Slayer was already considered one of the pioneers of the American thrash metal genre when they released "Seasons in the Abyss" in 1990. Many would argue that they were not the first of their kind, but few would argue that they are the best. With a speed and fury parleyed with the utmost instrumental skill and precision, Slayer has gone unmatched throughout their existence on the metal scene. Formed in Huntington Park (not the same place as Huntington Beach, goddamn it!), California in 1982, Slayer had released five full length albums and one EP by the time they were set to unleash this record. Of the five full length records that were released prior, the legendary "Reign In Blood" album from 1986 is the one that is most recognized as the "match that started the fire", so to speak. With the help of producer Rick Rubin, they defined the entire genre of thrash metal with "Reign in Blood", and they returned with Rubin here on "Seasons in the Abyss" to continue their reign as the kings of thrash.
"Seasons in the Abyss" is a different album than "Reign in Blood." You have all of the wonderful qualities that come with any Slayer record - the blazing speed; the chaotic grinding; the furious screams from vocalist Tom Araya; and of course, the superlative instrumental prowess of each member, especially guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. But this record was a step in another direction for the band, a step toward a more accessible sound. With songs like "Temptation," "Born Of Fire," and "Hallowed Point," you get the typical rapid fire brutality that you come to expect from this band, but songs like "Dead Skin Mask," "Skeletons Of Society," and the title track display a more patient Slayer. These songs don't thrash as much as they just slowly grind. The tempos are slowed down just a touch, and a more classic metal formula is in use here. Being already established as the pioneers of thrash and hardcore metal afforded the band an opportunity to mix things up a little. It's great to just slowly bob your head to some of this stuff without risking any self-inflicted cuts or bruises. Slayer has always been one of those bands that make you feel stronger when you listen to them. Slamming your head on a brick wall becomes enjoyable, and you really believe that if you bang hard enough you will bring the wall down. It is the power of Slayer. And just because they have slowed the tempo a bit does not mean that that power has been diminished. They maintain the power and intensity, while adding a few hooks; a welcome addition to the sometimes tiresome pace that is usually held with previous records. This record gives the classic metal fan a few more things to like, while staying true to the hardcore fan as well.
Rick Rubin has been responsible for producing many marvels of modern music. I think his contribution here was tremendous - not just in sound quality, but in overall direction. I don't think he wanted to make another "Reign in Blood." The overall sound is much crisper and more pronounced here, a different quality than the raw sound that he achieved with "Reign in Blood." The production quality on "Seasons in the Abyss" shows more movement and flexibility, whereas "Reign in Blood" came straight at you with everything it had. This record truly is one of Rubin's best efforts as well as one of metal's all time great records.