In some respects Slayer are the AC/DC of the metal world. They’ve become an institution without ever changing their formula, and have earned respect for their consistently high quality output over their long career.
Even after the departure of drummer Dave Lombardo – arguably their heart and soul – they kept producing quality albums. While Divine Intervention and Diabolus In Musica are two of their lesser acclaimed albums, they still packed a punch more powerful than any of the nu-metal upstarts that were popular at the time. And 2001’s God Hates Us All was a writhing, angry masterpiece.
And while the recent return of Lombardo’s powerful rhythms and more open cymbals is most welcome, they haven’t abandoned the commitment to technical precision and modern production techniques that they embraced after his departure.
The title track (and opening track) off this album is a perfect example of this fusion of power and precision. The mid-tempo riff in the middle of the song rocks out like the good old days, and had me recalling the middle section of Angel Of Death.
And while there is nothing quite as slow and creepy as Dead Skin Mask, there is still room for some atmospherics here and there. Human Strain, for example, has some uneasy minor tones, and Playing With Dolls has several slow and ominous sections.
One standout track is the thoroughly modern stomper Americon, which sees Lombardo hitting his straps on the double kick. The lyrics make a direct political statement which could be seen as brave territory, but then again this band has been educating its audience on the horrors of war for decades.
While Lombardo gets major props for his performance on this album (and at their recent Slayeroke gig in Melbourne!), the dual guitar assault of Hanneman and King should never be underrated.
The CD comes with a short, somewhat disturbing DVD, which gives a sample of each of the songs on the album, and sets a very grim mood to proceedings.
Listening to a Slayer album is a little bit like watching a good horror movie. It taps into something primal in your brain. It isn’t always going to be pleasant, but if you can face down your fears and let yourself enjoy it, you’ll emerge from the experience a much stronger person.