Sunday, March 11, 2007

Album Review: Slayer - Christ Illusion

Slayer. To fans, they are beyond icons, they are the immortal image of metal, be it thrash, hardcore, or straight satanic doom. To everyone else, they're the band with the freakshow fans who carve "Slayer" into their flesh (thanks mostly to a Slayer EP cover, but maybe from the kid who sat next to you in math class who smelled like pot all the time).

As a huge metal fan, other metalheads would slap me for not listening to Slayer. But, here it is, I had never listened to a Slayer album before today. Yeah, I've heard them, but never listened. Therefore, I don't have Slayer tattoos, brands, or flesh wounds. But I do have Christ Illusion, the 2006 album produced by Rick Rubin (who also produced the seminal Reign in Blood and just about everything else Slayer has done) and released on Rubin's American Recordings imprint.

Recently voted Revolver Magazine's "Best Guitarist/Guitar Team", Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are my new guitar gods. The chugging riffs on "Skeleton Christ" and "Catatonic" had me ready to stagedive off my couch and romp around in the pit (though I'd never get into the pit at a Slayer show. Too much blood). I'll get hate mail, but my greatest criticism of Slayer (other than Kerry King wearing his own band's shirt all the time) is Tom Araya. Slayer's vocalist is, first and foremost, a bass player. And it shows in his vocals, which often float right on top of the bass lines in the songs. Overall, Araya comes through, both in vocals and bass. And Dave Lombardo (voted "Best Drummer" in the Revolver poll) on drums ferociously pounds his way through the whole album.

"Jihad", with Araya screaming "This is God's war!", is written from the viewpoint of the 9/11 attackers, which ends with a verse quoting the handbook of the attackers. This will remind the whole world why Slayer is so controversial, though the band takes no sides in the song. Presenting an alternate viewpoint is the Grammy-winning "Eyes of the Insane" speaks to soldiers in the war, particularly a recently-returned soldier battling with post-trauamtic stress disorder, and ironically, is one of the weakest representations of the band on the whole record. "Supremist" is classic thrash and typical Slayer criticism of what they consider the mind-controlling quality of religion, closing out the album with screaming vocals and Hanneman's screeching guitar.

Christ Illusion is cold, hard proof that Slayer, after twenty-five years, is still on top of their game, and are largely responsible for why metal has lasted and managed to rudely and crudely claw its way to the forefront of popular music.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Click the album art above to purchase Christ Illusion.

No comments: