Slayer - South Of Heaven
American Recordings
Thrash Metal
10 songs (36:54)
Release year: 1988
Slayer, American Recordings
Reviewed by Kyle

Let’s face it: If you’re reading this, you already own this album, unless you simply don't like Slayer. You’re reading this because you know and love South Of Heaven, because it’s a thrash metal classic, and because you’re intrigued about what this reviewer has to say about one of Slayer’s best and most well-loved works. I must admit, as a new reviewer I’m a little intimidated to be reviewing an album that’s so highly regarded by metal fans everywhere, but ever since I discovered that South Of Heaven is sorely missing from the Metalreviews database just a few weeks ago, I knew that this review needed to be written.

First off, I will say that South Of Heaven is, without a doubt, my favorite Slayer album, and also one of my favorite metal albums ever, period. After their first three albums, which strictly stuck to the band's signature formula of bombastic thrash metal, Slayer eased up a bit, capitalizing on their signature eerie guitar harmonies and creating a much darker atmosphere by way of slowing things down and letting the evil-ness (or perhaps, the Slayer-ness) of the music really shine through; the Black Sabbath influence here is undeniable. The progression between Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven is without a doubt the biggest leap in sound for Slayer between two albums (Unless you count the jump from Divine Intervention to Diarrhius in Crapica; I don’t count Undisputed Attitude), and through this they achieved something that hardly any metal band has done before without losing at least half their fanbase: They gained new fans and kept the old while actually toning DOWN the aggression. South Of Heaven was, at the time it was released, Slayer’s mellowest album by far, being much slower overall than the non-stop thrashfests that came before it. The rule with South Of Heaven seems to be “Less is more”; This is the first Slayer album to feature mid-paced tracks, which take up more than half of the album, and they are remarkably good considering that they’re the first the band’s ever done. Consequently, Tom Araya’s voice isn’t quite as strong, the guitar solos aren’t nearly as wild and have a good dose of melody added to them, and the riffs aren’t as blisteringly chaotic as before. Yet somehow, it all works amazingly well, and Slayer’s sound never once falters; this reasonably paced album really gave the band a chance to solidify their signature sound, without having to focus as much on the light-speed, thrashing brutality of their former works.

As for the tracks themselves, they are all fantastic, and are some of Slayer’s all-time best in my opinion. The title track kicks the album off with one of the most recognizable and distinct riffs that Slayer has ever created, and you know right from the start that the band has matured quite a bit since Reign In Blood. They really let their NWOBHM influence shine through on the slower tracks; there’s even a fantastic cover of Judas Priest’s Dissident Aggressor, which manages to sound different from the original, yet still recognizable, which in my mind is the key to a great cover. Other highlights are Behind The Crooked Cross, which sounds like a Slayer-fied NWOBHM track; Live Undead, with its slow, riff driven beginning and its thrashy second-half; and the Uber-Creepy Spill The Blood, which sends shivers down my spine every time I hear that clean-picked intro. And South Of Heaven isn’t without its thrash attacks. Silent Scream, Ghosts Of War, and Cleanse The Soul are all incredible songs, and while they may not be as fierce as what was found on Reign In Blood, they’re still plenty aggressive, and very memorable. In fact, South Of Heaven is, to me, one of Slayer’s most memorable albums; the riffs stick in your mind for life after hearing them just once, and after only a few listens to the album you will be very familiar with the music, and even though you know what’s coming next, it sounds just as fresh with every listen. For that matter, South Of Heaven sounds completely original even over twenty years later. Hundreds or maybe even thousands of bands have attempted to clone Slayer’s sound, and none have even come close. The band is THAT great.

So that’s about it from me. I absolutely love this album and this band, along with most of you reading this. And if you don’t love Slayer, that’s understandable, as no band on this planet appeals to everyone. But if you do love Slayer and don’t own this album, then what in Satan’s name is your problem? Go buy South Of Heaven immediately! Then, you may bask in the glory of this timeless album with the rest of us.

Killing Songs :
Kyle quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Slayer that we have reviewed:
Slayer - Repentless reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Slayer - Haunting the Chapel reviewed by Tony and quoted no quote
Slayer - World Painted Blood reviewed by Goat and quoted 76 / 100
Slayer - Divine Intervention reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Slayer - Undisputed Attitude reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 14 reviews click here
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