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Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss
Review: Falling into a midlife crisis, a somewhat reluctant Slayer returns with an album that is powerful in its emotive instinct but unfocused in its construction and theme, producing an ambivalence and a sometimes forced aggression mixed in its urgency. Songs eschew some of the subtlety of previous releases, preferring to whip out the powerful riffing right away and use like grindcore bands longer even phrases of whole intervals and longer chromatic extensions to rhythm riffs.
The bulk of the music as in previous Slayer albums is the adept riffing of Hanneman and King interlaced with the spacious but precise drumming of Dave Lombardo holding a quick perceptual framework over the changing narrative of the music. Tom Araya attacks his vocals with a more consistent aggression and attempts melodic radio sleekness during the start of the second side, but this is restrained by a seemingly iconographic imperative of rushing speed and E power chord chomping on the downstroke.
The bottom line is an onslaught of sonic distortion that is capped and highlighted by its chaotic solos, twisting through a wasteland of abrupt two-string chord barrage and a rippling roar of unleashed tremolo strumming. This hummingbird wingbeat technique allows Slayer to achieve a simple harmonizing effect as Discharge did in 1982, making a searing connection between notes that emphasizes their melody without detracting from rhythm and power riffing.
While this album carries all the basic elements of the Slayer formula, it loses some of the momentum and wisdom behind previous choices, creating an album that was not fully ready and not really where the band wanted to take their music, but still a strong contender in the way the late middle albums of Iron Maiden remained solid despite some disorganization. This was the last of the Slayer albums to contain any strength of will or spirit, so it is romanticized by many, yet seems in some ways a removal from the intensity of previous Slayer attempts which so profoundly influenced death metal as an emerging genre.