Slayer - Hell Awaits - September 16, 1985
Of all the classic Slayer albums, Hell Awaits seems to be the one that gets forgotten about. Sandwiched in between the groundbreaking debut and their 1986 tour de force, Reign in Blood, Hell Awaits seems to just be along for the ride, allowing the other albums to take all the credit for Slayer's notoriety. And even though Hell Awaits took a while to really hit me, let me tell you, it stands tall on its own merits.
Hell Awaits more or less continues where the Haunting the Chapel EP left off, albeit with a muddier production that takes away some definition from the guitars but adds to the oppressive, evil feeling of the album. The songwriting has gotten more aggressive and complex, with most of the songs clocking in at 5 minutes or more. All of the songs feature some pretty pummeling riffage and dark imagery, influencing a slew of thrash, death and black metal bands for years to come. All in all, this has got to be the most underrated Slayer album there is. Before I started listening to it for the purpose of this review, I didn't have a very high opinion of it. I can't fucking put it down now!
Standouts: At Dawn They Sleep, Necrophiliac, Hell Awaits