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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.