(This is the seventh installment in an extensive series of posts by TheMadIsraeli devoted to a retrospective analysis of the discography of Slayer, and today’s subject is the band’s 1990 album Seasons In the Abyss. Links to the preceding installments are at the end of this post. Our plan is to continue posting the remaining Parts on a daily basis until the series is completed.)
If you had asked me five years ago or more, I would’ve told you that Seasons In The Abyss is my favorite Slayer album, and the best of them all. Nowadays, frankly, I look back on it with some fondness but I also wonder what I was smoking.
Seasons… has some of Slayer’s best SONGS for sure, but as an album it’s extremely uneven. It finds the band for the first time re-treading old ground in an uninspired manner and suffers from an awful mix, even by the varied degrees of Slayer.
“War Ensemble” is Slayer defined in one song. It’s full of hellish, blazingly fast riffs full of sinister angular melody, it has a dramatic progression (you can’t tell me the entire midsection and solo section of this song aren’t complete fucking majesty), and sets the mood of Seasons In The Abyss perfectly. Among the early albums this is Slayer’s darkest one. There’s a much higher degree of riffs that are just gnarly, disgusting, a sort of deliberate organized nonsense. One of the standout aspects of this album is also the band’s dedication to writing more interesting solos and leads. While their brand of just atonal nonsense perfectly worked for their sound, King and Hanneman really made an effort here to write some epic, deliberately composed solos, and consequently it features some of the best lead work the band ever did. The entire solo section of “War Ensemble” is testament to this.
I also think this album contains, flat out, the best mid-paced, military-march sort of songs they ever wrote. “Expendable Youth”, “Dead Skin Mask”, and the title track that closes the album are quite possibly the top three of these types of songs they wrote. “Dead Skin Mask” takes the cake for a lot of people for good reason. It’s a marvelously composed song and every single part of it is memorable and haunting.
On the other hand, the album has quite a lot of by-the-numbers filler. Songs like “Spirit In Black”, “Blood Red”, “Hallowed Point”, or “Skeletons Of Society” sound like bad-form B-side material that fails to impress. It’s the first time in the band’s discography you get a real sense of a band just recycling old ideas.
Of course, you can’t talk about Seasons… without mentioning i’s epic closing title track. This song is magnificent. The drama, the riffs, the buildup of its superb intro, the lyrics — everything just falls into place here. It might still be Slayer’s best closing song of all time.
Seasons… ultimately ends up being a solid, but too often pretty lackluster album. How this used to be my favorite record of theirs is now beyond me, when the much better composed South Of Heaven came before this, and oddly I used to think South Of Heaven was the mediocre one among the band’s early work.
PART 1 (Intro)
PART 2 (Show No Mercy)
PART 3 (Haunting the Chapel)
PART 4 (Hell Awaits)
PART 5 (Reign In Blood)
PART 6 (South of Heaven)
Slayer peaked with South of Heaven. After an incredible run of recordings from Haunting The Chapel through South of Heaven, they start to stagnate here. Seasons in the Abyss is good, for sure, but it is not classic – and things would go further downhill from here (albeit, even Slayer’s weakest still sounds ok to these ears…it is the mighty Slayer after all). And I really don’t like “Dead Skin Mask” at all – it sounds far more silly than haunting to me…
JR I couldn’t disagree more with you on that. Seasons opened up the thrash sound to a lot of people. Jeff’s solo is fucking amazing!
I hear you, Richard Pisz. I also recollect it having a bigger impact when it came out than did South of Heaven, which was seen as a letdown as a follow-up to Reign in Blood. Having said that, I stand by the assertion that South of Heaven has held up better over time and is the last CLASSIC Slayer album. But, again, Seasons is in the good to great category. Also, I should have called out the title track – as others have – for being the classic song that it is!
The first time I heard this album I thought it sounded like a compromise between Reign In Blood and South of Heaven. In hindsight this album was laying the groundwork for future Slayer albums with it’s balance of thrashers and mid-tempo songs as well Araya blending screaming and singing.
War Ensemble is about as perfect of an opening track as you could ask for with a Slayer album.
Dead Skin mask is a delightfully creepy and catchy, and a concert staple.
Another great Slayer album.
This was the last great album before they lost me. Everything up to and including this always hooked me, but I’ve struggled with pretty much everything they’ve released since.
My all time favorite SLAYER album has to be GOD HATES US ALL the reason why it is a great highlighter to the style that is more intense of the attitude we’ve come to expect from SLAYER and rest assured they held nothing back let go full steam of total disregard for what it would probably do to their religious right critics unleashing a torrent of these guys are devil worshipping scum and anti christ in the tenth power and they didn’t give a fuck about doing what they are always known for and that’s the fuck you attitude to go full throttle thanks SLAYER for your enlightenment
A great record if your a fan 🙂
Bigwig, a metal-influenced punk band from New Jersey, put out so some great punk albums around turn of this century. While their overall sound veered more towards punk than metal, Slayer and other proto-thrash bands cetgainly informed their playing, as well as their compositional approach to riffs. Anyway, Bigwig used to play “War Ensemble” live and they absolutely destroyed many a venue with it- they played it dead least, always, for a reason. Fortunately, they recorded it for one of those “Punk Goes…” compilations, so I’ll link to that studio version, as I can only find one video of them doing it live and it’s very poorly recorded. |m|