|Classic Review: Slayer - Hell Awaits|
Label: American Recordings
Year released: 1993
Originally released in: 1985
Genre: Thrash Metal
Review online: January 22, 2009
Reviewed by: Hermer Arroyo
The year 1985, the band Slayer, the album Hell Awaits, the point in time in which they would turn the corner and become one of the most evil bands in Thrash Metal. With this, their second album, they make a giant step up from their debut in terms of songwriting and musicianship. And when looking at their discography, this record should be rated higher than it is.
The thing that makes it stand out is the primal, raw and vicious attitude that is has. The assault begins with "Hell Awaits". While other albums may have evil intros this album has THE intro. From that point on Slayer just flat out kicks your ass for 37 minutes. Gory and evil, it perfectly sets up the mood of the album. Speaking of which, special attention must be paid to the lyrics on this album: Satanic and macabre to the tenth degree. I can just imagine a good Christian fundamentalist listening to this record and shitting himself up. These lyrics are shocking for 1985 and it gave church-goers something to complain on Sundays.
Meanwhile the performance of the band is nothing to sneeze at. Beginning with Tom Araya, he spits out venom and hatred in his vocals. His bass for the first time is audible and he proves that he's extremely underrated. Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman deliver chaotic riffs and solos that have become a trademark of theirs. And then there is the drum god Dave Lombardo, he shines on this record better than any he has done in his career (with the possible exception of Testament's The Gathering). His drum frills are something to be admired and you won't stop air-drumming to these songs. I'd swear this guy is not human.
The production by Brian Slagel (yes THAT Brian Slagel) is raw and vicious, in other words perfect for setting off the mood of the album. He allows the band to fully enhance the experience of Hell Awaits. The only minor glitch in the album is the last two minutes of "Hardening of the Arteries" - doing the riff of "Hell Awaits" again is just pointless. Ending this masterpiece in such a way is disheartening but this is just me nitpicking and it cannot deter the album in any way.
Hell Awaits doesn't have the level of speed and brutality that Reign in Blood has. Having said that, this record is a tremendous influence in Death and Thrash Metal. Each song is a classic, an example of a band focused on making the best record possible. Hell Awaits could be Slayer's best album and with epic songs and vicious arrangements a great argument can be made.
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