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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.