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Review of "South of Heaven," the 4th Studio Album by American Thrash Metal Band Slayer

Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

South of Heaven: the front album cover


What is the album South of Heaven like on a musical level?

Entering the year 1988, the American thrash metal band Slayer was coming off of the success of their 1986 fast thrash technical album Reign in Blood. Their 4th studio album is called South of Heaven and it is a good one. It clocks in at just over 36 minutes long and it is a little bit slower than the previous album.

It was going to be difficult for this band to start off in such excellent fashion as they did in 1986 with the terrific song called Angel of Death.

How Does South of Heaven Rank Among Other Heavy Metal Albums Released That Year?

The opening song South of Heaven talks about what can happen in a world that has become very chaotic and people don’t seem to trust each other. The lyrical themes in this album really don’t differ from what Slayer has done throughout their career. Silent Scream is the next song in this album as we hear an interesting drum line in this song. The band Children of Bodom would do this song as a cover on their 2003 album Hatecrew Deathroll. South of Heaven is the second weakest album among the four major thrash metal bands that released albums that year. I am referring to Slayer, Metallica, Testament, and Megadeth.

Two Other Points Worth Mentioning About South of Heaven

One thing that also is noticeable and has not changed about the band is their descriptive and graphic album covers. The album cover has a skeleton head in the middle with different colors on the cover. One weakness about Slayer in comparison to other thrash metal bands is that their solos focus too much on speed and heavy tapping and less on creativity.

Even though the album is a good one Slayer cannot ever compare to Metallica

South of Heaven may still be a better album than Megadeth’s So Far, So Good So What but it still lacks enough melody and creativity to match Metallica. Metallica is in a class of its own when it comes to American heavy metal bands. After the catchy song Mandatory Suicide, it comes to Ghosts of War. The song is about soldiers that have been put to sleep. They wake up and realize that they have to go to war to fight and finish it off. Their anguish that they suffered in the past and the memories of previous wars will not be forgotten. Sometimes anything less than total victory will never be satisfactory for an army of dedicated soldiers.

The Song "Ghosts of War"

The Song "Silent Scream"

South of Heaven: the 2nd half of the album and final thoughts

Read Between the Lies is a song that criticizes organized religion. Sometimes when these Christian evangelists preach and speak they lie not caring about the older generation that suffer and the people that suffer each day because they do not have any money in their pockets. A good church should strive to promote good Christian values that help mankind. There is a cover of Judas Priest’s Dissident Aggressor on this album. It would be two years later in 1990 that Judas Priest would release a thrash metal album Painkiller which is regarded as their best album. Overall South of Heaven is a very good album that helped Slayer finish off the decade of the 1980’s in pretty strong fashion. It is a little below Reign in Blood and I would even say that it is not as good as 2009’s World Painted Blood (the last album to feature Jeff Hanneman on guitar). The strongest songs are Silent Scream, Mandatory Suicide, and Ghosts of War.

The Song "Mandatory Suicide"

Favorite Slayer Album

© 2017 Ara Vahanian

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