After the awesome Reign In Blood album, Slayer had to slightly rethink how their future recordings would sound like. They were perceived as one of “big four” of Thrash Metal, although their music was the heaviest out of those four bands. It didn’t stop them from recording great music though. This is the follow up to Reign In Blood. It is still as consistent, despite some of the music being a bit different from the previous release. But hey, it”s interesting.
Let’s have a listen to it.
We begin with the title track South Of Heaven. It begins with a demonic descending riff. It then goes bang into a very satanic sounding song. It’s not as fast nor furious as Reign In Blood but is just as good. It’s a much more different and almost pop-like song. There is a multitude of intelligent and surprising musical structures in this song. “All-in-all, South of Heaven!” is screamed, before a brilliant guitar solo. It’s a great listen. It’s slower than most songs on Reign In Blood, but still very good. It ends with some awesome feedback.
Next is Silent Scream. This music is akin to horror movies, death, and murder often in the lyrics. It’s a faster and more insane sounding piece than the title track. It’s very thrashy but really great to hear. The guitar solos sound really insane in their demonic way. It’s an excellent tune. This is not an easy listen, but a rewarding one.
Live Undead begins with a totally brilliant riff. The rest of the band kicks in quickly, and we enter a great sonic experience like no other. The lyrics here are really intense. We go along a fast/slow stop/start hybrid, perhaps where Kurt Cobain and Grunge got that idea from? Regardless, it is really good, despite clearly not as intense as Reign In Blood. The midsection is really interesting. Then – BANG, we go into super thrash mode. Epic and a must-listen.
Behind The Crooked Cross begins with a wonderful palm-muted riff and pacing drums behind it. We then go into an almost The Offspring sounding song. It’s anything but though it is merely excellent and a consistent listen from Slayer. The drums here are wonderful, providing a groove and intensifying the pace as it goes along, along with the guitar riffs. In short, it’s clever and brilliant.
Next is Mandatory Suicide. Yes, that is the name of this song. It starts slow, before going into riff mania. The music chugs along, with a rhythm to boot. It’s a lot slower than most songs so far by Slayer. The guitar solo is very good, not too slow nor too fast, it just sounds perfect for the music at hand. Great stuff. The double bass kick drum is a unique sound here. The spoken-word piece towards the end is different.
Following that is Ghosts Of War. It is unusually mixed at the start, before going bang, back into familiar Slayer territory. “Rise, Ghosts of War!” is screamed, before we go back to the manic assault of sonic production here. It’s so fast that it demands re-listening. Great stuff. If you are a guitarist reading this article, be sure to listen to Slayer to get a good comparison of fast between them and yourself. It’s intense. The palm-muted chugging here is great, too.
Read Between The Lies takes a stab against religion. Although to be fair, it’s an offensive topic to many, it makes for a great listen here for those who love Slayer. It’s a good song despite this and fits the album very well. “There is no heaven, without a hell!” is screamed, before we go into a guitar solo. Interesting stuff, even though it is confrontational. It’s more pop this recording than the previous album, but still, really enjoyable.
Cleanse The Soul follows. It’s a more consistently quick listen in terms of pace.. If you were told in the 1960s that this sort of music would be around 20 years later, you would think one had lost their mind. Regardless, the borderline satanic music of this sort of metal is to be enjoyed. It’s slightly weaker this track, but still essential listening. A good effort. The extremely fast guitar solo will blow your mind here.
Next is the cool-sounding Dissident Aggressor. It’s Slayer’s own Planet Caravan by Black Sabbath. It is slower, but so interesting and well done that it demands listening. A more laidback track by Slayer, but still very good to hear such a variety here. A quirky listen to this track, with call and response vocals and wailing guitar in the chorus. Excellent.
Last here on this album is Spill The Blood. Note that if you are religious, you would likely not enjoy this sort of music. In any case, it’s a good way to finish the album. It’s a slower and more pop-oriented very heavy metal song. A very good, and enjoyable way to finish the album. It powers up towards the end for a sonic assault.
Is this album worth a listen? Absolutely. It may only be slightly weaker than the previous album Reign In Blood. Despite that, it is still a metal classic and worth listening, if you like hearing gory horror tales set to music.