Slayer - Christ Illusion

Liam McGrady 20/08/2006

Rating: 4/5

I don't think I could attend a Slayer gig. Having experienced the palpable sense of “who the fuck is this guy?” at various hardcore/straight edge punk concerts - which I'd dared to show up at having neither a tattoo of a skull or hair perma-dyed black - I'd likely get punted around the arena (by big, grizzly bear like men wearing DM's with massive spikes on the end) for being a big girl and not having two tons of metal adorning each ear and nose. And so for us closet/casual Thrash fans, sneaking out 'Christ Illusion' when no one else is in the house and bouncing around the room like a goon is the next best thing. And it's exactly what I've been doing every chance I get.

“Killing's in style and it's now the main event/The cameras are whores for the daily bloodshed” ('Flesh Storm')

Returning to the drum stool after leaving in 1991, Dave Lombardo dominates this record like no record has ever been dominated before. Unlike many Metal drummers, those who have a technique that begins and ends with battering a double bass pedal, there's finesse about Lombardo's unrelenting percussive onslaught. On 'Skeleton Christ' and 'Catatonic' the space left for Hanneman and King's monolithic riffs, which others would fill, only serves to make these already gigantic slabs of Thrash Metal sound even more monstrous, and at times, if you've got the volume loud enough, (and you really have to have the volume as loud as you can handle) the vibrations build to pneumatic drill levels. Having been plying his trade as sticksman for Mike Patton's Fantomas project in the intermitting years, Lombardo's transfer back to Slayer seems to have spurred the remaining members into some of their finest performances since the genre defining 'Reign In Blood'.

“Still I know that in the end I'm expected to pretend/That I can't think for myself/Blame it all on someone else” ('Consfearacy')

As the two sets of cribbed lyrics show, Kerry King is a cut above the general Satan/Death/Suicide style songwriters that the Metal world is awash with, although he does occasionally depart to over doing the “religion is at the root of all evil” manifesto throughout 'Christ Illusion', but with vocalist Tom Araya spitting out these words with an intensity that tells you he's not a man to be fucked with, the more cringeworthy moments can be overlooked. Indeed on 'Catatonic' Araya's constant, deranged, Sergeant Major-esque barking is both terrifying and engrossing at the same time. And as ever, the fearsomely bearded King is granted licence to run riot with maniacal lead guitar playing; breaking out into blistering licks while fellow axeman Jeff Hanneman provides foundation shaking riffs. It's also Hanneman who provides the records most controversial moment.

When the tracklisting for 'Christ Illusion' was revealed, few could fail to notice a song called 'Jihad'. Penned by Hanneman and bassist Tom Araya, the initial reaction is that it's foolhardy to attempt tackling such a subject; and after repeated exposure this initial reaction is proved correct. Lyrically clumsy and crude (“Fuck your God erase his name/A lady weeps insane with sorrow/I'll take his towers from the world/You're fuckin' raped upon your deathbed”) it's a definite black spot in an otherwise exemplary Metal album.

In the twenty years since the classic 'Reign In Blood', Slayer have developed their sound by precisely zero percent, and although most bands don't make it to their third record if no progression is shown, Araya, King, Hanneman and Lombardo perfected their sound way back; and 'Christ Illusion' is a perfect example of the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

'Christ Illusion' is released on American Recordings on 21st August.

Official Slayer Website