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on February 20, 2000
I have to admit that I really didn't come to appreciate this album until the last couple of years. When it first came out, I felt it was too slow, too melodic, too un-Slayer-ish. With age comes wisdom; let's face it, the only real problem with "South of Heaven" (probably the most wickedly clever album title ever) is that it had the unenviable job of following up the Lamborghini Diablo of all albums, "Reign In Blood". So Slayer did the only sensible a Bugatti Royale.
This album's lineage is prestigious; there are spiritual ties to albums like Sabbath's "Master of Reality", Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny" and "Sin After Sin" ("Dissident Aggressor" is covered here with hats-off reverence) while still retaining Slayer's more sophisticated approach to death/black metal. Heavy, Iommi-inspired riffs combined with hammer-from-hell drumming (check out Lombardo's snare sound on the title sounds like a rifle shot in your ear) and Araya's grisly, sawn-off vocals combine to make this doom metal's all time masterpiece.
I can relate this to this album in the same way that I relate to the other spare time passion in my life - automobiles. When I was younger, I was a muscle car freak who cared only for horsepower and cubic my tastes run towards classic European sports cars. As I grew older, I came to realize that SPEED is no substitute for BALANCE and PRECISION. Don't let your purchase of this album be discouraged by the naysayers who complain that it isn't "Reign In Blood Part II". You'll only be depriving yourself.
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on September 13, 2005
Slayer came to a sort of crossroads when the time came to write their fifth studio release, in 1988. The band knew they couldn't top the speed of their last album, 1986's standard-bearing album "Reign In Blood," so they didn't even try. Instead, they matured and evolved a little.

The first way they did this was by improving Tom's singing style. Instead of shrieking as loud and fast as possible, Tom's vocals became more mid-tempo and tuneful. Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman also helped to change the band's sound by slowing down the songs' tempos while simultaneously making the riffs heavier. They even added acoustic guitars into the mix (!), at the beginning of track ten, "Spill the Blood."

Another advantage of a slower album, besides the melodic vocals, is that drummer Dave Lombardo can go at his own pace. He doesn't have to play a bunch of different drums as fast as possible because he's playing "catch up" with the rest of the band. Instead, on this album, Dave creates some great, and very catchy drum fills. (Tracks three and four best demonstrate this talented drumming.)

From the beginning of the first track, the title track, you can tell Slayer have changed. Some songs, like "Silent Scream," "Ghosts of War," and "Cleanse the Soul," still race by like a flash flood, but most of "South of Heaven" is only moderately fast.

"Spill the Blood" is my personal favorite song on here, but other highlights are the thumping and blisteringly fast "Live Undead," the scorching solos of "Behind the Crooked Cross," "Mandatory Suicide," which features churning, buzzsaw riffs and a creepy, ominous, spoken-word passage from Tom, and the speedy, chugging and churning "Read Between the Lies."

So, what we have here is an album that shows Slayer's evolution and maturation. Yes, it is a bit slower, but it's equally as great as most of Slayer's other releases. Some songs are as fast as anything off of "Reign in Blood," so old-school fans will be pleased with this album, but since most of this album is slower than usual, it should also attract newcomers and those who aren't fans of Slayer's older albums.
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on September 30, 2003
Let me start off by saying this album is just underrated. It is not too slow, and my personal opinion is that if slayer tried to do another reign in blood, it would turn out to be a disaster, so they came out with this. Now, on to the songs.
South of Heaven-A great opener to a great album, some great guitar playing here from metal guitar masters Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. 10/10
Silent Scream-Fast thrash, some fast, INSANE guitar playing. 10/10
Live Undead-Great song, slower, almost like South of Heaven, but a little bit faster. 10/10
Behind the Crooked Cross-Beautiful guitar playing, a great song, faster paced, but not as fast as Silent Scream. 9.5/10
Mandatory Suicide-Heavy guitar riffs, great lyrics from Tom Araya, great drumming from Dave Lombardo, and ends with a spoken part. 10/10
Ghosts of War-The best song on the album, one of my absolute favorite slayer songs, great guitar playing, awesome lyrics and psychotic double bassed drumming. You know what really sucks about the slayer albums after seasons in the abyss? No dave lombardo. 20/10
Read Between the Lies-A fast-paced, amazing song, with insane vocals. 9.5/10
Cleanse the Soul-A speedy song, a great addition to the album. Some awesome guitar playing. 10/10
Dissident Agressor-An awesome Judas Priest cover. Fast guitar playing, great lyrics. 10/10
Spill the Blood-A slower paced song, much like South of Heaven. 10/10.
I also want to say that Tom Araya is one of the best metal vocalists, Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King are two guitar geniuses, and Dave Lombardo is the best metal drummer ever.
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on December 15, 2001
When Slayer released "Reign In Blood" in '86, they obviously had no idea that it would be considered one of the best metal records (heavy metal, thrash metal, extreme metal... whatever) of all time by thousands upon thousands of people, even to this day. After establishing themselves as an infamous underground thrash force with satanic lyrical leanings, they were suddenly thrust forward as blasphemous innovators in style and speed. Once the metal scene's initial shock wore off a tad, everyone glanced sideways at Slayer wondering, "how in the world will they top THAT?" and "will they out-do themselves by playing even faster?" Well, Araya, King, Hanneman, and Lombardo succeeded in shocking everyone, alright... but in a much different way than expected - so much so that they (unfairly, if I might add) lost a number of fans looking for another bloody "Reign" (pun intended).
On the surface, "South Of Heaven" seemed extraordinarily unhurried - or better yet, deliberate -
compared to the album prior to this. The blinding pace of the songs, which was a large part of Slayer's appeal on their previous effort, only surpassed warp-speed in a couple of songs, namely "Silent Scream", "Ghosts Of War", and "Cleanse The Soul". Slayer's focus here was on being heavy, not necessarily fast. Basically, the band was tweaking their sound to define the sinister nature they wanted to portray. The band had reinvented itself for the recording of "Reign In Blood", and in their traditional nature of staying true to that philosophy, the boys quite naturally reinvented themselves once again for "South Of Heaven". Illustrating their mid-paced brilliance are tracks like "Mandatory Suicide", "Spill The Blood", "Dissident Aggressor" (an awesome gem of a Judas Priest cover - undeniably superior to the original, but I suppose it's sacrilegious of me to say that), and especially the title track.
Perhaps with "South Of Heaven", Slayer just decided to prove that a song could be extreme and downright blasphemous without blurring beyond the speed of light. Additionally, something to remember is that this theory wasn't easy to prove in 1988, so it's safe to say that this album was likely as much of a groundbreaker as its predecessor in 1986. All I know is that Slayer had nothing to prove to me in '88; I was convinced of their extreme metal mastery no matter how fast they played. In conclusion, "South Of Heaven" was yet another classic achievement in the history one of the best METAL bands - ever. And if that grabs you attention and gnaws at your curiosity, then you definitely should invest in this masterpiece.
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on April 16, 2002
To be honest, any band trying to follow the lead set by 'Reign in Blood' would struggle. Any attempt to out do it would seem feeble. Which is why, thank goodness, Slayer never even attempted it. With 'South of Heaven' Slayer showed that they could play at a slightly slower tempo but still stay true to them selves and sound as intense as ever.
This should be seen, I feel, as a transitional album. The point where the band's sound is slowly evolving whilst retaining the agression that made them so revered in the first place. The title track, for instance, has a very eerie opening. And this continues until the end with the wonderful 'Spill the Blood'.
King and Hanneman show that they are indeed the most awesome pair of lead guitarists there is, displaying their talents with aplomb (something that in later albums is sorely missed).
Overall, this album should in no way be underestimated. It is one of the finest albums you can buy. And a wonderful lead up to the amazing 'Seasons in the Abyss'. It helps to show the different stages that have taken place within Slayer's sound. Buy this promptly.
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on October 7, 2005
Please ignore the 1star review below me. Its obvious that this person is a nu metal fan and probely salviates over bands like Coldplay,Slipknot(who I believe has some good talent, but are total sellouts) Korn and My Chemical Romance. If one of those bands are still making albums 22yrs from now, well lets put it this way, they wont. Since Slayer graced us with their 1983 debut "Show no Mercy", they have yet to dissapoint me as a loyal fan (I have been listening to them since 87). This CD takes the honors of the best Slayer album ever. Yes, I loved Reign in Blood, and when I first sank my teeth into this in 1988, I was a bit dissapointed, considering Reign was so damn fast. South of Heaven is a bit slower, but if you really give it a few listens, it has some of the heavist riffs and drum work that I have yet to hear from the band to this day. Here I am 17yrs later and I still love this CD to death. I believe anyone new to the band should start off with this one, because it is a true metal classic. In no way, shape or form should anyone have the B**ls to rip Slayer , just for the fact for what they have done. WIth no airplay, almost no MTV airplay (except for headbangers ball, and thier first video didnt debut until 1990), they have managed to still be together, and have influnced so many bands including Suffocation and Cradle of Filth. That for the fact alone, love em or hate em, that they deserve respect. This CD is Slayers best. Enjoy!
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on May 16, 2008
Another great album by Slayer and Rick Rubin. This album will grab you by the balls, and won't let go. Kerry King's guitar work is great as always!! This is a band that keeps giving you an assault of thrash and doom metal, that'll keep you comming back for more!!
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on November 9, 2004
Although Reign In Blood and Seasons in the Abyss are rightfully considered Slayer's best work, this one isn't far behind in my opinion.

If you have bought this after Reign In Blood the first thing you notice in South of Heaven is the injection of melody and the slowed down pace on many of the songs. That's not to say that Slayer went soft. The more melodic tracks on this album are actually the most evil sounding such as the title track and the excellent "mandatory suicide".

Despite the imagery of the cover and some of the earlier songs, the band moves away somewhat from satanic references and there is a defnite social commentary aspect to this album; the horrors of war and the greed of organised religion are strong themes.

I recommend this as an essential Slayer purchase along with Reign in Blood, Seasons and Hell Awaits.
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on March 9, 2008
Best Slayer record no doubt,and one of greatest Metal releases period. Every song on this disc is a classic Slayer,no fillers here.Brilliant musicianship and great production by Rick Rubin as always.
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on March 13, 1999
As the Slayer saga continues after 1986's Reign in Blood, South of Heaven assents to be one of their most brilliant pieces yet. This album is unique and changes the entire atmosphere of Slayer's world as opposed to Reign in Blood. The music has slowed down, Tom Araya has learned to tone down his bass, and the guitar solos are original and mind-blowing. Guitar frontmen Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman launch an explosive arsenal of heavy riffs and excellent solos, while Dave Lombardo hammers it out with pulse--pounding beats and original rhythms. Also, Tom Araya actually does some singing on this album as well as his usual yells and screams. The lyrical content has also become more intelligent as opposed to Slayer's "torture, pain, mutilation, agony" realm from Reign in Blood and Hell Awaits. The anti-war message in Mandatory Suicide and Behind the Crooked Cross displays a lucid understanding of war and the soldier's mind. Read Between the Lies provides a legitimate contradiction to the corruption of Evangelism and the church. Although quite cynical, Slayer's philosophies display a witty and astute look at the world and the essence of life. This album is just the beginning of Slayer's astounding attributes. With Seasons of the Abyss in 1990, they have proved themselves to be one of the most anticipated thrash/speed metal bands ever. This album is a must own for any Slayer fan and an excellent choice for new fans who are looking to purchase their first Slayer album.
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