Since 1983 Slayer have released some of the most influential albums and songs, and with changes in style, enabled themselves to remain constantly regarded as the godfathers of thrash/death metal. Such is their back catalogue they have a near perfect live setlist, which has to make any metal fans’ ’10 things to do before you die (or cut your hair and go all corporate)’.
Christ Illusion is the continuation of the Slayer juggernaut with a few old friends jumping on for the ride, Larry Carroll (Seasons Of The Abyss and South Of Heaven) provides the malevolent cover art, Dave Lombardo returns as resident tub-thumper, and Rick Rubin (although, by Slayer’s own admission, not exactly full-time) as executive producer.
There is a little calm before Flesh Storm detonates the start of the album – this is not going to be Slayer’s acoustic album. There is a great hook in the chorus, and treads the same anti-war path – “Warfare comes with no compassion/Thrives with no evolution/Unstable minds exacerbate/Unrest in Peace”, as shown in previous albums.
Catalyst is another one from the ‘head down and thrash’ stable, and contains some great dual solos, the King/Hanneman team are a sublime combination. There is a change of tempo for Skeleton Christ, and time for Slayer to go all chunky with the riffs, even adding subtle effects on the solos to add another level of complexity. The brooding Eyes Of The Insane allows Araya to show his vocal range, deepening to build up tension and creating a wonderfully chilling 3 and a half minutes.
Jihad opens with a almost nu-metal type of riff, continues with a stop/start riff, and concludes with the ‘now getting slightly old hat’ Slayer trick (but still atmospheric) of over sampling voices over the solo.
The rest of the album continues with pummelling speed and bleak visions. My personal favourite, Catatonic, uses Araya’s scream to its full effect, and Cult provides a sing-a-long chorus and lyrics to have most of Middle America foaming at the mouth with incredulity. The album ends with the haunting “Must contain control of the weak/Must contain the minds of the free” refrain over guitar work reminiscent of the classic Reign in Blood outro.
Lyrically, this album gives nay-sayers some ammunition. Lines like “I laugh at the abortion known as Christianity” can so easily be taken out and waved around on a platform of self-righteousness. Some perspective is required though – Slayer have always set out their black metal stall openly, and I can recall Ozzy Osbourne‘s words in a late ’80s BBC Arena documentary: “This is bloody heavy metal man, you can’t sing about birds and sunshine, you have to sing about the devil, darkness and stuff”.
The world needs Yin and Yang, I sit in my room with M&S jam and cream scones on a Sunday afternoon, but am able to be transported through a dark deep world of extremities, inhabited by brainwashed soldiers, religious fanatics, and horrific death. It does not mean that I will like it or adopt it as my life philosophy (as so many believe anyone that listens to this will), but the experience (especially coupled with such music) is a powerful one. An anti-war stance is always more powerful when the true horrors are exposed.
This release has marked the longest time between Slayer albums, but surprisingly the least progressive change between any of them. There is a sense of ‘heard it before’ on many of the songs on the album, but, nonetheless the songs still have the ability to rip your ears off – play it in the background while you do the household chores, and you still end up air-thrashing the solos and mouthing along with Araya before returning to our humdrum reality.