South Of Heaven


Def American, 1990

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


On the Monday after the passing of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, his death really sunk in. I was sitting on a bench outside my son’s drum lessons at a local musician store, trying to assemble my thoughts for this review, when I heard from another room a guitarist playing the opening strains of this album’s title track.

I returned to this disc that night. Upon completing several rounds of listening to it, I realized that there is no question about it: South Of Heaven should be played at 11 whenever anyone—young, middle or old fan—wants to hear the definitive Slayer release. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Guitarist Jeff Hanneman received credit for the music on nine of the 10 tracks on this release. The one track where he didn’t write the music is a Judas Priest cover. So that is why I hold it up as an excellent example of Hanneman’s legacy. His talent is especially evident when trading solos with fellow guitarist Kerry King during all-out fast tempo tracks like “Silent Scream” and “Live Undead.” As a drummer, I have to admit I *think* they are trading solos, as there are definitely two different guitar tones here.

The shouted vocals of bassist Tom Araya and the pounding drums of Dave Lombardo are worthy of attention as well. I really like “Mandatory Suicide” and consider it the best track here. The tempo is not all-out fast and stomps along for the longest length on the album, crossing the four-minute mark.

Granted, Seasons Of The Abyss and other Slayer releases are spectacular. In no way am I declaring this is the best Slayer release ever. Personally, I give that nod to Seasons because it was the album that indoctrinated me into the world of Slayer. Slayer fans fill a lot of cyberspace debating and critiquing each album. The best way to start a fight among Slayer fans is to declare that “Undisputed Attitude” (their cover CD of punk songs) blows away any other Slayer release. (Hint: it doesn’t).

This album achieves success on its merits to my ears, but this may not be the case for everyone. Years ago, my son was thoroughly unimpressed with Slayer. Despite my pointing out how fast Lombardo plays during “War Ensemble” on The Big Four DVD, he used the adjective “awful” to describe them. As Twisted Sister’s versions of Christmas classics are to mother-in-laws, Slayer is to middle-school fledgling drummers. However, if you happen to be reading this because you are on the hunt to rediscover a classic heavy metal album, start with South Of Heaven.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2013 Paul Hanson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Def American, and is used for informational purposes only.