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Holy hell, this is good. It's nice to hear a blast of what real old school hardcore sounds like, unlike the sludgy groove metal dirges youngsters associate with the style these days. When I say "old school", I mean as in early 1980s, when hardcore was frenzied, furious at the world at large, got in, made its point, and got out inside of a minute and change, all at about 100mph, with ranting screaming vocals and energy to spare. Slayer have always made it clear that this played a big part in their sound and style, and this album is a very convincing run through of some golden oldies from that era. I'd rate it higher if it were an actual Slayer album, since they've not had this kind of energy since the days of "South of Heaven" and "Seasons in the Abyss" (on the faster numbers from that album anyway), but this is still a really good album anyway.
I give them credit for mostly not choosing obvious bands (other than Minor Threat) from the genre to cover, first of all; not many folks these days remember the likes of D.I., TSOL, Dr. Know, and Verbal Abuse. I could've done with a Bad Brains tune or two, myself, but that's just my preference. I think they were choosing mostly West Coast bands since they're from L.A., and that's perfectly OK, since, again, most of these bands are not known at all to today's youth.
It's well-produced, too, which makes these songs have even more impact than the original versions in that respect; the guitars have that trademark grungy Slayer tone from back in the day, the drums are perfectly mixed, and the bass is even audible, something you don't hear on a Slayer album. Then again, the bass led the charge much of the time in hardcore's glory days, and Tom Araya gets lots of chances to shine throughout the album with a dirty bass sound that adds healthy amounts of heft and grit to the overall wall of sound, but it' s not so fuzzed out you can't hear what he's doing. And he really beats the crap out of the thing, too. To my surprise, Paul Bostaph earns the award for "Most Improved" on this album, as his drum performance here leaves his sloppy showing on "Divine Intervention" in the dust in more ways than one. He's far tighter and more intense on this album, and the bits of double kick he throws in fit well and don't come off as gratuitious at all, to my surprise. It doesn't sound as though he's triggered, either, which lends some more credibility to his cause. Hannemann and King, well, you know what to expect from them; tight riffing and their usual noisy, chaotic soloing--not as much in evidence as usual here since hardcore rarely featured lead guitar.
Standouts? Lots of 'em! I really pick Dr. Know's "Mr. Freeze" since it features some really nasty and sinster lyrics and Araya lets out the most chilling scream he'd let out in years at the time at the end as he sings "You try to think with reason/But all you can do is SCREAM!!!" In fact. his vocals throughout are fantastic, and I can envision him turning bright red, spit flying, veins bulging as he rants away with feverish intensity. Also their blistering run through of D.R.I.'s classic "Violent Pacification" is convincing, with Bostaph putting the gas pedal to the floor as he blasts away through the frenetic first half and pounding the hell out of his tom toms in the slower second half. Most everything else on this album is fun and exciting as well. The sole original tunes on here, the Ddamm songs and "Gemini" are good as well; the Ddamm songs are fun to scream along to with mindless lyrics and the circle pit part on "Can't Stand You" is awesome! "Gemini" is the creepiest thing they'd written in years at the time; a slow, simple riff with doomy ambience that really works and a solo that evokes Tony Iommi in his prime.
If you want to hear what real hardcore from back in the day sounded like, delivered by a band that obviously loves and respects the genre, you could do worse than picking this up. Obviously, going back to hear the originals as well is always a great thing, too, which I highly recommend. But yeah, this is definitely worth picking up for the fun factor and the energy level as well.