at proper singing on South of Heaven are missed. This is Slayer-pop too, but it’s faster so people tend not to notice so much.
The other songs are terrible. Many of them are the most-liked, too – “War Ensemble” seems particularly popular – though I will not pretend to fathom why, other than their being more angry and “more thrash” (not exactly a demanding standard). Boring, monotonous, predictable… oh, I already used the word “predictable” once in this review. Perhaps I should consult a thesaurus. I guess the aim for most of this album is to memorable but aggressive songs, but this only translates into simplistic, lengthy, monotonous, lazy, and otherwise quite aggravating choruses in nearly every song. Slayer decided that melody’s for fags and complexity’s for nerds, and so delivered an album of paint-by-numbers sub-Pantera metal retardation.
Plus the production bites: the guitars have buzz but no edge and the vocals are much too loud, particularly given their strained, atonal delivery.
All in all: this album’s so bad it’s scarcely ten times better than Divine Intervention. As for the band’s subsequent catalog: don’t ask.
Slayer has always been best known for creating the classic Reign In Blood album. Said to be a thrash masterpiece, some even go as far as to proclaim it as the greatest thrash release ever. While Reign In Blood was certainly memorable and classic, I would have to be one to argue that what we have here is even better. Seasons In The Abyss is in opinion, Slayer's greatest release, unmatched by anything they created before or after. This album is very varied when it comes to speed, some tracks are fast and vicious, while others are slow and haunting. Essentially it combines the fast and sinister nature of Reign In Blood with the slower, more sophisticated dark atmosphere of South Of Heaven.
The music here is straight forward thrash metal. The vocals here are nothing really different out of Tom Araya, which is certainly fine with me. Although they sound more like his performance on South Of Heaven, rather then his vocals on Reign In Blood. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman once again put on a great performance on guitars, with some of the most catchy and memorable riffs that they have ever produced, my personal favorite performances being on the tracks Dead Skin Mask, Spirit In Black, Skeletons Of Society, and the title track. The drums are quite aggressive, Dave Lombardo manages to come up with inventive fills that never fail to satisfy.
As stated earlier, this album is very varied when it comes to speed and aggression. We have our ruthlessly fast songs, such as War Ensemble, Hallowed Point, Spirit In Black, and Born Of Fire. Then some mid paced tracks thrown in, those being Skeletons Of Society, Blood Red, and Temptation. Then we have songs of slower tempos, such as Expendable Youth, Dead Skin Mask, and the title track. All of this variation makes sure that the listener never becomes bored of the album, as each track brings something new to the table. Definately a good move on there part. Lyrically, this is nothing new really, not that it matters, the lyrics mainly focus on war, death, and corruption. And Dead Skin Mask is of course about Ed Gein's murders.
This is truly a masterpiece they have created here, not much else to be said.
Judging from the first few listens, this would probably be hailed as the best Slayer album ever recorded. Every song from start to finish, save one (“Temptation”), leaves a mark that makes you want to listen to it again. Never has a Slayer album been this infectious and catchy! Even mad thrashing songs like “War Ensemble” and “Born of Fire” emanate a singy-songy vibe that everybody will remember for a period of time (an ominous sign for a review).
Carrying with what South of Heaven left us, the songs are strategically paced, meaning there are no songs that rekindle the breakneck, frantic, frenetic frenzy of Reign In Blood (although “War Ensemble” comes damn close). In addition, the songs are more commercially viable, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that MTV included the melodic and epic title track in the regular playlist of Headbanger’s Ball.
It then becomes evident that Slayer has matured greatly from their speed metal heydays, evident from their subdued songs and the prominence of mood and atmosphere (“Dead Skin Mask”, the title track), and tuneful solos (!), all of which are a result of improved songwriting.
However, this thing ain’t a Merlot, folks, because at the same time, this is the easiest Slayer album to digest, which is in fact a bad thing. The songs, except again “War Ensemble”, don’t really age well. Part of the problem is the simplified, straightforward attack they supplied the album. Any amazing album challenges the listeners in determining the nuances and the skill of the music before they are able to unfold the greatness of the album. With this, however, almost all of the songs are upfront and naked, as they suffer from the same thrash-chugging riff template. “Blood Red” and “Skeletons of Society” are some of the songs which are nicely composed, memorable, and musically convincing, but after playing it back again and again, given their problems, they sound exhausted and eventually loses their power.
Granted that this album falls a little bit short from its conceived reputation, it still is a worthy listen. It’s just a bit overrated for its own good.
OK, so maybe this album has a nostalgic value for me, being my initiation to the violent world of the (once) mighty Slayer. But even when all sentimental feelings are put aside, this is still objectively their finest release ever. I know all the albums from their classic period – you know, the one beginning with “Show No Mercy” and ending with “Divine Intervention” (yes, despite of what some people would make you believe, there was another worthwhile effort after “Seasons”) –, but none of them are quite as good as this one.
No, not even the much-revered “Reign in Blood.” It might be overall faster and more brutal than “Seasons,” but let’s be realistic here: “Reign” clocks in at under half an hour! I mean, if “Reign” were like fifteen minutes longer, wouldn’t it be rather boring? I like that album as much as anybody, but one major reason why it’s so good is that it’s over before it can get too repetitive, because there certainly isn’t much there in terms of variation. Sure, “Reign” is an undisputable classic, but what if Slayer had gone on to record a couple more thirty-minute-long albums in that vein? Wouldn’t everyone have accused them of copying themselves and being lazy songwriters? And besides, people who won’t acknowledge that “Seasons” has plenty of high-speed thrash assaults on its own should seriously have their ears checked – yeah sure, “War Ensemble” (including that infamous “Waaaaaaaaar!!!” shout by Tom Araya), “Spirit in Black,” “Hallowed Point,” and “Born of Fire” are all pretty lame, aren’t they…
I really think Slayer made the right decision in writing songs for “Seasons” that hearken back to the speed and brutality of “Reign” while retaining some of the better elements of “South of Heaven.” Because that’s exactly what “Seasons” is: a well-balanced blend between the musical directions of its two predecessors. However, thanks to the rediscovered aggression in Tom Araya’s vocals, it never has that slightly whiny undertone by which “South” was marred at times…
Moreover, the alleged lack of riffs on “Seasons” has never occurred to me. It may not exactly be up there with “Darkness Descends,” but believe me, it has all the riffs it needs to make each song effective. After all, while it sure is good to have a great variety of riffs, there’s absolutely no point in artificially stuffing songs chock-full of riffs just for the sake of demonstrating how good you are at playing your guitar. That may have worked on “Darkness Descends,” but it didn’t work all that well on “Time Does Not Heal”… I mean, some people apparently sit in front of their stereo with pen and notepad, meticulously counting every single riff, and god forbid there aren’t at least 200 different riffs played – that album MUST suck by definition…
Well, back to “Seasons”… Apart from the fast songs already mentioned, there are also a couple of rather slow, plodding ones, and they also work really well. “Dead Skin Mask” is very reminiscent of “South of Heaven,” and not one bit as gay as some people claim. On the contrary, with its smooth guitar leads it does a great job at evoking a sinister, menacing atmosphere, though I must say I could have done without that annoying kid screaming at the end… “Expendable Youth,” with its memorable chorus and overall “street gang feel,” is also pretty enjoyable, as are “Skeletons of Society” and the underrated “Temptation.”
Make no mistake, though, the best song on “Seasons” is of course the monumental title track, containing some of the best riffs Hanneman and King have ever penned down. Just thinking about the one that comes right before the main riff – you know, the one Beavis and Butthead used to headbang to – almost makes me drool all over my keyboard (ARRRGH, I think I just electrocuted myself). This song can best be described as epic Thrash, and needless to say, it rules for the entire length of more than six minutes.
An album like “Seasons” really makes me wish Slayer could still write songs like this. As we all know, the band took a turn for the worse (well, MUCH worse) with the Mall-influenced abomination that was “Diabolus in Musica.” Although “God Hates Us All” marked a slight improvement, at least containing a handful of decent songs, it seems very doubtful the guys can return to the glory of old with their next record – if it ever gets released, that is. I mean, are Slayer lazy songwriters or what?! Even dinosaurs like Iron Maiden manage to put out a new record every three years or so…
Choicest cuts: Seasons in the Abyss, War Ensemble, Spirit in Black, Dead Skin Mask, Expendable Youth, Born of Fire
I saw so many reviews praising this release I just had to chip in and offer a dissenting opinion. And dissenting it is in that I find it the beginning of Slayer's weakening as a force to be reckoned with in metal.
Firstly, the production, while better than the tin can ambience of "South of Heaven" is not that good; the guitar sound is still a bit weaker and thinner than "RIB", the bass is as always nonexistent, and the drums still sound like Dave's beating on tin cans. Far from the first ingredient in a recipe for good metal, ya'll.
And secondly, the soloing isn't quite as insanely inspired as their earlier material, either, especially when King & Hannemann actually try and play more melodically. That comes off as forced and uninspired compared to their trademark whammy bar madness. The riffing is better on the thrashers, too, it flows more naturally and doesn't feel as dull as the riffs for the slower songs, which just kind of plod along. In fact, it sounds to me like they simply recycled the same main riff and feel for several of those slower songs--boooring.
Then there's Araya's vocals, which continue in the same semi-melodic vein as last album. Unfortunately he sounds whiny and weak about half the time--the slower songs, surprise, surprise.
In fact, only about half this album is worth listening to, and that would be the barnburners that show Slayer still had it on this album. Well, OK, "Blood Red" is pretty good--the opening riff is nice and dissonant and the riff right before the verse is pretty sweet too, slightly Sabbathy in its feel. And the title track is not half bad, especially that menacing intro and that galvanizing verse riff. Even the chorus, with its multitracked vocals, is more effective than elsewhere. But "Expendable Youth" especially...ick. Booooring!
Really, Slayer should've stuck with what they did best, the blazing thrash numbers with occasional dips into slower parts for dynamics and breathing room instead of making half an album and the rest of it forgettable shite. But how can I not love "Hallowed Point", the last half of "Spirit in Black" (the first half sounds entirely too cliched and awkward to my ear to really be effective), and of course "War Ensemble"--WAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!! "Dead Skin Mask" has a pretty creepy atmosphere, especially at the end when the gremlin voice starts yelling and screaming under Araya's droning chorus vocal part--too bad the riffs are mostly not up to maintaining that atmosphere.
Not one of Slayer's better albums, this was, and most everything that followed got worse and worse. Download the faster songs if you must, and check out the slower songs at your own risk so as to avoid intense boredom.
What can you say about Slayer? They are one of the most aggressive and long-lasting metal bands in the genre. They challenged people with their speed, and in 1988's South of Heaven, they challenged their fans with the amount of melody included in that album. Their 1990 release Seasons in the Abyss is probably their most well-rounded release ever. It takes everything from their previous decade of work and puts it into one album. It has the uncompromising aggression of Reign in Blood yet still keeps the melody on South of Heaven.
This album once again proves Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King to be a guitar-playing force to be reckoned with. The album kicks off with the musical blitzkrieg “War Ensemble” and beats you down from start to finish. Kerry’s solo with the low E finger tapping was very cool, and is a great idea that I haven’t heard from anyone else. Jeff Hanneman plays squealing, frightening, solos on songs like the incredibly fast and brutal “Hallowed Point”. “Dead Skin Mask” is an ode to everyone’s favorite hick/serial killer, Ed Gein and is probably the most eerie Slayer song ever. The riff, the spoken word introduction by singer Tom Araya, and the weird samples of a child screaming at the end put chills up your spine. The album ends with the epic title track, and it is quite atmospheric with the brooding riffs and lyrics. It is one of the best songs on the album.
Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss was a great way to start the 90s and is one of the band’s best efforts. This is probably their most accessible and one of their most focused albums to date.
Now, most people think of Reign In Blood as Slayer's best album, but I think it's their worst. Why? Because it's repetitive. it's basically the same riff over and over(Besides Raining Blood and Angel Of Death). This Album, is not. Seasons In The Abyss is my favorite Slayer album. The opener is great, there is no filler, and the last song is a great ending. The intensity is very high, especially on War Esemble, Hallowed Point and Born Of Fire.
The best part of SITA is the difference. It's way more orignal than the past two CD's they released (RIB and SOH) and has a better vibe. The production is top notch, you can hear everything. The drums sound great, the guitars have great tone, and Tom still has his voice. Dave Lombardo actually plays the drums! What I mean is, he doesn't stay to the simple Oompa Loompa beat like normal. He plays slower on some songs, and faster on others. He throws in more technical rolls, and uses more of his huge set.
Jeff and Kerry riff it up like always, but they do it a little better than normal. They seem to really put alot into this album.
Overall, it's a great CD, and a MUST have for any Thrash metal fans.
South of Heaven = too slow.
Reign in Blood = too fast.
Seasons in the Abyss = just right.
Ah yes, I recall those fuzzy days when Slayer was a force to be reckoned with, the heaviest fucking band in the world. The days when I scrawled Slayer on any nearby flat surface, the days when metal was new and Slayer was best. I've come a long way since then (4 years ago!) but Slayer still kicks ass, and Seasons in the Abyss is their most balanced and consistent album..... you have slow and grinding songs like Expendable Youth and Skeletons of Society side by side with pure thrashers.... it's a regular metal block party. There are so many classics on this bad boy it becomes ridiculous.
Messers Hanneman and King shred the fucker up... Seasons was perhaps their peak as far as riffage goes. Nothing drastic, just 3 or 4 killer riffs per song. Hollow Point is the exception... talk about thrash! Songs like Spirit in Black and War Ensemble SCREAM heavy fucking metal... who hasn't screamed FORWARD TO WARRRR at an unsuspecting stranger for no apparent reason? It's like a rite of passage
On with the "slow jams". Dead Skin Mask is Slayer's twisted ode to Ed Gein... talk about creepy. They really hit a nerve... especially when the little kid comes in with "mr. gein.... mr gein? MR GEIN?". Seasons in the Abyss is one of the songs that turned me onto this thing in the first place so I must appreciate.
Not exactly a blazing thrasher... solid nonetheless. Essential for fans of metal.
After releasing the godly South of Heaven, and being disappointed, Slayer decided to make "another Reign in Blood", reportedly. They failed, fortunately. The songs here are faster overall than South of Heaven, but there isn't the sense of incompleteness that RiB featured.
The album starts off with a riff that is pretty reminiscent of Evil Has no Boundaries and Angel of Death, and then the second riff is the one that is instantly memorable. "War Ensemble" overall is a pretty damn good song, as is the next one, "Blood Red". Then, "Spirits in Black" is very catchy, and a thrash demon at the same time. "Expendable Youth" is a bit average, and Dead Skin Mask is, frankly, quite horrible. It's midpaced, it's boring, it's only fun because the little kiddies like to hear about Ed! Who likes to sleep and dance with the DEAD! It's complete shit, and the worst Slayer song ever. (By "ever" I mean of the albums worth giving a fuck about, i.e. the first Lombardo era.)
Then, the album REALLY picks up. Hallowed Point is fast, and also has great riffs. Skeletons of Society is more midpaced, but has a nice catchy chorus, repeated a few times at the end. "Temptation" and "Born of Fire" are probably the most underrated songs on here - both have great catchy riffs that forbid you to do anything but headbang until you puke, especially the middle part of the latter..
The last song is a true classic. "Seasons in the Abyss" is evil, vicious, and has the best guitar solo Slayer had since Crionics. It's pretty much the logical successor to the song "South of Heaven" in terms of atmosphere, and closes the album on a great high note.
Overall, this is quite a good album - a bit sloppy in the beginning, but there is really only one total boner of a song, and quite a few good ones.