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Review of Slayer's Fourth Album "South of Heaven"

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

The front album cover of "South of Heaven."

The front album cover of "South of Heaven."

The Music From "South of Heaven"

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 fourth 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.

How Does the Album Rank Among Other Heavy Metal Albums Released That Year?

The opening title track "South of Heaven" talks about what can happen in a chaotic world in which 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 on this album and has an interesting drum line. The band Children of Bodom would do this song as a cover on their 2003 album Hatecrew Deathroll. Overall, 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.

The Song "Ghosts of War"

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Two Other Points Worth Mentioning About South of Heaven

One thing that is noticeable and consistent about Slayer is that they always have descriptive and graphic album covers. The album cover for South of Heaven has a skeleton head in the middle with different colors on the cover. Secondly, one weakness of Slayer's in comparison to other thrash metal bands is that their solos focus too much on speed and heavy tapping and less on creativity.

Slayer Cannot 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 Second Half of "South of Heaven"

"Read Between the Lies" is a song that criticizes organized religion. Sometimes these Christian evangelists lie when they preach and speak, 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 1980s 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"

© 2017 Ara Vahanian

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