SLAYER — South of Heaven (review)

SLAYER — South of Heaven album cover Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
South of Heaven was my first favorite album. The first one I ever listened to while thinking “god damn, this is music for me.” I had never heard sincerely dark or heavy music before that, and I never looked back.

It all started with my first videogame, DOOM. I played that game when I was just 2 years old – I worked the gun while my father did everything else, but it was still an incredibly memorable experience that was burned into my memory. I didn’t play the game for a long span of time because we had to get rid of it after Columbine happened, and then it became kind of a pipe dream to be able to play it again.

It was actually right as I was entering public school in 8th grade (I was homeschooled prior) that we managed to get the game again. Man that was a triumphant moment, and the game was just as great as I remembered. However, one thing that struck me was the music – holy hell, that music kicked ass.

I wasn’t even into music yet at this age. I listened to The Beatles, I listened to whatever the parents had, and I didn’t really listen too intently. I didn’t even know what metal really was, other than hearsay. But I LOVED this game’s music. I went to shady websites to download mp3s of the game tracks, and naturally, I started reading up about it more. Well it turns out a ton of the tracks are based on real songs by real bands – all metal bands I had never heard of save Metallica. I had to get this stuff.

I actually downloaded all of the original songs without listening to any of them first, bought my first mp3 player, and then listened to them all at once. It was a rite of passage of sorts. I loved everything I heard, even the gruff stuff like Pantera, who’s vocals were too much for me but the riffs were good enough to get through it. This new form of dark, aggressive music was striking all my chords, even though I had no experience with it. But at the end of the list – as the bands were in alphabetical order and there were only 10 or so – was Slayer.

Slayer hit different.

The three songs from DOOM were “South of Heaven” “Silent Scream” and “Behind the Crooked Cross” and they instantly became my favorite songs (barring “The Long and Winding Road, which will never not be one of the most beautiful songs ever). Such condensed aggression and evil had never struck me in aural form like that before. I mean, even Pantera, who were just as heavy, didn’t sound nearly as dark and evil as this. And the lyrics! Holy hell, they were actually disturbing at that age. A song about abortion – what the hell was that. And I loved them.

Finding that the songs were all from the same album, I got it immediately – digitally, physically, everything. I didn’t even know what riffs were before this! This was insane to me. The whole album was just as good as the few songs I’d heard. I easily listened to it at least once everyday for probably the rest of that school semester. And it ended up being really important in me finding my identity in a crucial period of life – I now knew that metal was my passion. I knew what kind of music I liked, I could talk about it, I met people through it, and I searched for more.

The funny thing is, though Slayer remains my favorite band, their other material didn’t click with me at first. Turns out this album was Slayer at their slowest and most melodic; if I started with any other album, I may not have been infected so easily. But yes, it was South of Heaven that turned me into a full-time metalhead, and it was the first album I could confidently say was my favorite. Listening to it while writing this review, I’m not surprised in the slightest that it gives me the same feeling of intense bliss as it did nearly 10 years ago, still comfortably sitting among my favorite albums of all time.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
5 months ago
I started with this Slayer album too, although a bit before you were born (1989), and it still remains my favourite. Some of those riffs are just so evil!


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