On July 5, 1988, "Slayer" hit the clutch pedal, downshifted the car gear, and released Their fourth album, "South Of Heaven".
This album comes about a year and a half after the masterpiece "Reign in Blood", which was released in October 1986, and is Slayer's second album with producer Rick Robin, who contributed greatly to the production and sound of the previous album and probably also to its success of the band.
But the success of "Reign in Blood" caused the band quite a headache. The album was so perfect that it was clear to the band members that they could not surpass it, so they decided there was no choice but to beat the masterpiece so they had to change their musical direction.
We said "downshift" and meant it. The band members decided, consciously and deliberately, to slow down the playing speed and fast pace that characterized their previous album, but not only that. Tom Araya's vocals have also been lowered, Kerry King's and Jeff Hanneman's guitars sound less rough but heavier and Dave Lombardo's drumming focuses more on technique and less on speed.
The result was undoubtedly different from what "Slayer" had done up to that time. The musical direction of the album pulled in a heavier direction with the influences of "Black Sabbath". Listen to the theme song "South Of Heaven", the song "Mandatory Suicide" and the riff that comes right after the acoustics in the song "Spill the Blood" and you will not argue with us.
It is interesting to note, that the album includes the first cover version of Slayer with the song "Dissident Aggressor" by "Judas Priest" - their classic from the album "Sin After Sin".
At the time of its release, the album was heavily criticized by fans who thought they would get the sequel to "Reign in Blood". But over time and as the material slowly seeped in, the appreciation for the album rose and today it is considered one of the band's best albums (in our humble opinion one of its top three), with quite a few songs from it continuing to fill the band's setlists, even three decades later.
Despite the band's conscious decision to slow down the tempo on this album, you can still find some tracks in faster rhythms, like "Silent Scream" and "Ghosts of War", which are reminiscent of the band's previous albums.
In conclusion, "South Of Heaven" is like a good wine that only gets better over the years, and is without a doubt one of the band's greatest albums.