|Classic Review: Slayer - Hell Awaits|
Label: American Recordings
Year released: 1993
Originally released in: 1985
Genre: Thrash Metal
Review online: March 8, 2009
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 4.7/5 (93.92%) (79 Votes)
Hell Awaits is sort of the redheaded stepchild of Slayer albums. It is often totally overshadowed by the runaway success of its successor, Reign In Blood, while not having the underground appeal of the debut. That said, this is a definite step up from the lackluster Haunting The Chapel, and shows the band stretching out to try new things within the Thrash genre, not all of them successful.
The first thing you notice on spinning this is that the speed is back, especially on "Kill Again" which is the fastest song they had recorded to date. The riffs here are stronger than on the EP, with some of that Show No Mercy NWOBHM magic creeping into the brutality. The title track opens the album up with some especially strong riffs that still hold up even 25 years later. You can hear Tom Araya feeling his way towards the highly syncopated style of vocal delivery that would become a Slayer trademark, though a lot of the time on this disc he has not quite mastered the art of delivering lyrics at high speed, making him sound like a punk-rock pussy in places as he yaps away. "At Dawn They Sleep" shows a very Slayer groove with the marching guitars and the pounding drums, almost a blueprint for every slow Slayer song ever recorded after it. In fact, in a lot of places on this record you will hear riffs that will be later recycled in mutated form on the next three albums.
The production is weak, with a cleaned-up but largely nutless sound typical of a producer who has no idea what Thrash is supposed to sound like – all vocals and drums, the guitars mixed low except for the lead sound which is way too loud. Despite being loud the drums are flat, and have no punch to them. Performance-wise this is a solid album, and yet not as entertaining as their feral debut. A more cleaned-up Slayer is clearly not the way to go, and yet they kept going that way. Hell Awaits is the last truly underground Slayer recording, but for all that it is not that great.
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