Wednesday, August 23, 2006

old skull



slayer - 'christ illusion'

released: august 8, 2006
american recordings

songs: 1. flesh storm 2. catalyst 3. eyes of the insane 4. jihad 5. skeleton christ 6. consfearacy 7. catatonic 8. black serenade 9. cult 10. supremist

The trouble with redefining any musical genre, and one with such demanding and involved fans such as metal in particular, is that you'll forever be living under the weight of what you've done. It's hard to think of a band more burdened with history than Slayer. yes, there are other bands with a bigger and, arguably, more significant history within metal (not many, though), but the sheer fanaticism of the longtime Slayer afficionados ensures that they get no forgiveness whatsoever for anything less than the utter brilliance of their holy trinity, 'Reign In Blood', 'South Of Heaven' and 'Seasons In The Abyss'. Ever since then (and 'Seasons' is already 16 years old, in case you're forgetting how time flies!), the reaction to every slayer record has been more or less the same - good record, a couple of really great songs that make it into the live set, but it's no -insert your past fave here-.

Well, there's precious little that can be done to change that default reaction now, but 'Christ Illusion' goes a good step further to making everyone a bit happier. Personally, I have quite enjoyed 'God Hates Us All', but after repeated listenes the idea starts to emerge that 'Christ Illusion' is the best thing slayer have done since, well, you know, those. It has become usual to associate Slayer's not-as-good-as period with the absence of drummer Dave Lombardo. While it's unfair to place all the pressure on him to make Slayer different, the fact is that his return does lend a new punch to some compositions. Dave is the best drummer in the world, and the blitzkrieg beat of 'Cult' or the cascading rhythm of 'Skeleton Christ', to cite but two examples, have his signature all over it.

There is also much less filler. Most bands would sell their grannies for Slayer's filler, but 'Christ Illusion' is the most consistent, varied record in many years from them. It storms off the gates with a song that will surely wreak havoc on many a moshpit in future tours, 'Flesh Storm', which leads into the equally fast and furious 'Catalyst'. It harks back to the perfect 'War Ensemble'/'Blood Red' opening of 'Seasons', both in speed and in energy. From then on, it's a rollercoaster ride of crushing riffs and some unexpected tempo changes, like the unusual 'Jihad' or the catchy 'Consfearacy'. Tom Araya's vocals are also much improved over the last few records, where he strangely turned to a repetitive screaming. He now provides a very strong vocal delivery to some of the best Slayer lyrics ever. Kerry King in particular has dropped a bit of the dumb-jock feel of late and seems to be full of anti-religious bile, which is a good thing. The thoughtful war considerations on 'Eyes Of The Insane' are also a highlight in that department.

So if you're still hung on those old records, lighten up and give 'Christ Illusion' a chance. It's fast, it's brutal, most songs are memorable, Dave's back and the artwork has even been banned in some places. It's like metal is dangerous all over again.

The best mix of old and new (the good new) slayer you could wish for.

the good: best slayer album in 16 years, storming opening pair of songs, dave's back
the bad: okay, okay, still not as good as the classics, and some songs like 'flesh storm' clearly stand out from the rest

7 comments:

  1. I have not heard this yet, but may buy it soon if I can get out to record store. I like everything from 83-88, but have problems with Seasons in the abyss. After that I like the other albums, but nothing is close to being great. I think there was a lot of growth between Show no mercy and Reign in blood and it happened faster than anyone could have imagined. South of heaven didn't break much new ground, but it was very in control and it worked. My problem with most of the albums after that is that they break very little new ground and don't seem to be trying to. However, at least the albums were good unlike someone like Megadeth who have been all over the place with styles in the last 13 years. Good review, makes me want to get this album.

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  2. thanks, mark!

    i do agree, there was little true innovation in the last few records. but i think this one shows that they're on the right path and still progressing a bit.

    and like you said, slayer never really dropped beneath the 'good' threshold, like many of their contemporary classics like megadeth a couple of others i could mention...

    i hope you don't hate the record and then blame the wasted money on me, though. :P

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  3. I was going to write a review of this CD at my blog but I will probably just link to your review. I agree 100%. This is a good CD and full of all of the Slayer trademarks. It's a no bullshit Slayer record. My main complaint with this record would probably be the lyrics to "Cult" which are plain silly.

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  4. thanks a lot, fred. and i'm sorry i 'stole' your review! :)

    i agree with the 'cult' lyrics, they're rather goofy and don't really fit the rest of the rather good lyrics. but hey, they're better than 'scrum'. :)

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  5. I never really listened to the last two Slayer albums. I was talking to my brother about them two weeks ago and he said the same thing. I didn't realize that Scrum was about Rugby. It's almost as bad as Sudden Death by Bathory, which is about hockey...not very Viking..

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  6. I kind liked "god hates us all" too and i'm goingo to listen to this one really carefull. I was expecting it many time ago.

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  7. bolos - olá sérgio, tudo bem? :)

    bem vindo ao blog, é bom ter-te por cá. depois diz-me a tua opinião sobre o 'christ illusion', quando o ouvires com atenção.

    e se quiseres sugerir algum álbum, podes sempre usar o email na página principal do blog.

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