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Slayer - Show No Mercy
Review: Coming after punk bands perfected the tremolo strum, Slayer helped invent the music behind death metal in this groundbreaking fusion of epic heavy metal with hardcore punk. Urgent surly howled vocals color the driving guitar rhythm hurled forward on precision pursuit beats which surge with violence through a sequence of linear structures to support protean riff shape mutations, like most of death metal to follow holding together through the interlocked narrative of simple abstract structures.
What makes this music breathtaking is what makes death metal intriguing: how riffs follow one another and at first seem contorted and angular in their abstraction, but fuse together into an organic form of ring composition that builds like a snowball, adding layers until it explodes in classic metal denouement with a concluding riff that unites motives in a sense of epic contrast, or "heaviness."
Slayer fuse the surging power riffing of punk Discharge or D.R.I. with the graceful and majestic longer phrasal riffs of NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, expressing as if in poetry a journey between points of awareness without ever referencing the individual having that experience. Slayer adapt nihilistic, centerless phrases into moveable pieces which fit into each song like a codex, underlined with a sense of melody as the basis for structure, much as how Mozart's pieces boiled down to a child's song at the heart of thundering complexity.
Abstracting basic relationships of music to states of intense tension in opposition, Slayer surgically manipulate note position and strumming rhythm, creating simultaneously a style of phrase building and a technique for embedding ambient rhythm: high-speed strumming of notes or basic power chords to shape columnar structures of sustained harmonic intensity, like a tremelo in the liquid overwash spaciotemporal haze of LSD. Component riff structures pair and evolve, splitting to form transitional riffs that abruptly alter context, placing previously heard riffs into a new silhouette of meaning.
Escaping the idea of fixed patterns of scale and harmony, Slayer reconstruct music by pairing melody with phrase shape and make a new language of it; it breathes a raw power that makes us want to find beauty in darkness and horror, and even more to re-inhabit a world possessed by such things so we can experience its unchained will. Like simple vectors of this transcendent vision, each song is a nihilistic gestalt formed of structural similarity to nature that bypasses the human perspective for the freedom of a chaotic, resonant, living system of metaphor emerging unfettered to evoke our imaginations.