Slayer - Christ IllusionShare. Meet the new Slayer, same as the old Slayer. By Andy Patrizio
When a band changes a prominent member, it tries to carry on like nothing has happened, but fans know better. So it was with Slayer. Its brilliant, virtuoso drummer Dave Lombardo left the band in 1992 due to conflict with the band over his desire to bring his new wife on the road with him. The band hired Paul Bostaph and soldiered on with three more albums, but everyone knew, it just wasn't the same.
In 2001, Bostaph left and Lombardo was asked to temporarily fill in. Like Steve Jobs becoming the "temporary" CEO of Apple back in 1997, I knew there was no way the fans would let this be a genuine temporary gig. Sure enough, he became a permanent member one year later.
The band's new material, though, would be delayed for quite some time due to their label, Rick Rubin's American Recordings, shopping for a new distribution deal. Once American secured a deal with Warner, it was time to let the Slayer war ensemble roll again.
The result is Christ Illusion, an album largely written by Kerry King and even more vehemently anti-religious than the last Slayer album, God Hates Us All. I mean, with lyrics like " Religion is hate/Religion's fear/Religion is war. Religion is rape/Religion's obscene/Religion's a whore," it's a safe bet King sleeps in on Sunday mornings.
Those lyrics come from the best track on the album, "Cult." It's everything Slayer is known for: brutal, fast, thrashy with heavy riffing. As for the rest of the record, well&#Array; it's a Slayer record. Few bands have stayed on message as reliably as Slayer. They didn't go off on horrid tangents of experimentation (Metallica), go soft (Metallica) or try to go Hollywood (Metallica).
And therein lies the problem. Like AC/DC on the lighter end of the spectrum, or Cannibal Corpse on the more extreme end, a Slayer record has no real surprises. You know what to expect. Over the years, it's just been a matter of how well they execute. I think the biggest surprise I've had was 1994's "Divine Intervention," when the band got political for the first time ("Dittohead").
I never would have thought that the return of Dave Lombardo to Slayer would result in such an unremarkable album. Perhaps the band, now all in their 40s, just don't have it in them any more.
Lombardo is on his game, no question, and his presence is undeniable. The one who has lost a step, or at least some range, is vocalist Tom Araya. It was obvious on their live DVD, Still Regining, that he couldn't hit the high notes any more. On Christ Illusion, he doesn't even try. His voice drops down to a lower growl than in the past, but it still works, to great effect.
Much of the album is recycled riffs from, well, pretty much all of their older albums. The subject matter, as I said, is largely spitting in the face of religion. Never ones to avoid controversy, the song "Jihad" is about terrorism from the terrorist's point of view.
It's just the songs are astonishingly average. "Jihad," "Flesh Storm," "Skeleton Christ," "Supremist," after a while they are a blur of the same riffs, tuning, tempos and arrangements. And yes, Kerry, I get it. You hate religion. I got that impression with "Haunting the Chapel" in 1984.
I don't know if Slayer has it in them to do another Reign in Blood. Quite frankly, if they did, I have no doubt it would sound just like Reign in Blood. Rick Rubin wasn't fully involved with this album--main production duties were handled by Josh Abraham--and it shows. Rubin's hand may have given these songs a badly needed boost.
After all is said and done, Christ Illusion is a Slayer record. If you're a fan, you know everything that entails.
3. "Eyes of the Insane"