The first live recording by the most sinister member of thrash’s Big 4 captures Slayer in 1984, when they were still playing dive clubs and a year away from releasing their second album, Hell Awaits. The fans screaming over the music suggests there were hundreds, maybe thousands, in attendance. That’s exactly right. Though Slayer recorded seven songs live in the studio in front of 50 of their closest friends, additional crowd howls were added later. Even so, Live Undead captures the raw savagery of Slayer’s earliest days along with the obligatory onstage banter of the era. “They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I say fuck the pen ’cause you can die by the sword!” exclaims Tom Araya before “Die by the Sword.” In addition to the concert tracks, the release includes Slayer’s Metal Massacre III track “Aggressive Perfector,” and the full 1984 studio EP Haunting the Chapel, which opens with the six-minute long “Chemical Warfare,” the band’s first step towards gloomy atmospheres and multi-textured arrangements. The recording marks the last time Araya punctuated his pitbull growl with a piercing wail he later deemed “un-metal.” It may not be a “true” concert album, but Live Undead / Haunting the Chapel is an excellent illustration of how great Slayer were long before they released Reign in Blood.
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