Slayer – Hell Awaits

3 out of 5

Produced by: Brian Slagel

Label: Metal Blade

I’ll likely catch some flak for this from the legion of Slayer fans who read my reviews, but Hell Awaits – notable as it was – is somewhat similar to Show No Mercy, just, y’know, longer.  It’s essentially a band that broke new ground, and that clearly rocks, but was still figuring out its sound.  Araya descends into metal shrieks on occasion, and the wondrously building titular opener employs demon reverb vocals to tell us that hell does, indeed, await, but once the song gets properly going, Araya employs a sort of chanting huff that’s very raw at this stage, but would set the path to his developing into one of metal’s most consistently vicious singers.  Along those lines, while I’ll never claim that the group’s lyrics are especially shocking or eye-opening, I do appreciate that they tend to pick a vague theme for albums and stick to it; Hell Awaits is still clearly just hanging out in generalized imagery, but more of an in-song narrative begins to emerge here and there.

Otherwise what you’ve got is absolutely pummeling kit work from Lombardo – non-stop and flip-flopping styles between thrash and rock, perhaps most stunningly utilized on the penultimate Crypts of Eternity – shredding and sudden solos that get traded off and blasted through left and right channels (Kill Again’s solos awesomely sound like they’re ripped out of the guitar), and Slagel’s live sounding production, which is a bit more balanced than on Mercy, though the drumming comes across a tad hollow.

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