Slayer CD review [American]

Music Reviews
Slayer CD review [American]
Aug 8, 2006, 02:08

SLAYER Christ Illusion CD

When bands become as venerable as a band like Slayer, any new release will automatically be stacked against their previous works. Some will defer to the old, choosing to keep the band locked up in a box of their younger selves, unwilling to accept any sort of change, experimentation or artistic growth. Other bands will cave to this sort of thinking and consistently put out the same record over and over again, until the band is more like a cover band of themselves, lacking the very élan that originally had them on top to begin with. Iron Maiden is a prefect case in point: 2003's lackluster Dance of Death put little new fire into the canon of Maiden but what could anyone do to top such staples of jean-jacket teen fury like Number of the Beast or Trooper?

Metallica blatantly ignored their fans' demands and put out the single most challenging and adventurous record of their careers with the much maligned and misunderstood but equally incredible St. Anger. And meanwhile, Slayer has foregone taking either of these paths; true, they may have lost a drummer or two over the years, but the band has always continued to be an active entity, avoiding midlife crises and personality meltdowns by sticking to their guns as the sole bastions of “Slay-tanic” power metal. However, each Slayer record has been unique within its own framework, and Kerry King and co. have always made sure to update their sound and take the band in subtle new directions, keeping Jesus-bashing sounding fresh and alive.

The previous God Hates Us All was by far the best Slayer release since Reign in Blood, and the freshest sounding metal record of 2001. Given God Hates Us All's ever-present rotation in my music play lists, I was more than excited to see the release of Christ Illusion and even more excited to hear the first record by the original lineup in more than 10 years with drummer Dave Lombardo back in the fold. Upon listening, I find little that adds to Slayer's body of work. Not to say that the record is bad—it's certainly not—but something is missing and there's an overall air of obligation dominating much of what's here that holds it back.

There are gems; “Skeleton Christ” reprises some of the detuned guitar dissonance found on God Hates Us All and is perhaps the best tune on the entire record. “Jihad” takes stabs at Christians by taking stabs at Muslims. The most challenging song on the record is probably “Eyes of the Insane” with its light guitar intro and weird off-tempo guitar riffage. but outside of that, most of the record is really old hat.

While I love to hear Slayer being Slayer—and the simple fact that this record even exists is good enough for me—I can't help but feel like the opportunity of this great reunion I've been waiting so long for just hasn't been properly taken advantage of. One can hope that there is more coming down the pipe, given the incredible creative potential that still exists in the band. And perhaps this is the problem with the record: each member seems to be screaming to just rip, but they carry on like each is afraid to offend the other and the whole thing ends up sounding like someone driving a Ferarri through a school zone but minding the speed limit and the safety of the student body. I love Slayer and will remain faithful to the end, but one hopes that by the next record, this insecure reunion will gel into something absolutely mind-blowing.

-Peter Larson

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