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One minor complaint, excellent nonetheless - 90%

morbert, January 25th, 2010

There are those live albums which have gone into history. We never stop talking about Live After Death, Unleashed in the East or No Sleep 'til Hammersmith. I’ve never heard anyone really bash or discard ‘Decade of Aggression’ yet for some reason this live album is often overlooked. I wonder if this had something to do with the chosen songs because it can’t be because of the production nor performance.

No overdubs here. Yes, a few minor mistakes here and there which are to be expected playing live and when keeping up the pace as much as Slayer does here. But there are no real big mistakes, the band really plays strong. Especially songs from Show No Mercy turn out great here. Everything the original recordings, from my perspective, lacked in terms of production, is done right this time. The Antichrist and especially Black Magic sound better than ever. Now this is the true potential these songs actually had.

With 5 songs, half of the Reign In Blood album is well represented. But one could complain about the low amount of songs from Hell Awaits. Only the title track is on the regular Decade edition. Very poor indeed but the Haunting The Chapel songs ‘Chemical Warfare’ and ‘Captor of Sin’ do make up for it. Obviously there are a lot of songs from the Seasons album here since they were promoting it at that time. But 8? The special edition even has 9! That’s just too much really. 5 would’ve been just right, leaving out the somewhat lesser material like the slow paced ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Expendable Youth’ and replacing them with 'Silent Scream' and 'Ghosts of War' since I could really do with more aggressive versions of those. Or even replacing the song ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ because that one takes up around 7 minutes. Honestly, they could’ve played ‘Necrophiliac’ and ‘Hardening of the Arteries (without the intro-reprise)’ here instead. Would’ve made a lot of people happier I’m sure.

However Slayer do manage to make even the least interesting songs become part of this 90 minute thrash fest. When all are played with this intensity and equal production it often even becomes painful to realize how much aggression, which Slayer obviously do posses, was lost due to the production on some old Slayer albums with the exception of Reign In Blood. Take for instance ‘At Dawn they Sleep’ on the deluxe edition which completely shatters the original, I stress, in terms of energy and aggression. Or the earlier mentioned ‘The Antichrist’.

Now I could go on how Araya isn’t always as perfect as he was on previous regular studio releases but for a live recording he’s holding up strong here considering the circumstances of being on tour and the necessary pace and energy throughout a thrash metal performance. And same could easily be said about the rest, including Lombardo. The songs here were taken from three performances in 1990 and 1991. And the sound of each song or performance fortunately doesn’t differ that much from the other as for instance that horrible A Real Dead One album by Iron Maiden.

As just being a Slayer live album it is simply great. But when also even considering the time of its release and how other thrash metal live albums sounded, it is even close to perfect. Just remember how awfully produced Nuclear Assault's Live at the Hammersmith Odeon, Dark Angel's Live Scars
And Death Angel's Fall From Grace were. They were superb bands when they recorded those albums but the production almost unbearable. For some reason the best thrash metal live recordings up till then were either VHS releases (Oidivnikufesin!), loose tracks or EP’s (Testament, Sacred Reich and Forbidden at the Dynamo for instance) and this was the first complete live album which also sounded worthy.

The other three of the big four failed to release a live album at this time, the breaking point of thrash metal. Metallica’s Binge and Purge box just came too late and incorporated too much nineties songs already (although the Seattle '89 video is truly great but should have been released…in 1989 or 1990 already!) and Anthrax’ Live The Island Years sounded hideous and also was released years overdue. And let’s not start about Megadeth, who took 17 years from their debut to finally release a full length live album, probably due to Mustaine’s brilliant vocals live.

Thus Decade Of Aggression can also be seen as a testament to the heydays of thrash metal. The Clash Of The Titans tour, the last explosion of thrash metal as one of the biggest metal scenes of the eighties before the nineties took over and the metal scene shattered into dozens of subgenres which still divide a lot of us to this day.