Slayer Vinyl Reissues: The Terrorizer Verdict

By on 21 February 2014

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All of Slayer’s classic American Recordings output (including undisputed classics like ‘Reign In Blood’, ‘South Of Heaven’ and ‘Seasons In The Abyss’) has recently been repressed on delicious 180g vinyl, but if you’ve already got these albums in your collection, is it worth forking out to buy them again? Miranda Yardley casts her eyes and ears over the evidence, and the answer, it seems, is a resounding ‘yes’…

These ten records arrive three years after 2010’s ‘The Vinyl Conflict’ box-set, and until then, Slayer’s music has had only limited availability on vinyl. With vinyl enjoying a renaissance, these releases are not just an opportunity to hear these albums in this much-loved format, in some ways they offer an improvement on the original releases. How can this be?

In a rare unilateral acknowledgement of the fact that the dangerous business of music has changed much in the nigh-on 30 years since ‘Reign in Blood’, each LP comes complete with a voucher to download the entire album as decent quality 320kbps MP3 files, a nod perhaps to the practice back in the day of buying the vinyl and making a recording to cassette tape, only the tape then being played and enjoyed, the album itself protected with a PVC sleeve and lovingly filed away in one’s record collection. This, of course, allowed you to keep the record pristine without subjecting the vinyl to the deterioration that use for its intended purpose entailed.

Aside from the faithful reproduction of both inner and outer sleeve artwork, the single most apparent improvement especially for those of us who would have had the vinyl in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, is the quality of the pressing: these albums are pressed on 180g vinyl. With the recent resurgence and retrospective romanticism of vinyl, one important fact about the demise of this medium is omitted, and that is most of the pressings in the ‘80s were on such thin, often recycled, vinyl that both the quality, durability and longevity of vinyl recordings was utterly appalling. These reissues, however, all look, feel and sound so much more robust than the original product yet also look, feel and sound satisfyingly authentic.

Being releases of the band’s work with American Recordings (and this label’s ancestors) the first two Metal Blade albums ‘Show No Mercy’ and ‘Hell Awaits’ are of course absent. The earliest recording here is therefore ‘Reign in Blood’ [10], an album that achieved in just under 29 single-side-of-a-C60-cassette-tape fitting minutes what most bands will never accomplish over an entire career: 27 years old and still stunning. The latter is complemented perfectly with ‘South of Heaven’ [10] and ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ [10], these albums together forming Slayer’s own ‘(un)holy trinity’: the band’s sound and music progresses yet remains faithful to the standards set by ‘Reign in Blood’. For those of us of a certain age, these albums (as well as the Metal Blade releases) stand as albums that really changed music: it may seem strange now, what with the subsequent evolution of even more extreme metal, but in the ‘80s nobody had ever heard music like this before and reactions were always strong, whether incredulity, ‘what the fuck?’ or the sudden impulse to throw yourself round the room.

This period rounds off nicely with the live album ‘Decade of Aggression’ [7]  which makes a consistent single live performance from several shows in ‘90/’91 and is a treat for those of us who love both live albums and early Slayer. ‘Divine Intervention’ [8] is a better album than many have given credit for, in retrospect it may appear a little stagnant, as come 1994 heavy music had changed a lot, whereas Slayer hadn’t: this is a completely authentic, bona fide Slayer album with a manifested evolution in brutality only.

‘Undisputed Attitude’ [6] is Slayer’s tribute to punk, a movement the band owes much to sonically if not spiritually. ‘Diabolus in Musica’ [4] is where Slayer becomes unstuck, it is fair to call this album a ‘work of its time’ and, unfortunately, that is where it remains: ‘Divine Intervention’ was Slayer responding to a change in musical fashions and trends by making a faster and heavier Slayer album. ‘Diabolus in Musica’ achieves the opposite, by co-opting the ‘nu-metal’ movement Slayer made an album that attempted to update the band’s sound. This is all well and good, but what makes a ‘timeless classic’ is that even decades after release, the product still sounds fresh, e.g. ‘Reign in Blood’. This album doesn’t: in 1998, nu-metal was on the wane, this album sounds dull, lifeless and dated and is for completists only.

‘God Hates Us All’ [8] achieves modernisation where ‘Diabolus in Musica’ failed: whether this is down to more than a single individual having a hand in writing most of the album’s music or a result of a rethink, the result is an updated sound that still sounds fast, bitter and heavy. While perhaps not classic Slayer, this is a credible album, and most importantly it is a Slayer album. ‘Christ Illusion’ [9] continues in the same vein, but is if anything more extreme. On release, the album was controversial, attracting criticism from the usual culprits (many of whom were, of course, throwing their stones then hiding away in their own little glass houses). ‘World Painted Blood’ [9] completes the set and is Slayers third and final release of the 2000s. If the first three albums in this set are essential, these latter three are only just behind: it is testimony that 20+ years into their career, a band like Slayer can create a triumvirate of strong albums that retain the band’s identity and do so with such creative flair. By my reckoning, this band have made 6-8 albums that are, or are close to, being classics, proof if anything that Slayer as a musical force are utterly peerless.

WORDS: MIRANDA YARDLEY

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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