Classic Album Review – Slayer “Seasons in the Abyss” 1990

  When Megadeth announced that they would be performing Rust in Peace in its entirety on tour for that record’s 20th anniversary, there was some polite applause. “Why not”, we said, “that’ll be pretty good”. When Slayer announced that they would be doing likewise with Seasons in the Abyss, they got more of a “Hell Yeah!”

The general book on SITA is that it’s a combination of the aggression in Reign in Blood with the clinical skill of South of Heaven. Who am I to argue? There’s no secret to this album’s success – it’s simply got more of what everyone liked about the preceding releases, and about Slayer in general. Quite a lot more, as the quality is upheld by quantity: there are no bad songs on the record, which doesn’t always happen, even with great bands. Slayer is operating in high gear in rarefied air – even the least compelling track (the good but forgettable “Born of Fire”) would have entire albums written around it if it had sprung from the mind of Annihilator or Testament. No disrespect to those bands, but SITA is some next-level material, and Souls of Black (released on the same day!) hasn’t aged well at all.

Much of the praise for this should go to Dave Lombardo, who really puts his stamp on the record and sends it over the top. He’s not “providing a beat”, he’s playing his instrument to affect the song at hand with every swing of the sticks. His kick drum work is especially savant here, making good songs even better and taking great ones off the charts. The tom rolls in the title track are a big reason why it in particular never gets old and still receives airplay on metal shows 20 years on. 

Few metal albums can approach the insane genius of Reign in Blood, and everyone (including Slayer) knows this. This means that, for now, whenever a new Slayer record comes around we all say “I hope it’s as good as Seasons“. 9 out of 10

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