"War Ensemble" is a nice kick-in-the-teeth speedster, demolishing all in its way like only Slayer can. While this song focuses on their second favorite lyrical obsession, the lyrics on Seasons in the Abyss are by far the most diverse of any Slayer album, many of them dealing with sociopolitical problems. The slower "Expendable Youth" discusses gang violence; "Hallowed Point" is about... guns; "Blood Red" is even an anti-communist rant! The serial killer motif started on earlier albums also comes full circle here in the form of two of the band's all-time creepiest songs: "Dead Skin Mask" and the title track. Based on real-life psycho Ed Gein, the brooding "Dead Skin Mask" is effective due to its lack of extremely graphic imagery (compare this to "Piece by Piece" from Reign in Blood), but it's still pretty shocking stuff in a pre-Silence of the Lambs media landscape. The child's voice near the end is especially harrowing. The epic "Seasons in the Abyss" is one of Slayer's longest songs at over six and a half minutes and had a popular video that was shot in the desert. Again, the band utilizes more abstract imagery than ever before as well as darkly melodic passages to create a heightened sense of atmosphere not heard since 1985's Hell Awaits. Despite all of these artistic progressions, Slayer can't help but pay tribute to their past on more straight-ahead (but still high quality) thrashers like "Spirit in Black" and "Born of Fire".
Like many a band's fifth album, Seasons in the Abyss was the beginning of the end of Slayer's relevance for all but die-hard fans. Because the sound forged here is generally a mixture of the previous major-label albums, it lacks the freshness heard on those two despite the improved production. The lyrical themes may be more varied, but when they do repeat themselves, they seem sorta self-referential, if not quite self-parodic (that would come in due time). Additionally, some of the songs can be a bit samey initially: "Hallowed Point" and "Born of Fire" will most likely only become distinguishable after several listens. Topping it all off, Tom Araya had entirely dropped any and all high-pitched screaming at this point, one of the coolest and most distinguishing characteristics of his voice up until then. Most of this is nitpicking, however, as Seasons in the Abyss remains near the top of the Slayer discography and is definitely a must-have album for all thrash metallers.