posted on 8/2006 By:
Lets be honest here. Slayer hasn’t had a truly classic album since South of Heaven way back in 1988. That’s not to say they haven’t written some great songs since then but there hasn’t been an album that, song for song, can stand up to their early work. Christ Illusion is no exception. It has its moments but fails, like so many before it, to be the comeback album fans have been patiently waiting for upwards of two decades. Like the few albums before it, judging Christ Illusion is really a matter of deciding how many degrees off from their past masterpieces it is. If your favorite aspects of Slayer’s songwriting are the same as mine, it turns out to be quite a few.
Of course there’s no huge shift in style and they haven’t slowed down a bit so there’s no need to start waving the sell out flag just yet. The basic songwriting approach remains the same, fast and furious thrash with a hardcore vibe, but for various reasons Slayer has failed to create more than a handful of strong songs in the five years between albums. Like most of their late period work, there’s familiar echoes of Slayer’s rich back catalog shining through in various parts of this new crop of tunes but, also like so many of their later period albums, these moments are fleeting. Just as a smile crosses your face as you’re thinking “that sort of sounds like Chemical Warfare” or something off Reign In Blood you lose it just as quick as they veer off course. The one exception is “Cult” which, despite its slow take off and mediocre slowdown in the middle passage, almost manages to capture the unbridled fury of their best work. So although “Cult” comes close, their inability to write a straightforward groove heavy thrash song to rival their early output remains steadfastly in place here.
I brought up the groove heavy description for a reason. This is the area where I felt most let down. This is the first Slayer album I can remember to not have at least a few big thrash grooves to bite your teeth into. Instead their best rhythm riffs tend to get trampled by overzealous solos which, as any fan knows, are always slight variations of the same theme. One example is part way through “Consfearacy”, where my favorite riff of the album pops up only to be overrun by a solo from start to finish. What should have been the centerpiece head banging moment of the song, if not the entire album, is drowned out by whammy bar heavy wanking. Another needless sacrifice is on “Supremist”. After a killer teaser riff, a chunky groove just waiting to unleash is wrapped up tight under the cover of more needless solos. Burying their best grooves, a pillar of Slayer’s sound, under me-too solos was a huge mistake, weakening otherwise good songs with the most generic and predictable part of Slayer’s songwriting style.
The other area I feel let down is the overall sound and direction of the album. For better or worse, this is arguably the first Slayer record to not have a totally distinct sound from the others. From the guitar tone to the songwriting style (right down to the slow spoken word style songs), to the lyrical content, Christ Illusion is extremely similar to God Hates Us All only not quite as memorable. The guitars are a tad thicker and it’s a bit faster in certain areas but if you had never heard God Hates Us All and you had these two albums on random shuffle you would be hard pressed to tell the difference beyond the set of superior songs on the prior album.
There are some good songs on here, notably the three mentioned above, but none of these top the best songs on their last album and certainly nothing from their previous work. I’m sure a lot of people will prefer the speed and aggressiveness of some of the songs found here over some past material but the lack of big thrash grooves kills it for thrash hounds like me. So, at least in my book, Christ Illusion is going to anchor the bottom rung on the Slayer album hierarchy.
posted on 8/2006 By:
Well, it’s about goddamn time. Since the release of 2001’s God Hates Us All, Slayer has released a box set, two live DVDs, and done something like eight U.S. tours. People started to give up on, and even stopped caring about, Axl Rose in half that time. Thankfully, Slayer has ended their quest for the record of “Longest Time Between Studio Albums by an Active Band” with the long-awaited release of The Christ Illusion. But was it really worth the wait?
Well, that all depends. This may well be the most divisive Slayer album ever, even more so than Diabolus In Musica or the entire Lombardo vs. Bostaph debate. It’s going to split their fanbase into two camps: fanatics who bow at their altar (of sacrifice), and fans who expect just a little more out of these antichrists. I mean, it’s a Slayer album, and that is both its strongest and weakest point. You can always count on Slayer to never change their style and start incorporating foreign elements to their sound. On the other hand, it’s hard to get really excited about an album that sounds like much of their existing catalog.
Lets look at some key points. First, the sound is great. With the Seasons In the Abyss lineup reunited, The Christ Illusion picks up right where that album left of, albeit with all technological advances still intact. It makes for an album that is instantly familiar and comfortable, almost refreshing, like that first drink of water after leaving the sweaty moshpit. There is nothing here to make it a bad album, with all the elements in place and executed the way only Slayer can. Highlights include “Skeleton Christ”, which features some of the more multidimensional vocal melodies we’ve heard form these guys, “Catalyst”, with a main riff that recalls “War Ensemble”, and “Consfearacy”, the fastest part of this collection.
On the downside, we have the aforementioned redundancy. Nothing new here, but at least recycled Slayer still beats the crap out of 98% of new music. Worse than that, though, are the lyrics. I really think Kerry King and Co. are starting to get really lazy. The majority of the album is an attack on God, religion, and Christianity. While I have no philosophical objection to any of that, I can only take so much “Hail satan!”, “6-6-6!”, and similar such themes. It really makes a song like “Eyes of the Insane”, their latest anti-war tirade, stand out, and what I once thought was a weak link has become one of the strongest, just because it was a nice change to hear a mid-tempo song about war rather than a blistering assault on the church. Besides, Deicide has the cheesy satanic market cornered anyway, and I don’t like them, either.
So what is the end result? Does it really matter? You’re going to buy this anyway, simply because it’s Slayer. And you probably should, too. It’s a good, strong Slayer album – nothing less, nothing more. You won’t dislike it, but you may be disappointed, though only at first, until you accept it for what it is and revel in the fact that, for all the shortcomings I’ve mentioned, Slayer can still deliver the goods 25 years later when most of their contemporaries are producing watered down versions of their former selves.
posted on 8/2006 By:
Like, oh my god, it’s Slayyyyerrr!!!! Fuckkk yeah!
Now that I have that out of my, like, system and stuff, I am going to talk about the album. “Flesh Storm?” “Skeleton Christ?” Grody to the max! My sister, who is like a total goth (what a loser!) snuck me this album when daddy wasn’t looking. I guess this is what I am supposed to do with it…review it for you people?
Well, ok, so first thing is first. This is WAY satanic! These guys like hate religion or something, because I heard the guy singing about satan a lot. My sister tells me not to worry because the singer is Catholic, but like, in confession, my priest told me I was going to hell so I got really worried. But, like, then I told him the guy was like Catholic and stuff and my priest said it was okay, he was probably just pretending like he believed in the lyrics and everything. So I was like, okay, Britney probably doesn’t write and believe in like EVERYTHING she sings, right? I think these guys might even be on the same label, I don’t know.
So I got like WAY into this and listened to their first few albums for you guys. You know, for comparison and stuff. SHOW NO MERCY!!! REIGN IN BLOOD!!! I got like halfway into that last one before I just dropped like everything I was doing and ran to my sister. She was doing a ritual or something, because when I ran into her room there was a really strange, pungent smell coming from around her, and I don’t think it was her poonanny. I told her I was scared of the sounds and stuff and she said it was fine, to just listen to this new album because it was less scary. I totally agree, too. Fer sure. This is slower. Like, what is that word? Methodical?! Some of the songs sound the same to me. The, uh, riffs. They’re like not very good. Forced much?
So I invited my bestest boyfriend over to protect me while I was playing this. He put his arms around me and I felt all cuddly when this song called “Eyes of the Insane” played. I knew my boyfriend would like this because he likes this dark stuff sometimes (he listens to HARDCORE stuff, like with breakdowns!) and he started moving his head back and forth and stuff. I just laughed and danced with him. When the singer talked about demons I got scared again, but then he said something about panic attacks and I remembered how, Amber, who is like my BFF, had a panic attack last time we were watching The O.C. and she accidentally choked on a Milk Dud. Hahahaha! I know! Gag me with a spoon, right?!
Some of you guys will like this, I guess. It’s pretty hardcore though. Screaming about satan and war and torture is scary and I wouldn’t mess with these guys. They seem to be really popular at my school. I see a lot of greasy guys who I would NEVER fuck wearing Slayer shirts and stuff. Those guys never change. They’re, like, so last year. And the year before. And the year before THAT!! Hahaha. They don’t seem to care though, and there are lots of them, like enough where their shirts are popular, I guess. I think maybe these guys will always be popular. I see them advertised, like, everywhere I go. I even saw them on a bench!!
P.S. That song “Cult” is KEWL!
posted on 8/2006 By:
A whole lot has happened to the world in the five years that have passed since that ironic, infamous day God Hates Us All was released. Metal, too, has changed over the past five years. Many of us have been wondering if Slayer would be able to craft an album on par with their classic material by taking creative advantage of the vast space in time between releases, along with Dave Lombardo’s return to the fold. In some ways, this is the same band we’ve all grown up loving over the years, and simultaneously Christ Illusion validates the fears which some of us have had that the Slayer machine is willing to coast on unchallenging autopilot, and in the process, is steadily falling behind the pack of hungry, ambitious metal bands of today.
What Goes Right: It’s Slayer. Everything you love about Slayer is here in some form or another. The return of Dave Lombardo behind the kit is a dream come true for both the fans, and the rest of his bandmates, and it shows. Christ Illusion has possibly the smoothest, most natural flow of any album of theirs since South Of Heaven, only a slightly easier listen than Divine Intervention, and the songs are seamlessly arranged with one another, meshing in a more complimentary way than anything they’ve released in years. The pacing is well thought out, situating mid-paced and restrained material between the more up-tempo thrashers, which ends up feeling much less clumsy overall than God Hates Us All, and I won’t even bring Diabolus In Musica into this.
There’s also been a kind of bare bones change in the songwriting, stripping down some of the overtly unnatural voice embellishments encountered on the past three albums, and keeping the ideas as current as the band is humanly capable of, with sometimes lacerating results. Tom Araya seems to have coughed that annoying digital frog out of his throat and reclaims his crown as the king of rapid-fire vocals, and likewise, Kerry King remains one of the best rhythm players in the scene. The return to a more speed-based delivery has been a long time coming, as “Flesh Storm”, “Jihad”, “Cult”, and “Catalyst” stand strong among much of their back catalogue, showing the ferocious bite that made this legendary outfit such an obnoxious pleasure in the first place. It’s nice to hear so much speed metal from these guys again. Searing riffs align with Lombardo’s untouchable drumming (the minimalist blastbeat placed cleverly in “Supremist” was a nice touch), and gloriously classic Slayer malice reemerges which, for a few moments, reminds you how intimidating this band can still be at times. They are, truly, one of the greatest acts metal has ever known. Which brings me to…
What Goes Wrong: It’s Slayer, and Christ Illusion sounds like Slayer just being themselves, and absolutely nothing more. With very, very few exceptions, the five years gone has shown absolutely no progression from the band as songwriters, lyricists, or performers. In fact, they’ve taken a step back in parts. While many of the tunes here are played with typical animosity, the successful flow of the album can partially be attributed to the uneventful nature of the songwriting as a whole. This is basic, remedial, blueprint Slayer, which is less than I was expecting from such a legendary act at this stage in the game, and by going for the easy, stereotypical extremes they’ve always gone to, the band has played it entirely too safe for themselves.
Unlike Metallica, who abandoned their thrash roots entirely, Slayer have always been very aware of the musical events in the metal underground, which is why you’d think they’d want to step-up their game even more. Many of the riffs are derivative of past material to the point of being able to match bits and pieces to previous songs, and the solos are flat, and lifeless replicas of the beautiful chaotic deconstruction of past works. At some points, they sound inspired, and at other times, they’re just going through the motions, and the strange mix and tone of the guitars at times doesn’t help matters any.
Lyrically, moments of Christ Illusion are just flat-out embarrassing, and the thought of some of this material being performed indifferently by a group of 40-something year olds is ridiculous bordering on parody. The album cover, which I honestly thought was a prank at first, reflects the stale lyrical joke this band’s subject matter has become. It isn’t remotely shocking anymore, nor is it controversial to anyone within their listening audience, so really, for who’s shock value benefit was this written for? People who don’t even listen to, or buy this sort of music at all? I fail to see the purpose. Perhaps the energy could be better spent towards higher standards of quality then, don’t you think? It really doesn’t appear Slayer will be expanding their audience with this album very much, so I really hope some of these lyrics are meant as a ribbing provided for the band and longtime faithful fans (like myself) to get a chuckle out of together. Otherwise, some of the prose is laughable in only the worst sense of the word.
In The End: It’s Slayer, and that’s good enough for me. You have probably already come to your own decision as to whether or not you will venture out of your caves come wildfire, tropical storm, or heatstroke to purchase Christ Illusion on August 8th. Like myself, if you’re happy settling for Slayer at their most basic, which is sometimes all you really want out of the band, then this album will make you smile from ear to ear like I do. While they have avoided conforming to the nonconformist norm, and stayed true to their vision, Slayer also seem to be merely content to comfortably rest in the limited creative bed they’ve made for themselves. The result is a little disappointing coming from such a great act that has accomplished so much, and left such a violent impression on the face of metal over the years. As a loyal fan, I’m content with Christ Illusion, and plan on buying and thrashing to it considerably, but that and two bucks will get me a train ride across town, and that alone sure ain’t worth a 6/6/6. You can’t always get what you want, but Slayer will always give me a little bit of what I need even if I’m not flipping over it, and the score reflects that. See you there on Tuesday.
posted on 8/2006 By:
“The best Slayer album since Seasons in the Abyss.” Jesus, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype and exhilarating promise of such a possibility. And Christ Illusion might just deliver on that claim. But don’t go slicing up your forearms just yet—this album may or may not be better than the band’s recent output (if recent means decade a decade and a half), meaning that if it edges ahead at all, it’s only by the length of one Kerry King armband spike. It boils down to how classic you believe Divine Intervention to be (it’s not) and how lame you find Diabolus In Musica and God Hates Us All (neither are). In truth, Slayer has never made a wholly bad album, which puts them on an extremely short list of long serving metal godfathers that can make such a claim. Christ Illusion is very definitely as good or better than anything the band’s last three albums, but easily falls shy of everything that came before that. In short, this is exactly what should have been expected from Slayer. If you’re among those that left the fold after Seasons, this album won’t do much to change your mind, but for the rest of us, Christ Illusion is an overdue and welcome fix from of one of the true kings of metal.
The main talking point here is of course the return of Dave Lombardo, not simply because of his drum god status (because Paul Bostaph was taking care of business just fine, thank you very much) but because it reunited the band’s classic line up, last together on the monstrous Seasons In the Abyss. Lombardo’s return has seemed to rekindle the fires in the Slayer machine, giving the band a more pronounced and consistent vibrancy and edge than heard on recent offerings. Unfortunately, I can’t say the band’s excitement is fully transferable to the listener. Christ Illusion is simply another Slayer album. It’s exactly what you love and exactly what you don’t about modern Slayer, and for most of us, that suits just fine. As they did with God Hates Us All, the band beats you over the head with the anti-Christianity shtick, which at this point is a little like watching Gene Simmons spit blood in 2006, now that you know Mr. Demon is nothing more than Ronald McDonald in an s&m getup. The band’s unsettling mystique is by now long gone, so why keep going back to that well? It’s all part of the big show, of course. And the issues created by the tired image and message tactics are similar, but more severe, as those found in the music itself. Again, what you’ll find here is exactly what Slayer has been offering up for years, albeit with more venom in many places. The fact that they’re more enthusiastic about playing recycled riffs doesn’t make the songs any fresher than what they’ve been serving up in recent years. And it’s odd—at times the band sounds fiery and sharp, and in other places, it feels like they’re just going through the motions, especially vocally. Christ Illusion, like GHUA and Divine Intervention, was penned mostly by Kerry King, and the album sounds somewhere between those efforts. But this album is more consistent than the last, and that, along with the rejuvenating effect of the band’s reunion, is ultimately what makes Christ Illusion notable. There are really only a couple songs that truly stand out, but just as few that find the band going astray. And even on the lesser songs, such as “Jihad”, the band still sneaks in a tantalizing riff or two that keeps the tracks from being skip-worthy. Bands that wrote landmark albums don’t write them again twenty years later. Still, Slayer is one of the very few important and popular bands to stick to its guns, and Christ Illusion offers up more of the same tried and true Slayer formula to make it well worth laying down your cash yet again. Then come the shows…
posted on 8/2006 By:
Is there a metalhead out there that doesn’t have a brain full of fond memories related to Slayer? I know I’ve got my share, but one of my favorite dates was back in 1984 when I spent the better part of an hour wandering around my local record store trying to figure out if I had the balls to bring Show No Mercy into my parents' house. As a whelp of only 14, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander to the immediate ration of shit I’d undoubtedly be served if my parents found such a frightening looking record in my room. And hell, at such a tender age I was afraid of the ramifications of buying and listening to such a blasphemous looking platter. In the end, I tossed the Lutheran school bred thoughts of strumming harps on a cloud to a mental pyre and dropped the $10 on the record. Very quickly afterward, my room was filled with the ripping, evil sounds of classics such as “The Antichrist”, “Die By the Sword”, and “Tormentor”, over and over again, and my parents were none the wiser. Today, when the occasional person asks whether or not I’m a fan, it’s that era of Slayer that has me immediately answering ‘fuck yeah!’ as Tom Araya’s ‘tormenTOOOORrrrr!!!!’ immediately slithers into my mind.
Although I still consider myself a huge fan of the band, the last Slayer record I actually spent money on and listened to in earnest was their amazing 1988 release, South of Heaven - a record I still believe features some of the most enjoyable metal drumming I’ve heard, courtesy of one Dave Lombardo. Fast forward 18-years later and I’d say it’s essentially Dave’s triumphant return to the foul flock that made me want to throw my two-cents into this review, and after countless spins over the past couple of weeks, Christ Illusion is basically what I expected it to be – aggressive, newer sounding Slayer. There are definitely songs on this record any fan of the band (or thrash in general) would be proud to have erupting from their speakers - “Flesh Storm”, “Catalyst”, “Consfearacy”, and the excellent “Cult” - but the remainder of Christ Illusion is a mixed bunch. The two slower tunes, “Eyes of The Insane” and “Catalyst” certainly aren’t bad, per say, but they still fall short of South of Heaven’s excellent examples of slower, smokier cuts like “Live Undead” and “You Spill the Blood”. The utterly strange beginning to “Jihad” and the ‘soon-to-be-an-intro-for-a-wrestler’ stylings of “Skeleton Christ” stand as the albums’ only tunes I actively dislike, while “Black Serenade” and closer “Supremist” quietly pass by without much notice.
Most fans will probably buy Christ Illusion simply because it is Slayer, and I sure as hell won’t fault them for doing so. Hell, the band could release an album featuring them farting into kazoo’s for an hour and I’d still be proud as fuck to call myself a fan, but I still think I’ll be reaching for the band’s seminal early material over Christ Illusion when I’m really in the mood to be slain.
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