Wherein four evil fuckers de-emphasize the puerility and assert the gore for their sophomore effort.
"Hell Awaits"--Doom is the air. Breathe it in, you'll believe it then. Wear your mask backwards to confuse the angels. Don't forget to tip Charon at ride's end.
Slayer are no longer naive kids trying out the Ouija board. Nor are they content to roleplay as the king Donn. They have matured into villainous cretins with distorted visions. Still dying by the sword. (Really, they gave us fair warning on their last release.)
Of the song's six minutes, the first is dedicated to a taped conversation held on a demonic sex chat line. The next two are a riff parade that must've made metal bands worldwide gnash their yellowing teeth. Slayer could have excised any random part and had a strong starting point for another song. But nah. They just had to stitch 'em all together into a fiery Frankenstein's monster as adopted by Demogorgon.
That leaves the second half of the song, a roaring success despite production that sounds best-suited for NES game soundtracks. The band as a whole are playing much tighter together, and the lyrics are classic: "Hells domain," "damnation's edge," "Satanic laws prevail"--Kerry King must have had a C4 time writing this. "Pray to the moon/When it is round." Not pray to the full moon. I love this damned band.
Much as I dig hearing about the minions crashing Heaven, slaughtering God, and corrupting all the pure souls, I also like the concept of a vengeful Lord who punishes those mortals who have perverted "the moral order" by hurling them to his archenemy's stomping grounds. Reluctant detente between deities or all-out war to settle the score? Is Hell a finite form of torture, or is the soul's suffering truly eternal?
"Kill Again"--It's a thin line between, "I'd like to punch you in the face" and "I'd love to stab you in the neck." Capable men of despair and death are far more engrossing than men of prosperity and life.
Imagine being bound and blindfolded in the back seat of a nondescript vehicle as it drives in interminable circles. Imagine your hair being pulled, your neck being twisted, your bell being thoroughly rung. Imagine a fate beyond your imagination.
After all the songs referencing the slayings of women, it's refreshing to hear Tom Araya command the listener to "Watch the infant die."
Not even halfway through their second album, it is apparent that Dave Lombardo is the best drummer in all of the Big 4. We haven't even heard Megadeth yet, but it doesn't matter.
"At Dawn They Sleep"--Slayer switch from Satan to serial killers to sun-shunners. The lurch is pure zombie, though. Tom plays the role as an undead homicidal maniac with relish, far more an Eric than a Bill.
Another epic circle, but "Dawn" knocks the mighty title tune on its smoldering keister. The "Kill" chant, for my money--and keep in mind, I am homeless as I write this--is even more powerful than "Creeping Death"'s legendary "Die!" exhortations. The gear shift is suffused with blood-draining menace, and Tom sounds a half-second away from ripping both your throat and his.
Lombardo's double-bass solo near the end is superfluous and superb.
"Praise of Death"--More earthly pain! No exquisite build-up either, just boot in the door and toss a grenade into the pantry. Drop magazines on the coffee table. Firebomb the toilet. Call the cops and order a pizza.
Less a song than a mouth-dropping tornado of notes, beats and barks, "Praise of Death" communicates fluidly with all apex predators. Add in the brief bass break and the glorious yawn of feedback, and you have Slayer's most overlooked song.
"Necrophiliac"--Women: don't beat 'em, eat 'em!
Do the Dark Lord or any of his minions ever fuck just for the fun of it? Why is the goal of demoniac diddling always the conception of the Antichrist? (I guess it's preferable to being one of heaven's angels, flying that celibate life.) And why should Slayer be slaves to mythology? Defy! Defy!
I shy away from intricate lyrical analysis, especially when dealing with a band who admits to writing about matters of evil for shits and more shits). Often I find it foolhardy to even proffer a unique interpretation of a general overall theme, given the capriciousness of the creative mind. But "Necrophiliac" is about banging a dead chick and somehow impregnating her, I feel sure of this.
"Crypts of Eternity"--All have perished. Hell awaits. The gatekeeper is the seventh son of a seventh son. From here to there (to where?) requires a demented carousel ride that would make Willy Wonka wet 'em.
It's really not very nice of Slayer to bust out the Strappado and then spin my body over and over and over, but the experience has left an indelible impression on more than just my joints. Last time I'll try and sneak Rollos from the forbidden candy bowl!
"Hardening of the Arteries"--The proverbial shady spot. I love Jeff Hanneman. Why say "death is certain" when you can instead say "Death is assured in future plans"? (Also, this is the only track on Hell Awaits written by only one member.)
Musically, a slightly subdued "Praise of Death," and a bitchin' way to end the…whoa! Oh crap! Hell Awaits is lapping itself! Slayer make depravity sound like the only sensible way to go.
Comprised of a mere seven songs (one for each son, then?) and boasting some amateurish production, Hell Awaits is still one of my very favorite Slayer albums. The tracks are vicious and focused; intensive training have served these soldiers of metal very well. And honestly, how could you not hoist one up for any band that will literally piss on its influences?