Diabolus In Musica

Slayer

American Recordings, 1998

REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/28/2007

Years of anticipation built by artists prior to releasing an album may prove risky because it would only mean either of the two: it would rule or suck. There simply are no in-between when it comes to these albums, and this is no different with Diabolus In Musica.

Despite the four years that Slayer had prior to their last studio effort (disregarding Undisputed Attitude,) this album is arguably the worst in the band's to-then unblemished career.

Diabolus In Musica is an exercise in mediocre pseudo-groove-thrash. Not the worst album in the world by any stretch, despite popular belief, but it’s a damn shame to what happened to this once stellar metal outfit. Slayer became the last and final casualty among the top-tier thrash bands in the ‘80s (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax) who have headed into collision course with stupefaction in their attempt to gain ground in the current metal scene.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The gravest sin Slayer committed with this album was the incorporation of modern elements into their well-entrenched and hallowed musical identity. Personally, I have nothing against nu metal, but once its influence starts to permeate on one of the most respected metal bands ever, heads ought to roll.

Most of the songs are groovy and bouncy, totally uncharacteristic of Slayer. Listen to the verse riff of “Stain of Mind” when it squanders a promising intro riff and mutates the song into a banal three-chord riff. Stinkers such as the hardcore-gone-wrong “Death’s Head,” “In The Name of God” and “Love to Hate” unabashedly use nu-metal elements to a fuller effect. I am not sure if Slayer were consciously aiming for radio airplay, which actually became the case with “Stain of Mind,” but that doesn’t give it an excuse to write trite material like this.

Another weak aspect of the album is Tom Araya’s monotonous and grating vocal performance. If you think the vocals on Divine Intervention were irritating, wait until you hear the lame hardcore barking of “Love to Hate.” Chances are that you will also really love to hate the song.

On a positive note, the album contains barely enough material for Slayer fans to bother. “Bitter Peace” is a commendable attempt to return to their thrashtastic glory and “Unguarded Instinct” is just way badass. From the insane drum fills by Paul Bostaph to the sinister-sounding chorus, this song harkens back to the glory days -- and, tellingly, it's only available as an import version of this disc, while the stinkers are readily available.

“Point,” the album’s closing number, is the pinnacle of the album and arguably the best underrated Slayer song ever. Great post-traumatic warfare lyrics, nice variety of pace which allows for mood to develop and great dynamics make this song one to remember. Too bad it is part of an album that is so unremarkable.

This is not a work of a band that every metal fan once worshiped and praised. Save for two to three songs at most, this album is filled with glaring shortcomings and insipid moments. Proceed with caution.

Rating: D+

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© 2007 Benny Balneg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of American Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.