Given that Slayer are long since defunct – leaving a thrash hole that’s still too big to even fathom – we’d be remiss to not acknowledge that one of their greatest albums, South Of Heaven, turned 35 years old on 5th July 2023!
Here’s the facts (the majority of which you will no doubt know already):
South of Heaven was the fourth studio album from American thrash royalty Slayer.
Released on July 5, 1988, the album was the band’s second collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, whose production skills on Slayer’s previous album, Reign in Blood, had secured Slayer’s place as the masters of thrash and extreme metal.
South Of Heaven was certified Gold in Canada, United Kingdom and the United States.
Worship Metal’s Retrospective Review:
Purposefully slowing down and experimenting like never before, South Of Heaven may ‘feel’ like the odd man out when sandwiched between both the genre defining Reign In Blood and the monster that was Seasons In The Abyss, but Slayer arguably perfected their sinister groove on the likes of the title track, while chugging harder than ever on “Behind The Crooked Cross” (with Tom Araya’s singing proving equally as effective as his familiar lion-esque roar) and thrillingly combining the old with the new on “Ghosts Of War”.
The pummelling “Silent Scream” may have reminded the world that this was still the same band who penned the unfathomably ferocious Reign In Blood just two years prior, but South Of Heaven was distinctly the sound of a band becoming stronger, more confident and ready to challenge pre-conceptions at a time when Reign In Blood Part II would surely have been the safer option!
With South Of Heaven, Slayer were carving their own path; embracing melody, atmospherics and political/socio lyrics (alongside the horror-show subjects that had built their reputation) to broaden their palette. However, fans weren’t immediately enamoured with this tempered approach and South Of Heaven was initially lambasted for its seemingly unconventional structure. More speed and more aggression was desired but Slayer knew they could not top Reign In Blood (as did the fans if they were true to themselves) and by embracing experimentation they were ensuring their longevity.
As is often the way, once South Of Heaven’s intricacies had ‘grown’ on Slayer’s rabid fanbase, the album took on a new form, eventually being revered for the very changes that had initially caused concern and is now considered one of Slayer’s finest ever moments.
South Of Heaven……35 years of a thrash classic that seems to only get better with age! 8/10
1. “South of Heaven”
2. “Silent Scream”
3. “Live Undead”
4. “Behind the Crooked Cross”
5. “Mandatory Suicide”
6. “Ghosts of War”
7. “Read Between the Lies”
8. “Cleanse the Soul”
9. “Dissident Aggressor” (Judas Priest cover)
10. “Spill the Blood”
Tom Araya – vocals, bass
Kerry King – guitars
Jeff Hanneman – guitars
Dave Lombardo – drums