SLAYER — Hell Awaits (review)

SLAYER — Hell Awaits album cover Album · 1985 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
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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