Thursday, July 27, 2006

First Take - Christ Illusion

Slayer - Christ IllusionIt's been five years since Slayer's last album and more than 16 since the original lineup disbanded. So the million dollar question is, "Now that Dave Lombardo is back in the band, is this a super awesome record?"

First, let me say that I like Slayer's newer stuff. I admit that Divine Intervention didn't do a lot for me, but I enjoy Diabolus In Musica, and God Hates Us All is quite strong. So I don't really fall in the same camp as the "Slayer hasn't done anything good since Seasons" people.

But I'm supposed to be talking about Christ Illusion. Here's the deal: if you were expecting a record as good as Reign In Blood, South, or Seasons, keep dreaming. This record is not a return to the structure or sound of any of those releases.

It should come as no surprise that Christ Illusion is a refinement of what Slayer sounds like on God Hates Us All. Arya is singing in that same shouting style, the tunes are similarly thrashy, and the riffage still has the tone (thankfully a little less processed) and fierce downtuning present there. In fact, there are songs that even sludgy-er, which isn't my cup of tea. I wish they'd leave that to the young-uns, like Mastodon, whose material and style suits the sludge better.

What this album does have over God is cooler riffs. They aren't quite as drop dead obviously awesome or complex as the South or Seasons years, but the band does lock in and groove with the riffage more than they have in years. There is more detail to the guitar parts than we've heard lately (punctuated at appropriate times with lead fills, tremelo wanking, and pick slides), and the solos dive in and smoke with conviction. If you want different, there's even a weird pluck-y chord-y part that introduces the already controversial "Jihad".

Past drummers have always been technically good, but there's something about Dave that meshes perfectly with the Slayer soundscape. He seems to have a better grasp of exactly what fill or beat fits with what riff. Welcome back Dave; we missed you.

The old boys tried hard, and for that alone we should be thankful. But if I may give a word of advice: next time guys, just work your brains out on complexity, pacing, structure, and rhythm, and give us one tune as epic as you were on "Angel of Death", "Raining Blood", or "Seasons In the Abyss". Start now and you'll have it!


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