The two Slayer albums that preceded 1988’s South Of Heaven were Hell Awaits (1985) and Reign In Blood (1986). The former was an excruciating and virtually unlistenable exercise in noise. The latter was a blitzkrieg of ultra-fast Satanica. To Slayer’s credit, they chose not to revisit either album on South Of Heaven. Having nothing left to prove on those two fronts, Slayer decided to use more slower tempos on South Of Heaven — which amounted to more earthshaking grooves than ever before.
I believe that Slayer’s secret weapon at this point in their career was their producer Rick Rubin. Rubin was a master at obtaining a MASSIVE drum sound. Coupled with Dave Lombardo’s tremendous drum playing, South Of Heaven is an absolute tour de force when it comes to drums. Believe me, this album will SHAKE YOUR FOUNDATIONS at high volumes!
Though South Of Heaven contains my favorite Slayer song of all time with its sinister title track, I’m afraid this album never really delivers a knockout blow. Despite the incredible drum sound and some truly mountainous riffs, almost all the songs on South Of Heaven lack a definite payoff. To me, this is because Slayer didn’t have the appropriate breadth or depth to deliver a truly well-rounded album. Slayer were easily the most one-dimensional band of the vaunted “Big Four”. As such, I listen to Slayer far less than Anthrax, Metallica, or Megadeth. Yes, a little Slayer goes a long way, but listening to South Of Heaven from start to finish can get a little boring. My score: B-