Hell Awaits

Hell Awaits
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 1985 (March 1985)[1][2]
RecordedSeptember–October 1984
StudioEldorado Recording Studios, Los Angeles, California[3]
GenreThrash metal
LabelMetal Blade
Slayer chronology
Live Undead
Hell Awaits
Reign in Blood

Hell Awaits is the second studio album by American thrash metal band Slayer, released in March 1985 by Metal Blade Records. The band's 1983 debut Show No Mercy became Metal Blade Records' highest-selling release, and as a result, producer Brian Slagel desired to release a second Slayer album. To that end, Slagel financed a recording budget (Show No Mercy was paid for by band members) and recruited several experienced producers to help in the studio.

The lyrical themes on Hell Awaits include hell and Satan, as with their debut; the intro of the title track played backwards reveals the repeated phrase "join us".[4] Musically, the album features the band's most progressive and diverse work compared to their previous releases, and according to Kerry King, he and Jeff Hanneman were very into Mercyful Fate at the time, which then led to the longer and more progressive songs.[5] Defined as "influential to future extreme metal acts," the most popular songs from Hell Awaits were re-recorded by various underground metal bands and have appeared on several tribute albums.[6]


Slayer's previous album, Show No Mercy, became Metal Blade Records' highest selling release, selling 40,000 copies worldwide; the success led producer Brian Slagel to want to record another album with them.[7] Slagel hired producer Ron Fair, who worked for Chrysalis Records, and had seen the band perform live and enjoyed their performance. On seeing Slayer in the studio, Fair stated, "Wow, these guys are really angry," as he was inexperienced working with heavy metal musicians.[8] Slagel financed the album, in stark contrast to Show No Mercy, which was financed by singer Tom Araya, who used his earnings as a respiratory therapist, and a loan from guitarist Kerry King's father.[8]

The budget organized by Slagel allowed for professional assistance. Bernie Grundman provided audio mastering, Eddy Schreyer worked on remastering, and Bill Metoyer, who worked on the band's earlier release Haunting the Chapel, acted as sound engineer.[9] The recording featured audio effects such as the intro to "Hell Awaits", a reversed recording of a demonic-sounding voice repeating "Join us", ending with "Welcome back".[10] Still, Araya later stated the album had poor production quality: "Nowadays, production-wise, it's so under par. But for what it was at the time, those are amazing records to me. I guess we could go in and redo it. But why ruin it?"[11]

Drummer Dave Lombardo, on the other hand, asserts the album was professionally done compared to Show No Mercy: "I didn't have to overdub the cymbals, and we had a really good engineer."[8] Lombardo's favorite song is "At Dawn They Sleep", "because it was kind of slow and grungy, but then it had that double-bass part at the end."[8] While recording the track, neither guitarists King or Jeff Hanneman who wrote the lyrics were in the studio—only Araya and Slagel. On reading the lyrics, which featured a misspelled word, Araya sang it as it was spelled, although it's not a real word.[8] The song "Hardening of the Arteries" on the album ends with a very similar section that makes up the beginning of the song "Hell Awaits" and is also one of the only Slayer songs to fade out on a continuous riff.

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