It’s no secret that I didn’t particularly care for Slayer’s last album, Christ Illusion. I think I might have listened to the fucking thing twice before letting it languish in my collection for all eternity. Of course, bear in mind that it came out during the summer of 2006 while I was interning for Metal Blade and being bombarded with cool new music on an almost daily basis (they put out new albums from Goatwhore, Amon Amarth, Gaza and God Dethroned while I was there, just to name a few), but the songs on Christ Illusion just didn’t seem to have any sort of staying power or memorability.
Of course, the fact that the album cover had what appeared to be a homeless Mexican pirate with no arms on it didn’t help matters. I mean, I’ve seen some ugly-ass album covers in my day, but that thing takes the fucking cake. I’m not sure how the members of Slayer (or anyone else in their right mind, for that matter) could think that pile of crap actually looked cool.
But I digress. At some point I should probably dust off Christ Illusion and give it a fair assessment, but we’re not here to talk about that album now. Slayer have a brand new album out in the form of World Painted Blood, and damn if it isn’t a pretty good one. I’ll spare you the obligatory “blah blah blah it’s not as good as Reign in Blood…” bullshit that you can get from the 5 million reviews that are already floating around out there. Quite frankly, I don’t even really think Reign in Blood is Slayer’s best work. I personally prefer Seasons in the Abyss and South of Heaven. Boo-fucking-hoo. Reign in Blood is a classic sure, but that was then, this is now and Slayer has put out quite a few strong releases since then and World Painted Blood (henceforth abbreviated as WPB) is one of them.
The first thing I noticed about WPB is the production, raw (by major label standards) and dry as a bone, it comes dangerously close to sounding like the band were actually playing in a room together simultaneously and doesn’t suffer from the mixing/mastering flaws that hindered Metallica’s Death Magnetic (although I still enjoyed that album thoroughly). As for the songs themselves, they seem to draw on aspects of all the various eras of Slayer, the speed, the heaviness and groove, King and Hanneman’s blitzkrieg leads, all within a tightly wrapped 11 song, 40 minute package.
Just about everyone of these songs has some sort of vocal hook that sticks in my head, particularly “Hate Worldwide” “Not of this God” and the title track. In fact, Tom Arraya’s vocal performance throughout the album is immense, it’s amazing he’s still capable of sounding that pissed off in his old age. Dave Lombardo’s drumming is great as always and it’s great to hear him fully settled back into the Slayer drum throne, recording-wise.
The album’s only real flaw lies at the feet of King and Hanneman. The guitar-work is still pretty solid in my opinion, but the riffs still don’t seem as memorable or interesting as they were on prior releases, such as the criminally underrated God Hates Us All. I would liked to have heard something as musically catchy as maybe “Bloodline” or “God Send Death”, but I’m just not getting that from this album as yet. The interesting thing is that the leads actually sound a bit more thoughtful than they have in the past, not quite the typical King/Hanneman mindless whammy-bar abuse that most of us are used to. They haven’t morphed into Mustaine and Friedman overnight or anything, but leads on WPB are definitely a little more musical and a little less schizophrenic than they have in the past.
Of course, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what I or anyone else has to say about World Painted Blood. All the mainstream critics will hail the album as a return to form, the crybaby self-styled metal snobs and elitists will dismiss it as crap since it didn’t come out in 1990, and the majority will fall somewhere in between. For what it’s worth though, I’m enjoying the hell out of it.