Released: 2003, American
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Slayer is one of the most influential metal bands of all time. Considering their impact on heavy music and over 20 years of recording, a box set was inevitable. SOUNDTRACK TO THE APOCALYPSE has been rumored to be unleashed on the fans for several years. Denial came from the band that they had unreleased songs in their “vaults” and that everything Slayer ever recorded had been released. Then, all of a sudden, it was announced that Slayer would be releasing a box set in time for Christmas 2003! Well, metalheads, your prayers have been answered because this set will not leave anyone disappointed.
This striking package is available in 2 forms: a 3 CD/1 DVD set in a fold-out digipack with plastic sleeve, or a 4 CD/1 DVD set in limited packaging with some goodies. Both versions contain a 72-page booklet with photos, liner notes and a great essay written by a longtime fan named, Marc Paschke. The CDs themselves are not silver, but, in true Slayer fashion, they are black in color.
The first 2 CDs in the set are a “best of’ chronicling the years 1986-2001 (1983-1985 are exempt because Slayer was on Metal Blade Records). I find no fault whatsoever with the chosen tracks. Of course, everyone has their favorites and it cannot be helped to ask, “Where is xxx?” Personally, I would have chosen “Behind The Crooked Cross” over “Live Undead” to represent SOUTH OF HEAVEN, but otherwise, I’m happy. “Angel of Death,” “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven,” “War Ensemble,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Dittohead,” “Stain of Mind,” “Disciple”…to have all these classics in one place is enough. Nothing more needs to be said of them. The final 8 tracks on the second CD are “rarities” taken from soundtracks and the Japanese versions of UNDISPUTED ATTITUDE, DIABOLUS IN MUSICA and GOD HATES US ALL. The soundtrack cuts are completely forgettable but fitting in such a collection. The tracks taken form the band’s Japanese releases also suffer the same fate. There is a reason they were left off the versions the other 99.9% of the world got: they aren’t very good! However, again, this is the place to make them available to fans that DO want them.
It is for the next CD that the majority of the people laid down their hard-earned cash. Dubbed “Shit You’ve Never Heard,” the band has given fans 17 demos, live tracks and previously unreleased alternate versions. The most noteworthy is “Ice Titan,” a track from March 1983 whose riff would later morph into “Altar of Sacrifice” on 1986’s REIGN IN BLOOD album. This is the earliest known Slayer recording and shows the band’s Venom and thrash influences. “The Antichrist” and “Fight Till Death” are rehearsals that were done right around the time the band’s SHOW NO MERCY album was released. There are 2 tracks labeled as “Jeff Hanneman Home Recordings,” which are early versions of “Raining Blood” and “South of Heaven”. “Raining Blood” features what sounds like a drum machine and the guitar track played over it. The beginning of it actually sounds like a disco beat for a few seconds! “This rough version of “South of Heaven” starts out sounding NOTHING like the final version of the song and only begins to resemble it at around the 1:10 mark. Stay tuned a few seconds after “Payback” to hear Slayer in what sounds like a chaotic, drunken radio interview from long ago. The rest of the tracks are just various live recordings drawn over the years from different shows. **It should be noted that most of these tracks have sound that cuts in and out or are below acceptable audio quality. “Ice Titan” sounds like it was recorded off AM radio on to a portable tape recorder! None of these tracks should be rated on their sound quality because they are not properly mixed or mastered and were not meant to be an “official” product. Their inclusion here is purely for historic purposes.
The DVD portion of the set (entitled “Shit You’ve Never Seen”) runs for about 70 minutes. The quality of some of these clips is poor but it’s still a thrill to watch them. The oldest clips are from 1983 (“Die By The Sword” and “Aggressive Perfector”) and feature the band still in their black eyeliner and leather phase. The stage setup consists of nothing more than a couple of strobe lights, but it is clear that something special is afoot. The three clips from 1991 (“War Ensemble,” “South Of Heaven” and “Dead Skin Mask”) have improved video but suffer from audio that is so quiet, you have to turn your receiver WAY up to hear anything. Don’t do what I did and forget to turn it back down again when they end and scare the shit out of yourself! This is some of the last footage of Kerry King with hair and judging by how closely he was beginning to resemble Blaine Cartwright of Nashville Pussy, King made a wise choice to take it all off. The footage taken from a Kerrang! Magazine awards ceremony is noteworthy in that Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares of Fear Factory introduce Slayer for the “Heaviest Band Ever” trophy. The EPK for DIABOLUS IN MUSICA offers some rehearsal footage of “Stain Of Mind” but otherwise is fluff. The live footage is right up to date, as “Disciple” and “God Send Death” are taken from shows in France just this past summer.
As stated earlier in this review, there are 2 versions of SOUNDTRACK TO THE APOCALYPSE: a 3 CD/1 DVD set and a collector’s version that is housed in an ammo box and contains a bonus live CD in the infamous “bloodpack”, as well as a Slayer flag and some other goodies. The standard version can be found for around $60, but the collector’s set is priced upwards of $150 and frankly, the extra CD, flag and box are not worth $90! Slayer fans are a devoted bunch and the collector’s set will likely fly off the shelves but unless you are a true die-hard, save your money and get the regular version.
SOUNDTRACK TO THE APOCALYPSE offers the casual fan (not that there is such a thing as a “casual” Slayer fan) a greatest hits collection on the first 2 CDs, while the 3rd disc and the DVD will get the Slayer die-hards wallets open, too. The track selection for the “hits” discs is excellent and the rare and unreleased stuff satisfied me—a fan since ’86—as well. It is impossible to house the mighty Slayer in such a small capsule but this is an excellent way to whet your appetite.