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Let me out of here, Mr. Gein! - 78%

Brainded Binky, December 13th, 2014

Whether you're really into Slayer to the point of carving the band's logo into your arm or not, there's no arguing in the fact that Slayer has had quite a huge influence in the world of metal as we know it. Their dark and sinister, yet aggressive work has paved the way for more thrash metal bands, as well as the birth of death metal. The band decided to change their sound a little bit when 1990 rolled around, however, toning it down a notch with the release of "Seasons in the Abyss". We have some songs that are crowd favorites, but others don't quite make the cut.

"Seasons in the Abyss" is what many consider to be Slayer's equivalent of Metallica's "black album", and not without good reason. Slayer seems to have slowed down the tempos of their songs quite a bit, resulting in songs like "Expendable Youth" being slower, and some fans put off. Like with the black album, however, the songs still maintain their crunch and sinister tone, so that the only thing really needed to change those songs in any way is to simply speed them up. Unlike Metallica's black album, however, we do get some of what Slayer does best; speedy tempos. They appear in each verse of "War Ensemble", and although the song's tempo gets cut in half during the chorus and afterwords, it's evidence that Slayer hasn't completely deleted its roots. It's why if I was given the choice between "Seasons in the Abyss" or the black album, I would go with the former, cos at least Slayer's album has some fast ones on it.

Even the ones that aren't fast seem to carry the haunting message that Slayer conveys. "Dead Skin Mask" has a sinister and foreboding hook at the beginning and during the chorus, something I would expect them to do, even if the song was about serial killer Ed Gein instead of their usual topic of Satanism. The band also has their signature chugging riff in other parts of the song, like during each verse. The song really isn't much in terms of fast tempos, as it is pretty mid-paced, but I can see why that particular song can be a crowd favorite. It's still got the characteristics that make up a classic Slayer song, except the speedy tempos. Again, if the song was to be changed in order to appease any nitpicky thrasher, all that would need to happen is to speed up the tempo, and it would be set. Personally, I like it the way it is, 'cos the forbidding nature of the opening riff really sets the atmosphere of Mr. Gein's Wisconsin cabin full of dead body parts and items made from human skin.

Another dramatic change Slayer has made is in the lyrics. Up until this album, the band focused more on Satanism, the topic that many of the uninitiated often associate with metal in general. It seems that Slayer wanted to break away from that common stereotype, as the subject matters seem to be a little less about the devil and more about other things. Instead, we get more of war-related lyrics as well as serial killers and insanity. Those lyrical themes were covered in Slayer songs on previous albums, so it shouldn't really come as any surprise. What does come as a surprise, however is the lack of Satan on "Seasons in the Abyss". I'd have to admit that the whole "Satan" thing is really cliched, but in Slayer's case, it's part of their charm. That charm still remains in songs like "Spirit in Black" and "Born of Fire", showing that even when changing their style a little bit, they still hold true to what got them the most attention in the first place. It's what pushed the rage buttons of moral guardians across the globe. It's good that Slayer still has it, for if the band were to get rid of their Satanic style, it would be like Metallica going country (look how well that turned out!).

There's one thing that I seem to find annoying that makes this album at a lower level than what many consider to be Slayer's greatest effort, "Reign in Blood", and that's the fact that Tom Araya tries to sing melodies in the songs rather than belting them out. Although he's sang melodies before, the melodies in "Seasons in the Abyss" all sound the same. Just listen to "Blood Red", "Expendable Youth" and the title track, and you'd hear pretty much the same melody. For this reason, I don't really listen to the songs that sound more generic, like "Blood Red", 'cos they sound like the exact same song as "Skeletons of Society", even thought the tempos are different. The riffs of those two songs sound eerily similar as well, thus adding to their clone factor. Even the songs that I would consider "good" suffer this, including "Dead Skin Mask", for it features a similar hook during the verses.

Slayer hasn't completely sold out, but "Seasons in the Abyss" shows some signs of faltering. Yes, I do enjoy some songs on here, like "War Ensemble" and "Dead Skin Mask", but then again, who wouldn't? They're the songs that redeem this album from being recognized as a total waste. It's definitely not anywhere near being as good as anything Slayer released before, but it does have its charms. Even with these changes made, it's nowhere near as bad as Metallica's black album, not by a long shot.