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3.83 | 80 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1985

Filed under Thrash Metal


1. Hell Awaits (6:16)
2. Kill Again (4:56)
3. At Dawn They Sleep (6:17)
4. Praise of Death (5:21)
5. Necrophiliac (3:46)
6. Crypts of Eternity (6:40)
7. Hardening of the Arteries (3:55)

Total Time: 37:12


- Tom Araya / bass, vocals
- Kerry King / lead guitar
- Jeff Hanneman / lead guitar
- Dave Lombardo / drums

About this release

Label: Metal Blade Records
Release date: September 16th, 1985

Recorded by Ron Fair at Eldorado, Hollywood; and recorded & mixed by Bill Metoyer at Track Record, Los Angeles. Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Studios, Hollywood.

The European first pressing on CD (Roadrunner Records, cat.-no. RR 349795) and 1993 Metal Blade remaster CD have the tracklist shown.
The Metal Blade / Music for Nations re-release (cat.-no. CD ZORRO 8) features the bonus tracks "Haunting the Chapel" (4:00) and "Captor of Sin" (3:32).

There exists a CD version of "Hell Awaits" where the inside of the cover is mis-printed with the "Show No Mercy" lyrics.

The Japanese edition (PHCR-4112) features the same two bonus tracks as the Metal Blade / MFN re-release.

Thanks to Stooge, Pekka, UMUR, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

In today's edition of Bash-a-Classic, I'm looking at 'Hell Awaits', album number two for Slayer, and I'm still struggling to see what made them stand out amongst all the other thrash metal bands of the 80's.

One of the notable differences between Slayer and the other members of the Big Four of thrash (Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax) is that Slayer's music is much less melody-based, focusing more on raw aggression and darker themes. Unfortunately, the lack of melody, in both the guitar riffs and the vocals, makes it harder for any songs to really stick in my head.

While bands like Metallica and Anthrax were already utilizing plenty of vocal hooks and memorable guitar lines, 'Hell Awaits' is a barrage of mind-numbingly boring riffs that fail to do anything other than show off Slayer's penchant for sheer speed and wailing guitar solos that go absolutely nowhere. Tom Araya's vocal style, a weird combination of angry talking and shouting, doesn't produce anything catchy, with literally every single song on this album sounding identical to the last.

Despite repeated listens, I just can't get into this album. I know Slayer are one of metals most beloved bands, and in fairness they will go on to produce some great material, but damn, these earlier releases are just brutal, and not in the good way.
Vim Fuego
Faint feedback fading in, a multitude of demonic voices chanting in tongues, the feedback becomes clearer, wails of tormented lost souls almost undetectable in the background, louder, it grows, the sense of doom impending looms larger, a throbbing bass line becomes evident first subconsciously then audibly, a guttural voice completely indecipherable growls. The feedback disappears, a thumping, driving drum beat and and razor sharp guitars in its place, rumbling kick drums join, the intensity builds, the riffs build, layer upon relentless unstoppable layer. Suddenly, a single guitar riffs furiously, followed moments later by the rest of the band keeping perfect pace, then barked vocals, clear, but too fast to comprehend, the guttural voice returns "HELL AWAITS". Screaming, wailing frenetic paced solo, single guitar again, back to the full band, once again the rhythm section drops out just leaving the guitars, another tremolo abusing solo, then suddenly it's all over with a no nonsense finish.

The listener is left asking, "what just happened?"

Hell happened.

The song just described, "Hell Awaits" is one of the most distinctive, intense opening tracks to an album ever (Slayer managed to top it with "Angel of Death" on ‘Reign in Blood’, but that's a story for another day). Many bands have produced tracks with dynamics and a sound like this since. None, however, did it in 1985.

Yes, Satan's favourite sons were back with a vengeance. The title track's ode to damnation was quickly followed by six more pummelling tracks dedicated to all things ungodly– mass murder, vampirism, and necrophilia all get a mention, and the songs just that shade more disturbing because they are first person descriptions. While Metallica were chanting "DIE DIE DIE" on "Creeping Death", Slayer upped the ante, with a chorus of "KILL KILL KILL" on "At Dawn They Sleep". The track is also notable for the first appearance of Dave Lombardo's now legendary double kick drum solo.

From the frenetic rifferama of "Praise of Death", the percussive cascade of "Necrophiliac", there's no let up on this album. As "Hardening of the Arteries" fades into nothingness, you're left with a feeling of relief the sonic barrage is over, but also craving more, as your body struggles to cope with an adrenaline induced high.

In hindsight, all the ingredients for the definitive Reign In Blood were present on Hell Awaits. It just took Slayer a little more time to perfect the recipe, cutting away the excess, expanding the essential, and building intensity.
"Hell Awaits" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Slayer. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in September 1985. Already with their debut album "Show No Mercy (1983)", Slayer had established themselves as one of the leading US thrash metal acts in those formative years of the genre, and with "Hell Awaits" they further strengthened that position.

While "Show No Mercy (1983)" featured more than a few nods toward NWoBHM, "Hell Awaits" takes Slayer´s music completely into raw and aggressive thrash metal darkness, with fast drumming, fast thrashy riffing and screaming atonal soloing and Tom Araya´s distinct aggressive vocals in front. The blasphemous lyrical themes that were introduced on the debut are further explored here in especially the title track, but also a lyrical theme like necrophilia is explored in a track like "Necrophiliac". Tracks like the two mentioned and "Kill Again" are the highlights on the album, and while the remaining four tracks are great material too, they don´t stick as well as the first three mentioned do. A couple of the tracks are also slightly too long. It´s like the entertainment value decreases and my attention wanders after the four minute mark in tracks like "Praise of Death", "At Dawn They Sleep" and "Crypts of Eternity".

The musicianship are as always solid, when talking about Slayer, so it´s the fact, that the songwriting´s still slightly imature and the sound production isn´t that powerful or well sounding either, that bring my rating down to a 3.5 star (70%) rating. That´s actually a very high rating considering the amount of negative criticism I just gave "Hell Awaits", but the rating is a testament to how great Slayer are, even when they release something a bit sub par to their best output.
Slayer enjoy better production standards and - for the most part - up the speed on Hell Awaits, though that said the opening portions of the title track include some slow doomy riffs which provide a precedent for their occasional excursions into slower material later in their career. Tom Araya spits out his harsh vocals at breakneck pace, his words tripping over themselves to keep up with the furiously fast playing, and the album as a whole presents some of the fastest thrash ever.

It's also the album where, to my ears at least, Slayer sounded the most like their thrash competition in Megadeth and Metallica, with portions reminiscent of the muscular, aggressive sounds of Kill 'Em All and Killing Is My Business. On their next release they would explode into their own, unique sonic universe but Hell Awaits remains an enduring album in the archetypal early thrash style.

Members reviews

When Slayer’s debut album rose from Hell in 1983, there was really nothing like it, and it sat comfortably atop the heaviest, fastest, most evil records in the world. Times had changed, and for metal, that meant pushing boundaries. Many bands heard Slayer and those who didn’t try to do exactly what they did, tried to up the ante.

So when Slayer went to record their sophomore album, they didn’t create Show No Mercy vol. 2. They had been listening to Mercyful Fate, and were inspired to create more complex song structures, longer and more varied compositions. However, they would sacrifice none of their brutality in doing this. The complex song structures allowed them to capitalize on their ability to create a truly evil, infernal mood; this is captured best on the opener “Hell Awaits,” with its backwards chanting and plentiful midtempo sections between the assaults of speed. Dave employs double bass drumming on every track, rather than occasional bursts. Tom’s bark, while definitely solid on the debut, was perfected here. He rattled off vicious lines at a speed unheard of, and despite pushing his vocal chords to their aggressive limits, remained intelligible the whole time. For me, this is the Slayer album that actually took the longest to love, but that’s a testament to the depth and timelessness of the album itself.

Slayer didn’t exactly invent a new genre with this album, but despite the Thrash label, it was more important to the development of Death Metal than anything. Slayer abandoned most of their punk roots here (Though they’d bring them back for the next album) and the sound is unmistakably darker. Possessed’s Seven Churches is awarded the title of first Death Metal album, but it’s a short step from Hell Awaits, and had death growls been employed here, the music would sound right at home on a pure Death Metal record.

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