A week. I listened to it for a week. Not straight, mind you. Just a track here, a track there. A few minutes here, a few sighs there, a couple "Hail Satans," two bike rides to work and twice in the car. And even though the return of Dave Lombardo to the lineup had me excited, the album has me rolling my eyes and praying for some sort of sweet release. Though Dave's drumming fucking kicks ass.
Slayer has always been a guitar band. Breakneck ultra rhythmic palm-muted chords, screeching riffs and hyper melodic solos played in the wrong key to make them sound like random guitar noise. Dave's job was to keep the time, and I don't blame him for leaving. He's way too good of a drummer to be stuck ripping double-time beats and double bass breakdowns. Any semi-talented chump can handle those stick duties. And while this album gives Dave a better chance to shine, I find it full of way too many open chords and drop-tuned bass notes. Not to mention Tom Araya's vocals turned from tortured howl to grumpy fat guy growl.
Maybe I'm being a little harsh. Reign in Blood came out in 1986. A year after I was born, and exactly 20 years ago. To this day that album tears shit up and gets props like mad ass-hungry whores. I mean it's no Funohuse in `69, but double bass and satanic lyrics during the reign of Reagan is pretty wicked. The band is legendary. They've had a pretty good track record (even with that guy from Testament drumming for them). But to me, Christ Illusion sounds like everyone except good old Dave is tired of being in Slayer.
Kerry King and John Hanneman have broken tons of ground with their guitar work, but Christ Illusion sounds like it was recorded in between two naps. In fact, the intro to the near five-minute long "Catatonic" is so slow and laid back that it's putting me to sleep right now. But maybe I'm just cranky because there aren't any songs around two minutes in length. My colon is just not ready to handle these lengthy four-minute mid-tempo, um, I dunno, love ballads to Satan. Gone is the edge of yesteryear, gone is striking fear into the hearts of the listener (although I hear this band rips shit up with bus seat advertisements). The ultra-slick production makes me bored. I miss Rick Rubin. That man knew how to make something loud and clear and yet still threatening.
But the album isn't full of throwaway snorefests. Track number nine, "Cult" shows that Tommy can still howl and shriek and that all the dudes can brutalize a breakdown as well as speed it up fast enough to make your thrashy little ears bleed. It's easy to see that this was the song they wanted to debut on 6/6/06. The guitars are a little more spastic. The riffs are a little more hectic. The drums, well, the drums keep pace for the whole album. But at least Slayer shows that they can still slay something, even if it is only one song on a ten-track album.
And even if you snored your way through "Flesh Storm," "Catalyst," "Jihad," and "Consfearacy," you'll get your kicks as the album closes with the aforementioned "Cult" and "Supremist." The end track gives us some good old-fashioned speed riffing as well as some rounded out soloing straight outta `86 and a muscular display of the band's new obsession with slightly dynamic breakdowns. I mean, I don't think Public Enemy's gonna sample anything from Christ Illusion, but we're all down with that rap-metal thing anyway now, aren't we? Shit, "She Watch Channel Zero" was a good song though.
In the end, Slayer is Slayer -- an ever-evolving band that's been around for about 25 years and I can't expect them to put out the same album they put out 20 years ago, even though I wish they would have.
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