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Waaaaaaaaar!!! - 93%

lonerider, February 3rd, 2006

OK, so maybe this album has a nostalgic value for me, being my initiation to the violent world of the (once) mighty Slayer. But even when all sentimental feelings are put aside, this is still objectively their finest release ever. I know all the albums from their classic period – you know, the one beginning with “Show No Mercy” and ending with “Divine Intervention” (yes, despite of what some people would make you believe, there was another worthwhile effort after “Seasons”) –, but none of them are quite as good as this one.

No, not even the much-revered “Reign in Blood.” It might be overall faster and more brutal than “Seasons,” but let’s be realistic here: “Reign” clocks in at under half an hour! I mean, if “Reign” were like fifteen minutes longer, wouldn’t it be rather boring? I like that album as much as anybody, but one major reason why it’s so good is that it’s over before it can get too repetitive, because there certainly isn’t much there in terms of variation. Sure, “Reign” is an undisputable classic, but what if Slayer had gone on to record a couple more thirty-minute-long albums in that vein? Wouldn’t everyone have accused them of copying themselves and being lazy songwriters? And besides, people who won’t acknowledge that “Seasons” has plenty of high-speed thrash assaults on its own should seriously have their ears checked – yeah sure, “War Ensemble” (including that infamous “Waaaaaaaaar!!!” shout by Tom Araya), “Spirit in Black,” “Hallowed Point,” and “Born of Fire” are all pretty lame, aren’t they…

I really think Slayer made the right decision in writing songs for “Seasons” that hearken back to the speed and brutality of “Reign” while retaining some of the better elements of “South of Heaven.” Because that’s exactly what “Seasons” is: a well-balanced blend between the musical directions of its two predecessors. However, thanks to the rediscovered aggression in Tom Araya’s vocals, it never has that slightly whiny undertone by which “South” was marred at times…

Moreover, the alleged lack of riffs on “Seasons” has never occurred to me. It may not exactly be up there with “Darkness Descends,” but believe me, it has all the riffs it needs to make each song effective. After all, while it sure is good to have a great variety of riffs, there’s absolutely no point in artificially stuffing songs chock-full of riffs just for the sake of demonstrating how good you are at playing your guitar. That may have worked on “Darkness Descends,” but it didn’t work all that well on “Time Does Not Heal”… I mean, some people apparently sit in front of their stereo with pen and notepad, meticulously counting every single riff, and god forbid there aren’t at least 200 different riffs played – that album MUST suck by definition…

Well, back to “Seasons”… Apart from the fast songs already mentioned, there are also a couple of rather slow, plodding ones, and they also work really well. “Dead Skin Mask” is very reminiscent of “South of Heaven,” and not one bit as gay as some people claim. On the contrary, with its smooth guitar leads it does a great job at evoking a sinister, menacing atmosphere, though I must say I could have done without that annoying kid screaming at the end… “Expendable Youth,” with its memorable chorus and overall “street gang feel,” is also pretty enjoyable, as are “Skeletons of Society” and the underrated “Temptation.”

Make no mistake, though, the best song on “Seasons” is of course the monumental title track, containing some of the best riffs Hanneman and King have ever penned down. Just thinking about the one that comes right before the main riff – you know, the one Beavis and Butthead used to headbang to – almost makes me drool all over my keyboard (ARRRGH, I think I just electrocuted myself). This song can best be described as epic Thrash, and needless to say, it rules for the entire length of more than six minutes.

An album like “Seasons” really makes me wish Slayer could still write songs like this. As we all know, the band took a turn for the worse (well, MUCH worse) with the Mall-influenced abomination that was “Diabolus in Musica.” Although “God Hates Us All” marked a slight improvement, at least containing a handful of decent songs, it seems very doubtful the guys can return to the glory of old with their next record – if it ever gets released, that is. I mean, are Slayer lazy songwriters or what?! Even dinosaurs like Iron Maiden manage to put out a new record every three years or so…

Choicest cuts: Seasons in the Abyss, War Ensemble, Spirit in Black, Dead Skin Mask, Expendable Youth, Born of Fire