This record sticks out like a sore thumb in Slayer's discography. It was the first with out legendary pioneer Dave Lombardo, as well as the first on Rick Rubin's now defunt American Recordings. It is debateable whether Rubin's influence on the band early in their carrer is a good thing or not(I think they were on their way to singlehandedly founding extreme/death metal after Hell Awaits,but I digress)as his fingerprints are all over it, mostly in the for of the "get on with it" anti-technical attitude towards songwriting. It may work for the Chili Peppers, but technical instrumentation is a hallmark of metal, as has been demonstrated thoroughly by the evolution of ever-multiplying sub-genres. Each more complex than the one which proceeded it.
What Paul Bostaph lacked in speed or precision, he made up for in sheer brutality, in my opinion. I would call this Slayer's most extreme record. It is not as fast as Reign In Blood, but the over-the-top at times drumming and Discharge-inspired no frills guitar work make this record a strange animal. It is probably my favorite Slayer album, as it was the first I bought, in 1994.
The record starts with an acknowledgement of their new drummer."Killing Fields" is a fairly good opener, going from mid-tempo to fast and literally crashing into the psychotic "Sex. Murder. Art.", which confirms the band has shifted it's direction from images of Satan & Hell, which are imaginary to some and inconceivable to the rest, to more reality based themes of horror."The urge to take my fist, and violate every orifice.." in the second track grabs the attention suitably. The third track,'Fictional Reality" is the lamest on the entire disc and the only one I regularly skip, even though it seems errily prophetic now check out the opening "Crisis fears the lunacy, all fear the new machine. Consumed Democracy returns a Socialist Regime."WTF. The fourth track, "Dittohead" is the reason I bugged my parents for the money to buy the disc. I saw the video on Headbanger's Ball and thought, "Yea, that's me!" It is in the vien if songs like "Necrophobic" where Tom sings really really fast, instead of just really fast.Once you hear the songs you will know what I mean. It is probably my favorite Slayer song, as it is both pissed and fast, with cool guitar solos and insane drumming in under 3 minutes.Perfect! The title track is a mid-tempo atmospheric piece describing Hell which mentions God but not Satan oddly.The riffs make it a keeper. The evolution of the song is cool. This is songwriting 101. "Circle of Beliefs" is a pretty long anti-Christian rant kept interesting by the drumming and solos.Same for SS-3. The song 213 is a bone chilling narrative from the POV of Jeffrey Dahmer. The creepy acoustic intro works perfectly, definitely a standout track.The last song, Mind Control is a speed metal masterpiece, that sums up the record as a whole perfectly. Slayer never re-visited this sound again, presumably because drummer Paul Bostaph couldn't hold up under Slayer's inhuman touring demands. Their next record would incorporate shitty "nu-metal"elements rather than forging ahead in the extreme direction as I had wished. They probably wouldn't have survived shitty rap-metal otherwise, who knows?