American Recordings, 2006
REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/17/2007
What a drummer does to change the ways of a band’s music.
After Dave Lombardo left the fold after the release of Seasons Of The Abyss, Slayer has delved deep into abysmal territory, formally starting with Diabolus In Musica. The band's interest in writing more groove-oriented songs, perhaps with a mainstream slant, was critically vilified by their fans. Not only was their songwriting down the john, but Tom Araya's hallowed voice and evil snarls has mutated into annoying and monotonous yells.
Last year, however, Christ Illusion saw a band with a renewed sense of purpose turning out arguably the best Slayer release since their criminally underrated Divine Intervention. Surely, Lombardo's return has got something to do with this.
“It's all just psychotic devotion / Manipulated with no discretion,” sings Araya in the chours of opener “Flesh Storm,” keeping up with the band's streak of producing quality introductory songs. Abundant with fast low-E riffing, fast drumming and an engaging groove to boot, the song rekindles their classic “War Ensemble.”
Single “Eyes Of The Insane” starts with a lurching riff characteristic of modern Slayer songs. However, compared to those trite compositions from previous albums, this song regains that evil vibe from the early years -- not as vile or venomous, only more mature and dangerous. Even the chorus makes me want to go ballistic, and not since a long time did I want to mosh to a Slayer song. Call me crazy, but I'm marking this as one of their finest songs post-Seasons.
Part of the charm that this album possesses is the fact that Slayer is able to successfully expand its musical territory. Unlike their disappointing post-Lombardo records, Christ Illusion has the band come into terms with heavy-handed, post-thrash music and signature neck-breaking rhythms. Also, the newfound energy that the band fosters on their songs must be commended, thanks in part to Mr. Lombardo, whose lively and charismatic drum work seems to be the one responsible for breathing new life in the band's intensity and songwriting.Aside from the inherent problems of the band (Araya's cheese-grating vocals,) the guitars suffer from a flabby tone due to Josh Abraham's muddy production job. Instead of a sharp knife piercing your flesh, you get a spatula trying to stab you in the gut. Not really painful, eh?
Not to mention, some of the songs have spotty or awkward riffs, particular in “Black Serenade,” where hardcore-inspired verse riffing and repetitive choral breakdown makes for a tired song. “Jihad” and “Cult” are poster songs in the album that feature frantic and furious mad-thrashing mad dynamics but possess somewhat similar song structures.
Nobody can deny that Slayer has rebounded quite well from the last two studio albums. This was not the best way to do it (although another Reign In Blood would be every metalhead's wet dream,) but Christ Illusion is certainly a step in the right direction.