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Following up the somewhat sub-par God Hates Us All would, in theory, would be an easy task for Slayer. Considering the fact that the band let former super-drummer Dave Lombardo back to provide his talent for the record, and that the energy seemed right for Slayer at this time, that statement would be true. Slayer did surpass God Hates Us All in Christ Illusion for sure, but not in the normal mach three speed, fingertip flesh rendering, balls to the wall style of the 1980's and early 1990's. It was done with a more attentive, cautious, and groove centered approach that, in theory (yes, more theories), would never work at all. In practice this slower approach worked for the most part.
I still get a rush when I hear Slayer on this album, but not in the same way that I did when I hear songs from Reign In Blood or South of Heaven. Those albums captured me because of their relentless, ballistic energy. In Christ Illusion I'm getting a rush from the intense emotions that the music is provoking. "Eyes of the Insane" is the perfect example of this. When the lines "Got to make it stop, can't take it anymore" the feeling I receive is sheer terror, but in a good I suppose. The leads and lyrics just send goosebumps down my back. Slayer's dark tale of a P.T.S.D. ridden soldier is a song that that gets under your skin, in all ways possible.
The list of good songs in Christ Illusion doesn't end there. "Skeleton Christ," "Cult," and "Consfearecy" are the other catchy tunes that do the band justice. If I had to pick one song of those three it would definitely be "Skeleton Christ." The title is as evil and sacrilegious as the song sounds as a whole and the listener gets to hear another awesome rant/screaming session similar to the end of "Disciple" in "Skeleton Christ's" chorus. The lyrics of Slayer keep getting more and more interesting as time goes on. The lyrical content of only a couple songs on this record have been unimpressive. See the first two lines of "Eyes of the Insane" and the majority "Catalyst" for that. But otherwise, I was satisfied with what Araya and the gang had to offer here. Hanneman has to be the stand out in terms of lyrics in Christ Illusion however. "Black Serenade" features some perverse, sadistic lyrics that throttle the listener.
Speaking of sacrilegious, check out Christ illusion's album art. It has some similarities to 1986's Reign In Blood with the people's heads floating in a sea of blood and the color scheme of the reds, occasional greens and tans. Larry Carroll has done it again. He provides yet another cringe-worthy yet amazing piece of art for this spectacular band. I really hope that Slayer's fans get to see another great piece of his work in the next album that Slayer has to offer.
Now it's complaint time... The best word to describe the album's leads and solos was underwhelming. I did not in any way get the same jaw-hitting-the-floor vibe that most of Hanneman and King's solos have in the past. "Eyes of the Insane" is probably the only song that has leads that made me say "whoa." Christ Illusion's solos also sounded a lot alike and King and Hanneman seem to use the same minor scale over and over again. But to what effect? It's not consistency here; it's repetitiveness. For a drummer of his stature, Dave Lombardo should've been playing more wacky patterns and rhythms throughout this record. This level of (dare I say it) laziness is not acceptable for Slayer, who have proven in years past that they can just lay it down with craziness.
I am pleased with this album's lyrics, riffs, aura, but not with its level of difficulty. Maybe Rick Rubin just wasn't pushing this group of titans to do their best like he has in the past, with not only Slayer, but with other groups. We may never know why the record didn't make the listener feel like he ran a marathon after listening to it, like most Slayer records. I am happy, but not elated.
After the sad news of Jeff Hanneman´s death, I frequently read that he had been the creative mind of Slayer. Additionally, everyone agreed that his death meant an irreparable loss for the band. Apart from the fact that every human being is an irreplaceable individuum, I do not share the point of view that Hanneman had been the considerably stronger composer than Kerry King. Of course, the blonde guitarist had written fantastic thrash metal classics. In particular, "Angel of Death" must be mentioned. Maybe the best and definitely the most discussed thrasher of all times. But what about the compositions of King, just think of rockets like "Evil Has No Boundaries" or "Piece by Piece"? Furthermore, when having a look at the here reviewed album, we have to realize that King wrote seven tracks on his own. Hanneman delivered only the remaining three pieces. But King was the spiritual father of the tracks that stood out.
"Christ Illusion" was a tradition-conscious work of the band. Very critical listeners might have thought that the album presented nothing else than an act of self-plagiarism. Nevertheless, the band took a step in the right direction. Tom Araya and his partners in crime did no longer follow stupid trends so that lousy products like "Diabolus in Musica" and "God Hates Us All" were pushed into the background. Instead, Slayer remembered their earlier records such as "Seasons in the Abyss" or "Divine Intervention" which had been - at least partly - in close proximity to their real classics. In other words, "Christ Illusion" appeared as a distant relative of "Reign in Blood". Tom Araya´s vocals sounded very aggressive and matched with the violent and powerful riffing in a successful manner. His diabolic approach gave this album its special flair. Dave Lombardo made a perfect contribution, too. But I guess it is a matter of course that his drumming could only be insufficiently described by words such as excellent or overwhelming. However, his precise and stormy high speed performance was already well-known.
Most songs were driven by his vehement and fast-paced drumming. "Catatonic", written by King, was the exception to the rule. This slow-moving tune possessed a demonic aura as well as an intensive and dramatic ending. It was therefore a relatively unusual sample of the band´s work, but nevertheless one of the best tracks of the album. Its doomy heaviness definitely left its mark. But as mentioned above, the full-length was characterised by brutal and straightforward eruptions in the vein of their works before "Diabolus in Musica". Already the rushing opener represented the return to the old values of the former thrash metal Gods. "Flesh Storm" did not reach the timeless class of the songs of their first three albums. But it could also not be ignored that it surpassed each and every track of the two previous full-lengths. Its ultra-aggressive approach was not at the expense of complexity so that it did not leave much to be desired. The following tracks commuted between phenomenal high speed and harsh mid-tempo while avoiding groovy parts successfully. The variable "Skeleton Christ" demonstrated the combination of high velocity sections and slower parts in a representative manner. But the best was yet to come. "Cult", the ninth track of the album, seemed to be a leftover of the band´s most glorious days. The song provided the connection between "Christ Illusion" and two masterpieces of the group, namely "Angel of Death" and the similar "War Ensemble".
"Cult", also written by King, was equipped with the same tremendous amount of dynamism, vehemence and velocity. It only narrowly failed to achieve the level of the legendary opener of their equally legendary third album. The menacing beginning, the rapid verses, the mind-blowing bridge and the devastating chorus, every section of "Cult" was simply perfect. This carefully structured outburst proved that King was still able to create a song which possessed the specific DNA of Slayer. Finally, the sound has to be mentioned. "Cult" as well as the other tracks benefitted from the mix. As expected, the production was flawless. It convinced with the necessary pressure while being transparent and edgy as well. It also did not come as a surprise that the lyrical content could be neglected. Therefore, try to ignore the lyrics as well as the childish cover with the blatantly obvious reminiscence of "Reign in Blood". Just focus on the music of the best Slayer album for decades.
Slayer have built a reputation of not really evolving musically (or in any other way for that matter), and this album is a testament to nothing but that. Their 2006 offering is far superior to 2001's God Hates Us All, which delved into hardcore and 1998's Diabolus in Musica which showed slight experimentation with groove.
First up, it's the drums. While Paul Bostaph is a thrash veteran, having played with the likes of Forbidden and Testament and was a worthy replacement for Lombardo, the presence of the original drummer is more than noticeable. Dave's performance by no means falls short of anything we've grown accustomed from him, absolutely top-notch drum work.
Next up is the second half of the rhythm section, which- unsurprisingly- remains almost impossible to hear... Then again, this isn't exactly news for Slayer-- Or thrash metal in general. Even Slayer's arguably best offering Reign in Blood had a practically silent bass track.
The vocals are Tom Araya's usual scream-your-guts-out delivery. In case you don't know what that sounds like, picture a raving madman screaming at the top of his lungs. The fact that the man is nearing his fifties makes it all the more impressive, so I can't really complain here.
The guitar work... Well, can't really complain here either. The riffs are just as fast as they were in thrash metal's glory days, and the guitar work follows suit. King and Hanneman treat us with the usual shredding approach with whammy-bar torture to simulate the screams of the victims the song is written about. The only complaint I have here is that King recorded all the rhythm guitar tracks for this album by himself. He is definitely one of metal's finer rhythm players, however it does mildly affect the general aura of the album since one of the things I liked the most in Slayer was the human factor- 4 otherwise normal guys creating blasphemous cacophony each on their own instrument, without the use of any recording tricks. This is, however, only a minor setback.
Now, a major complaint here is the songwriting. Songs like Cult, Flesh Storm, Supremist (Which even contains a blast beat) are good, I would even go so far as to name Flesh Storm thrash anthem of the year. However, numbers like Eyes of the Insane and various riffs/sections of the album lack energy and could perhaps use some more work. Another downside would be the lyrics. Slayer is not to be taken seriously, which I think is pretty obvious by now, however some of the lyrics are just a bit too juvenile. The lyrics to Flesh Storm are pretty good and it's easy to discern the meaning, which can't exactly be said about the majority of the album's tracks, though. It could just be me, however I can't seem to pinpoint what the lyrics to, say, Black Serenade are about. Reborn? Rising up from the grave with vengeance. Necrophiliac? Desecrating a corpse. Criminally Insane? A homicidal maniac on the loose. Slayer have seldom penned very serious, thought-provoking, deep lyrics, but at least you'd know what they were trying to say.
All in all, Slayer's Christ Illusion is not a bad album, however it is also not without its setbacks. It does signal the band's definite return to thrash metal, and it does show Slayer's typical brand of aggression we've all grown to love. Christ Illusion will be remembered as one of Slayer's finer moments of the 21st century, however it probably does not have the material necessary for a modern classic. I also understand that it's popular to bash Slayer these days, but let's face it: They're still going strong after more than two decades of pounding extreme metal. Let's see the detractors do that.
Christ Illusion tends to be an album that divides opinion amongst metal fans, mainly between people who can't stand it and find Slayer to be a complete mockery of themselves compared to their former 80s hey-day selves, and 14 year olds who don't know any better/ don't want to know any better "Cause Unholy Alliance Was Da MOST BROOTALIST GIG EVA MAN" (this is probably a direct quote from one of the glossy "metal mags" of today's day and age). Am I coming off as too biased? Well good, that's what I'm looking to do, this album is pretty damn offensive, and not because there's a retarded drawing of Christ on the front cover.
Listening to this album is incredibly uncomfortable, it's kind of like watching someone slowly shit themselves and taking pride in the squelching and putrid smell, whilst all you can do is try not look, mainly because this is your once cool uncle that never quite fully recovered from that fall from a crane one drunken night ten years ago. Similarly, the general sound of this album is incredibly flat and stale, with not much really to comment about it other than "I can hear how what I don't like about this clearly, and can make a steady stream of hate filled thought and review this album for about three people to read". The song writing is very horrid to behold, with riffs that are stolen from the horde of "modern metal" bands that were already influenced by Slayer's early 90s work, lyrics that are pretty terrible, even by today's tween metal standards:
"I will see you burned alive
Screaming for your God
I will hunt you down again for Him".
That particular anecdote coming from Jihad, a song that sounds like it's a joke from the start with it's almost circus theme intro. Oddly enough this comes off as one of the better tracks with some actually decent riffs and a really cool spoken part by Araya as part of the outro. And Jeff actually solos in this song as well, thank fuck for that, someone who actually knows how to make noise and not trying to dress up with half hearted attempts at using music theory. But Christ on a stick, what is with that god damn intro? It really has no place anywhere in the world, hearing it agitates me to no end, it's stupidity materialised into a riff.
Anyway, onwards, which is quite impossible for this album as there's not much in terms of progression here. As usual with Slayer, terrible attempts at soloing manage to make most of these songs worse than they actually are, completely over saturated with wah and just, well noise trying to sound like vague melodies (thanks again for that Kerry King) and not something you can welcome with open arms like Trey Azagthoth's noise fests on early Morbid Angel albums. Oddly enough it's Jeff Hanneman I keep hoping to hear as his soloing isn't quite as bad as King's. I'm not sure why, I think it might just be because he seems to have nothing to do with most of this album other than those solos he occasionally does, but 9/10 times he's a small relief in this utter bore fest.
Tom Araya's vocals have an odd time on this album, with them fluctuating between sounding really tired on some songs, and then really exciting and kind of good to listen to once he gets into it and puts some energy into them. Of course we barely ever hear his bass, though it seems to be more present in the mix for Black Serenade for some reason. Dave Lombardo's drumming is pretty good, though that's what's expected from the man that most metal drummers now try to at least emulate, if not best.
Oddly enough, maybe it's because I'm desperately looking for something to like this album, but the last two songs, Cult and Supremist, are actually quite good and I can actually say I properly enjoy them, with great energy coming from the playing (though the soloing is still pretty terrible on King's part) and a really catchy sing a long chorus for Cult (even if the lyrics are incredibly typical).
Based on those two last songs and rest of Jihad, this album is much better than most of the modern metal of today, even if Slayer are pretty much the heart and cause of this movement of commercial "brutal" metal that is being stupidly called NWOAHM. Please, for the sake of not looking like a prat like myself, don't buy this album (even though you already haven't), unless it's being sold along as a coaster next time you're buying a can of beer.
"I hate the shitty economy, it might as well be sodomy".
So speaks the once-mighty Slayer. I've turned that particular gem of a lyric around in my head whilst preparing this review, and let me tell you it describes this awful album to a T.
Slayer was once legendary. Tales of insane concerts at Chicago's Aragon Brawlroom during the 80s filled my ears prior to attending my first Slayer show, the "Seasons in the Abyss" tour. The floor was set up with folding chairs all linked together, and miraculously (or not) the chairs were still standing after Testament left the stage. Slayer appeared, 90% of the chairs hit the deck, and 5 distinct pits (at least) full of Slayer maniacs proceeded to whip themselves into frenzy. I'd never seen anything so wild in my life, and after the show I was told that it was very tame compared to the last two Brawlroom shows.
The reason I decided to post yet another review of this awful album is simple. I'm in the minority of MA users who enjoyed "God Hates Us All", and I can't bear to see that album ranked so much lower than this abomination called "Christ Illusion". To me, GHUA featured a convincingly pissed-off Tom Araya, solid production values, and intense music that drew me in from the first listen. It's not the greatest album Slayer ever put out (numerous riffs are questionable at best), but by God it destroys "Christ Illusion" in every possible way and shows me that Slayer is still capable of making good music even if this album is about as enjoyable as drinking bleach.
The lyrics and the vocal delivery for this album stink out loud. Forced rhymes, such as "Tortured spirits / Will not let me rest", sung as if the two lines rhyme with each other. The abysmally awful example at the top of this review, and you will excuse me if I don't type it again because I'm trying to wash it out of my head forever. Slayer once wrote songs which told stories; see any of their albums up to and including "Divine Intervention". Now, they go for cheap shock - "I'll take the devil any day, hail Satan!", or pointless profanity "All that I fucking am!" These lyrical abortions can be excused if they were delivered in a convincing manner or with a little passion, but here Araya's voice sounds so compressed and bored that I can't believe this recording made it off the mixing board. What were they thinking? Then we have incredibly annoying sing-song patterns like during "Skeleton Christ". This album contains some of the most disingenuous, dumb, fake, insulting lyrical themes I've ever heard, and Slayer does themselves no favors by having every word come through crystal clear in the mix.
Another thing about the lyrical content: it is childish and tired "Jesus sucks" nonsense. Slayer seems all upset about Christianity, even though they continue to play large venues amidst all the persecution and compulsory religious Christians out there... or not. Slayer does not get a pass on their rabid anti-Christianity while adding an anti-Islamic song called "Jihad" on the same album. Clearly, they are aware that Islamic fundamentalists are a million times worse than Christian fundamentalists on their worst day, so therefore you can take your anti-Christianity and stick it for the juvenile and fake shock gimmick that it is. You'd have been better off ignoring the Islamists altogether if you wanted to be consistent. I'm no member of any religion, but I won't give a group of 40+ year old millionaires a break when they clearly mean nothing they say and don't even bother to deliver their anti-religion messages in an entertaining way. Storytelling and effort gave us "Reign in Blood", incoherence and laziness gave us "Christ Illusion".
This album heralds the return of drum legend Dave Lombardo. Sorry Dave, but nobody missed you. Paul Bostaph was more than capable of taking your place and he did a hell of a job throughout. The drum sound on this album is restrained and compressed the same way the vocals are. The playing itself is excellent, but ultimately the drums are worse than the last album due to weak sound quality and production choices.
The guitar performance at least makes some sort of effort to produce better riffage than the last album, but they fail. Although the guitar tone and production is livelier than the drums and vocals, there are no memorable riffs on the entire album. GHUA had the title track, "Christ Illusion" has nothing. The solos are an shame, even by Slayer standards. The solo on "Catalyst" may be an all-time low among infamously bad Slayer solos, and the trade-off solos which appear on this album are so poor that there really is no excuse to call them "solos" after playing the guitar for 30 years.
The band members instrumentation sounds like they recorded their individual parts and emailed them to each other. There is very little blending of sound on this album, it all seems detached from each other, and there is no live feel to this record at all. "God Hates Us All", for all its flaws, had a wall-of-sound quality and everyone sounded like they were in the same room jamming together.
It took Slayer 5 years to create "Christ illusion", and it is an embarrassment for the band and their fans. My non-metal friend always makes fun of Slayer by grunting out made-up silly lyrics like "kill your mother, kill your father, Christ is stupid", and I've always defended Slayer ad being much more than that. I can no longer defend them, and I am honestly ashamed of myself for wasting my time listening to this, even for the purpose of a review. Slayer can reap the reward of selling their stuff at Hot Topic, but this will be the very last time I support this once-mighty band.
What a fucking sorry state thrash must be in for this, Death Magnetic, and United Abominations by fellow big 4-ers to be considered comebacks. Slayer aren't back, and just because they're not sucking rap cock like Anthrax are (*shudder*) doesn't mean that this is the metal release to end the torment of the 90's.
Speaking of the 90's, that decade has been used, over and over again, as an excuse for the extreme suckiness of once great thrash bands. Well, here's a bite of news for you: The nineties have been over for almost a decade. Grunge (the dreaded G-word) has been dead nearly as long as glam "metal", and nu-metal is now suffering a similar fate. I can understand a dip in quality during the mid-late nineties as you become unsure of yourself as a band with the advent of Korn's popularity. As a formerly great thrash outfit, you may think your world, your paradigm, has come to an end. If you can't beat em', join em', right? But eventually reason has to prevail. Nu metal, as a genre to be reckoned with, is dead. It has been dead for a while now. Sure, the pioneers of the genre live on, but we don't see new crap notmetal bands popping up left and right anymore. At least Christ Illusion is metal, which is more than I can say about $t. $hit and Anthrax's latest abomination. And songs like Consfearacy and Jihad are actually kinda catchy, even if Araya's voice is long dead.
But metal doesn't necessarily mean good. It doesn't help that everything that is good about Christ Illusion is merely a retread of better days, and that everything "new" or moderately un-hackneyed is the band clinging on to their fellow buddies $hitknot and their fiascos known as Diabolis in Musica and God Hates Us All. This isn't a comeback, because, well, as they say in AA, if nothing changes, nothing changes. Paul Bostaph wasn't the problem, as he has his credentials from Testament, and taking your original drummer back won't solve anything. Bostaph didn't write those terrible, terrible riffs from God Hates Us All, so don't expect any new revelations here. What this really comes off as is a band slowed down with time. There are no neck snappers here ala Chemical Warfare, Hell Awaits, or Piece by Piece. There is no reason to get Christ Illusion if you already have Slayer's first 4 efforts. You're not going to get a reinvention of thrash, to put it mildly.
What's really bittersweet about this whole thing is that thrash really isn't dead. Bands like Sodom have carried the torch through the dark times known as the 90's, and just as well, Sodom have made no comebacks either, though for a different reason. See, Sodom never left. Sodom kept on kicking ass all throughout the nineties. Sure, Tapping the Vein wasn't as good as Persecution Mania or Agent Orange, but it still kicked ass. And Sodom's new output like Code Red or M-16 beats Slayer's last 3 efforts into a bloody, broken mess. Yes, the big four of thrash are dead. Death Magnetic was a big letdown ala premature orgasm, and we all know Dave Mustaine wishes he was in a modern rock band instead of Megadeth. But thrash isn't dead, which is why Christ Illusion is unexcusable.
What really kills CI is that it still sounds restrained, as if this old ass band is afraid to really go for the jugular like they used to. There's an element of fear to this whole thing; you can't fail if you don't try in the first place. All the riffs are slowed down, the solos are meandering excuses that shame the concept of a guitar solo, and the intensity of the delivery is toned down significantly. It's a step up from God Hates Us All, to be clear on this, but this is hardly a comeback.
The good news is that if Slayer keeps up on this path, they maybe one day might make a magnum opus worth listening to. They'll make the thrash album to end all thrash albums, putting every last breath of effort into it, so Slayer as a band can rest in peace, their legacy intact, having gone out with a bang instead of a whimper. Sadly, Christ Illusion is not that album, and it looks like fanboys anticipating the second coming will have to wait a few more years.
As for the rest of us, let's not hold our breath. There is life to be found in thrash metal, and more so, in metal in general. But not here, folks. Not here, not now.
Slayer essentially joined the ranks of former Thrash glory riders turned persona non grata in the metal community in the late 90s with the release of “Diabolus In Musica”, which was a quintessential manifestation of a nu-metal failure. The band seemed to have been seeking what Anthrax and Megadeth were seeking at around this time, which was the reestablishment of their original fan base. “Christ Illusion” is an attempt at courting their alienated fans, thus it would have succeeded in taking the form of thrash revival album if it didn’t come off as a bit dry and lacking in raw spirit. It goes through the motions musically, throwing in your obligatory fast songs, but also throwing in a few remnants of their 90s deterioration.
A few things that are to the album’s credit include the production, which is well balanced and has a pretty well established bottom end. If going by everything other than the vocals, this would qualify as a slightly more organized version of death/thrash, but naturally the tonal nature of Tom Araya’s yells is in contradiction with this. His vocals are a bit weathered and don’t quite possess the punch that they used to, but they are adequate for the task afforded to him for this album. The lead playing is a little bit tamer than the raging furies of descending chromatic scales and whammy bar gymnastics heard on “Hell Awaits”, but again it doesn’t really offend the ears in any way or make one believe that the band is running out of inspiration.
Where this album truly falls short is in the riff construction and the general lack of darkness to the atmosphere. Many of these songs are plenty fast, but often the guitar work consists of semi-groove sounding fragments that might pass for early speed metal if they were more in line with NWOBHM practices. If the production were a little less low ended and had a little bit more of a mechanical sound to it, about half of this could just as easily be mistaken for a lot of the faster songs heard on Pantera’s “Vulgar Display Of Power” and “Far Beyond Driven”. When the songs get good, they seem to want to resemble “Reign In Blood”, but instead come up somewhere in between “Seasons In The Abyss” and “Divine Intervention”. The melodic undertones and evil sounding riff happy epics are nowhere to be found, leaving an album made up of fairly good fast quickies with guitar solos and boring down tempo groove metal.
Things start off well enough for the first couple of songs, but immediately after things start to fall into hit or miss mode. “Skeleton Christ” is one of the most redundant songs I’ve ever heard out of this band, essentially sitting on one repetitive riff for a good while and then simply disguising a slightly less boring variation on the same riff with a fast thrash beat. This pattern repeats on a somewhat less repetitive level with other songs including “Eyes Of The Insane” and “Black Serenade”. Even a lot of the songs that start off really kick ass settle into these really annoying breakdown sections that just steal the energy of the song. The ones that truly remain in the thrash realm such as “Consfearacy” and “Flesh Storm” are solid riff monsters, but even these don’t have the epic or hauntingly evil nature to them that made classics such as “Angel Of Death” and “Hell Awaits” the undying classics that they are.
They say that the road to recovery is a long one, and in Slayer’s case they haven’t reached the end of it here. There is definitely hope for the future, but this album is basically in the same league as Megadeth’s “The World Needs A Hero”. It’s a metal album and it does contain a lot of Thrash elements, but it falls short in too many areas and hold onto too many bad ideas from the recent past to be a complete recovery. Rabid fans of this band who might like to get their hands on a few good songs are encouraged to look for this in the bargain bin, just calculate what 4 or 5 solid songs are worth to you and go for it. But one thing I will say, at this point and time, these guys are looking better than Metallica and Anthrax currently are.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 24, 2009,
In its best moments, Christ Illusion is almost as good as classic Slayer albums such as Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood or Seasons in the Abyss. In its worst moments, it’s not much better than God Hates Us All.
Let’s begin with the positive. The cover art looks great, even if it’s basically Reign in Blood, Mk. II. On a side note, I really can’t understand why they didn’t put their classic pentagram or eagle logo on it. I mean, if you want to sell this as a return to the roots, why not do it properly and with conviction? The production is very competent. Even though production duties weren’t handled by Rick Rubin this time – he’s listed as executive producer, but it was actually Josh Abraham who pushed the buttons –, Christ Illusion has a crisp, “dry” sound that’s quite similar to earlier Slayer albums. The music overall is a lot faster and less groove-oriented than on God Hates Us All or Diabolus in Musica, which is a huge plus. Together with Tom Araya’s much improved vocals, which finally don’t sound as if he were constantly screaming through a megaphone any more, that eliminates most of the nu metal tinges that tainted those records. However, there’s no denying Araya’s vocals, while decent, aren’t quite as good as they used to be back in the eighties and early nineties. Slayer aren’t exactly spring chickens any more, and age has inevitably reduced Araya’s vocal range. But at least he’s trying and comes up with a commendable effort.
Another positive aspect is that Slayer have gone back to incorporating plenty of guitar solos into their songs, something that was definitely missing on the previous two albums. Some of the solos are even quite melodic, as opposed to the typical discordant whammy-bar solos Slayer are usually known for. Finally, Dave Lombardo is back. Not that Paul Bostaph was/is a bad drummer – technically, he’s among the very best in the business –, it’s just that Lombardo’s drumming, while every bit as good technically, is a bit more tasteful and song-oriented, whereas Bostaph sometimes tried to do too much. And besides, it’s always nice to see a band back in its original line-up.
The first two songs, “Flesh Storm” and “Catalyst”, are both fast thrashers with the occasional brutal mosh part and nice solo thrown in. Especially the former takes us back to the band’s glory days and is fairly similar to “War Ensemble” from Seasons in the Abyss. When I said that the best moments on Christ Illusion reminded me of classic Slayer, it was primarily that particular album I had in mind. “Skeleton Christ” and “Consfearacy” (what an asinine title) are other predominantly fast tracks that would have fit perfectly on this classic from the year 1990. Tracks four and five are a bit more modern sounding, but not at all in a bad way. “Eyes of the Insane” is a slower yet very aggressive song with great double-bass drumming by Dave Lombardo, while “Jihad” features an intro that sounds quite unusual for Slayer, very interesting and imaginative drum patterns during the fast passages, and a spoken-word part towards the end that works surprisingly well.
Unfortunately, there are not only good things to say about Slayer’s latest effort. There are mainly two things holding this album back: inconsistency and sub-par lyrics. While the first six songs on Christ Illusion are all very good, I find the final four to be somewhat lacking in quality. They aren’t bad, but in comparison to the others, they just come up a little bit short. “Catatonic” is obviously an attempt to write a sinister slow song similar to “Spill the Blood” from South of Heaven, but it lacks the haunting guitar leads and devastating, catchy riffs that one had. Moreover, it’s quite repetitive. “Black Serenade” and “Cult” are also mixed bags that end up being rather mediocre, as does the final track, “Supremist”. The latter at least features some very nicely done blast beats – to my knowledge, this is the first time Slayer have ever employed blasts. And they pull it off really well, too, making it all the more incomprehensible why they don’t use them more often during that particular track.
As for the lyrics, there are moments on this album when they’re bad. Really bad. One of the things that bug me is the inflationary use of a certain four-letter word. For evidence, take a look at these lines from “Catalyst”: “Win by attrition I bring it with all that I fucking am / You never dealt with such rejection / Licking your wounds that won’t fucking heal / You’ve never seen so much aggression / I am the scream to your fucking silence.”
I could give plenty more examples, my point being that there’s no need to frequently use expletives unless you run out of really meaningful things to say, which was obviously the case on Christ Illusion. For the most part, the lyrics are rather boring and unimaginative, the usual Satan worshipping and Christ bashing we’ve heard a zillion times before. There are two notable exceptions, however, as “Eyes of the Insane” and “Jihad” enter lyrically uncharted territory. The former is written from the perspective of a soldier who is haunted and ultimately driven insane by memories of the horrible atrocities he witnessed during his service, while the latter is a sort of first-person testimony by a suicide terrorist, with plenty of obvious references to 9/11. Definitely very creepy and also quite controversial, but then, isn’t that exactly what you’d expect from Slayer (cf. “Angel of Death”)?
All things considered, Christ Illusion is a pretty good album with some obvious flaws, which prevent it from being a complete return to form for this legendary thrash outfit. However, while not quite as good as the masterpieces from their classic period, Christ Illusion definitely marks a big step in the right direction. After two disappointing studio albums in a row, which lead to the widespread notion that Slayer just don’t have “it” any more, that should be enough to at least earn them some well-deserved respect.
Choicest cuts: Flesh Storm, Catalyst, Jihad, Consfearacy
A lot of discussion has been about whether or not it's as good as their earlier stuff, and whether or not it's worthy of being considered a quality Slayer album. However, there hasn't been many people asking whether it's worth your money or not. This isn't as good as Reign in Blood or Show No Mercy or any of the first few, but why does that mean that the album isn't worth having?
This is a pretty good album, no, it's not as fast as they used to be, and yeah, there are a few duds, but there is still some seriously good music on here. Slayer do suffer a little from the first song syndrome here, as Flesh Storm is THAT good, but once you listen through a few times, you'll be able to pick up on a few qualities that the other songs have too.
Slayer have managed to not be painfully repetitive here, there's a lot of different sounding riffs, and most of the songs seem to have completely different directions and ideas. For instance, the all out thrasher Flesh Storm is the only all out one, and Jihad has a very aggressive ending (before the whole spoken part) which makes one of the only really intense wall of sound moments on the album. Eyes of the insane is a pretty slow one, packing in a lot of groove, Skeleton Christ has a similar approach, but is still completely different. Supremist is all over the place in its constantly changing tempo, but still amazing. Yes, they're still play-fast-thrash-with-breakdowns-all-over-the-place Slayer, but the most of the album mages to do this in a lot of different, and more importantly, quality, ways.
It's not until we get into songs like Black Serenade that the album shows any real signs of bad output. The chorus on said song is pathetic, with a horrible, cheer-leading breakdown. Cult has its moments, but is generally average, much alike Eyes of the Insane and Skeleton Christ, but other than that there are very few outright negatives Christ Illusion, only things that aren't huge positives.
The band has gotten new life, and this is definitely their best album in a while, and an obvious catalyst for this would be the re-joining of one Dave Lombardo. Dave may not be the most technically gifted drummer on earth, but he still manages to stun me consistently. His ability to seemingly at random, launch into the most insane fills imaginable. Hell, he even screws around with the standard beats, even throwing a semi-blast beat into Supremist.
The guitar work is quite strong, with all the fast riffs oozing with venom as they rip away with more passion than we've heard in a while, the slow stuff is less impressive, often being frustratingly similar to the vocal lines. The main problem is the soloing, now, Slayer have never had exceptional solos, and they still aren't, but they are a little better than usual. Unfortunately, there's also way too many. Sometimes more than one per song. Christ Illusion does showcase a slightly more varied group of solos than usual, but there's like 20 on here, and they're not that varied. By the end of the album it just feels painful hearing the same messy solos over and over.
The guitar tone is definitely modern, but I didn't pick up on anything overtly off-putting about it, all the notes are clear enough, all very low, but it's not too bad. People who want to piss on the band are saying it's worse than what it actually is. The tone does cause the bass to be easily lost, but seriously, who listens to Slayer for bass?
Tom sounds pretty damn good on vocals. It's back to the old shout style, but it's lower than what he was earlier. It's basically what he sounds like live. Obviously more precise, just it's lower than the old stuff. The lyrics, which are written by the bands resident 12 year old Satanist Kerry King are abysmal, but who didn't see that coming? There’s a lot of "I've made my choice... 666" sort of stuff around.
Christ Illusion is a strong piece of modern thrash metal. If you're looking for complete old-school slaughter, you won't find anything on here after "Flesh Storm", except for maybe "Supremist", but you've got about half an hour of stuff that you probably won't like in the middle. It's worth getting at a slightly reduced price(I got it for AU$20, and I feel like I got my money's worth), but at full price there's probably too much average to justify it. It's solid, and probably as good as anyone could have seriously hoped.
Slayer. The name is synonymous with controversy. Did anyone not expect Christ Illusion to be controversial? In concept or with fans? I think one is naive to believe that a Slayer album wouldn’t cause an uproar with fans and critics. Christ Illusion, although, was better than I imagined it would be.
Simply put, Christ Illusion is a slight mixture of newer, groove oriented Slayer and old thrash Slayer. Both kinds of music are found on Christ Illusion. Right from track one a listener can tell if the music is Slayer or not by the dueling guitars of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. Both are not showing their best here, but neither are dragging ass. Their riffs are as tight as ever and the solos may sound one sided (they all basically sound the same) but they are Slayer solos so expect a little chaos in those.
One complaint about the guitars is that a handful of songs begin with melodic guitar lines that neither showcase melody or great emotion. It can work if a guitarist is particularly great with melodies and emotional guitar lines to start off multiple songs on an album with that kind of thought. But Slayer has never been great at melody or emotion – not unless they are fast and angry. Those parts of the album seem to drag out.
The presence of Dave Lombardo (drums) is much appreciated. Even though Paul Bostaph is a decent drummer – Dave’s variety and skill is still better. And more appropriate for the style of music that Slayer plays. His return to the fold has been too long and Christ Illusion may not be the most varied of his playing – it does show he has grown as a drummer away from Slayer.
Tom Araya’s vocals are still…well…Tom Araya’s vocals. It’s not singing. It’s not guttural. It’s not barking. They just sound mean. And nothing has changed in this part of the woods in long time (since he lost that killer scream due to aging). So his vocal parts remain the same.
Depending on how you look at them, lyrics are something Slayer is either good at or horrible at. They don’t stray away from the hating of pretty much everything – but there are some interesting ones present on Christ Illusion. First to be mentioned is the inclusion of a song about “Jihad” – granted they don’t seem to know very much about the Jihad – they do know how to write something controversial…which they do – even though it really says nothing that Slayer hasn’t said before. As with the song “Consfearacy,” it sounds political but upon further review it really isn’t. Slayer doesn’t stray much on Christ Illusion even though the controversy around it says otherwise.
And for the record, “Supremist” isn’t a word. The word is supremacist. I have no idea why the song is named “Supremist.”
Overall, Christ Illusion is here to piss a lot of people off. It’s not that different from earlier stuff with a reversion back towards thrash but without losing the groove. Whether you hate the groove element of it, the thrash element of it, the lyrics, or the cover (which I think is pretty kick ass), Slayer is here to piss people off – and I think they managed to do it. If you think that you don’t like Slayer to their dismay…think again. Slayer doesn’t want you to like them. That’s why they do what they do. It’s what makes them popular.
Songs to check out: Flesh Storm, Jihad, Cult.
This album is either not given enough credit or straight-up abhorred by most of my fellow reviewers, and came close to winning the unofficial dubious award of being ‘2006’s Worst Metal Album’ on this site’s forums. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of crap out there. What is also unfortunate is that this album’s and band’s detractors are only too eager to dismiss this as yet another mallcore abortion due to Slayer’s last two albums, Diabolus in Musica and the horrid God Hates Us All.
As soon as you decide to give Christ Illusion its first spin in your CD player you’ll notice a few things: the guitars are still down tuned a la GHUA, these are thrash riffs you’re hearing, Dave Lombardo has made his return count (Dave was always more creative with his hands, Paul was more creative with his feet), Kerry King is still writing most of the band’s output and overall Slayer have made good on their promise that this sounds like a blend between Seasons in the Abyss and God Hates Us All. Thankfully for the listener the important factors are more reminiscent of SITA and the unimportant ones more of GHUA. This is unless you’ve considered Kerry’s lyrics to be essential to Slayer’s work for the past ten years. Don’t worry too much if you do, this is a vast improvement upon GHUA on all fronts.
Let’s start with the bad. And when this album gets bad, it gets… well, not too bad. ‘Eyes of the Insane’ sounds like a modest attempt at thrash by Slipknot, although the lyrics are nowhere near as insipid or as pitiable than anything the likes of them have written (it’s about… you guessed it, warfare, just like 1000 other Slayer songs. This time, the song’s written by Jeff and Tom). The riffs are sludgy and the solos are pedestrian, but the worst comes at the chorus: “THE EEEYYYEES OF THE IN-SAAANE! ON A DEMENTED CAMPAIGN!” And then there’s this: “GOT TO MAKE IT STOP, CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” I couldn’t agree more. Still, better than the watery, whiney lyrics from the last effort.
‘Catatonic’ is slow and boring. No other way to put it. Uncreative, plodding and at times showing hints of the worst parts of GHUA. Following it is ‘Black Serenade’ which is faster, but still plods along and is largely uninteresting.
By now you’ve probably figured that, judging by my optimism for this album despite my qualms for the slower songs, slow is bad and fast is good. That’s pretty much my sentiment for Christ Illusion, but what about a song that’s both fast and slow? ‘Skeleton Christ’s’ verses have a Pantera-style groove riff much in the stop-start-stop-start vein which if you don’t hate already, you will by the end of the track. The chorus is kinda cool, except that they throw in a silly little “HAIL SATAN!” at the end. Well, it’s 2006, you can’t expect perfection I guess.
If you’ve only heard one song from this album, chances are it’s ‘Cult.’ Cult has a steady minute-long build which quickly dissipates into a fast thrash riff. The lyrics ain’t exactly Shakespeare, but it’s not a bad song and is consistent with the rest of the album.
Then there’s the rest. ‘Catalyst’ and ‘Consfearacy,’ despite the dumb name, are both fast and fun thrashers clocking in at little over three minutes a piece. For a comparison, think ‘Mind Control,’ the last track from Divine Intervention, but with the guitars down tuned and more noticeable leads. The leads on both tracks are a lot more prominent than Slayer’s earlier thrash songs, but it totally works.
The two most interesting tracks are ‘Supremist’ and ‘Jihad.’ Jihad sounds a little underdeveloped, but it’s still thrash and the execution is good as usual. Supremist shows some of the band’s creative muscles being flexed, and although there’s a sludgy part in the middle and at the end, it’s still fairly enjoyable. Without a doubt though, the best track is the opener, ‘Flesh Storm.’ The lyrics are usual Slayer fare, and as the opener it’s obligated to being the fastest and catchiest.
As I said though, this is 2006. Anything Slayer do, as well as just about every other old band that debuted two decades ago, will never be as good as what they used to be. Even the best tracks here are either barely on par with the worst tracks on great albums like Hell Awaits and South of Heaven, and if it’s possible to go back to listening to Slayer’s early catalogue over and over instead of giving this disc one spin, it makes this a pretty mediocre album (despite its upside). However if you’re looking for an improvement over Slayer’s previous efforts, this exceeds on that level.
Let’s call it a 56; just below a C, but slightly better than a merely average LP. The better tracks are worth giving a listen, and if you actually liked GHUA then this will sound like Reign In Blood in comparison.
Well, the title affirms that this truly is Slayer’s comeback. Then why the low rating, you may ask? Well, for starters there are lots of rehashed riffs on here and some mallcore/hardcore riffs occasionally pop up too. Also, the guitar tone is far too downtuned for its own good. Imagine Reign In Blood – it starts off with nothing but some amazing tracks and ends in the same fashion. The songs sandwiched between these tracks are monotone and seamlessly meld into one 21 minute (approx.) track, and yet it has extremely memorable and absolutely crushing moments – which make Reign in Blood a winner. This album is quite similar, except the tracks between the opening two tracks and the closing two tracks aren’t nearly as memorable or crushing and contain quite a lot of filler. The album was banned in India and many Asian countries due to its ‘graphic’ album cover and the supposedly disturbing and pro-terror stance on songs like ‘Skeleton Christ’ and ‘Jihad’ (And India has a population of which only 2% comprises of Christians, which makes this move all the more ludicrous).
Thankfully, that awful distortion on Tom’s voice has been removed. Yet, Tom doesn’t sound quite as strong as classic Slayer – still he performs decently on here. The riffing as mentioned earlier is an extremely modernized Reign-In-Blood crunch with the mall/hardcore riffs thrown in. Soloing is of course, classic Slayer tremolo scratch soloing (which isn’t bad at all – although it is monotone), with the occasional excellent solo courtesy Hannenman. Dave Lombardo’s back and one can immediately notices Lombardo’s distinct crunch and galloping bass drums. Lombardo was and still remains one of the most exciting drummers in metal.
‘Flesh Storm’ starts off excellently. The track sounds incredibly like Angel Of Death and provides an insane headbanging experience. ‘Catalyst’ isn’t quite as excellent, but still remains quite well. ‘Skeleton Christ’ sounds rather God Hates Us All like. The verses are quite boring with nu-metal riffing and the song rarely picks up and when it does, it doesn’t last for long. ‘Eyes Of The Insane’ is abominable, with slow plodding verses without any riffing at all. It later picks up but doesn’t quite kick off either, especially with that boring as heck beginning. ‘Jihad’ is decent although it ends rather horribly. ‘Consfearacy’ is a fast, belt-your-head-in number – classic Slayer with some nice soloing too. ‘Catatonic’ tries to be South Of Heaven, but ends up being an improvised Diabolus In Musica song. ‘Black Serenade’ sounds like ‘Catatonic’ but is much better, perhaps because it ends earlier and doesn’t drag like its predecessor. Now, the album kicks into high gear again. ‘Cult’ which horrified me when I first heard it sounds a lot better here. It’s a vicious song that could have been a Seasons In The Abyss out-take. It has a distinct crunch, awesome drumming and a great solo too. ‘Supremist’ is the perfect way to end the album. They let Lombardo take the charge here and he’s absolutely perfect. The song has death metal overtones and incredible magnitude. The song swills into absolute and utter chaos at the end – Slayer of the old days would have been proud of this. On a musical level, this is undoubtedly the most impressive song on the album.
The album is a huge (and welcome) change in direction for Slayer although it still features some abominable mallcore moments. If they could extricate the nu-metal garbage, put on more songs like ‘Flesh Storm’, ‘Supremist’ and ‘Cult’ on here and change the guitar tone next time around – this album would definitely get an 80+ score. Till then, we can only wait.
Slayer's long awaited 2006 album Christ Illusion has proven to me, after many eager listens to be about average. Firstly, it is obviously much faster and more thrashy than anything since Divine Intervention, but not nearly as good as that album. Kerry King's compositions surprisingly are much better than those of Hanneman/Araya, the two of them having written the slower 'Eyes of the Insane' and 'Black Serenade'. The latter has some decent riffs, but the former's ugly awkward chorus brings the catchy intro down to disappointment. Jihad is quicker and better, but tries too hard to be Mandatory Suicide at the end, which obviously isn't going to work. King's compositons are quicker, with the best being 'Supremist', 'Flesh Storm' and 'Cult'. With the exception of those three, the rest of the tracks are largely forgettable, especially 3-8.
The problem with this album lies in the unoriginality of about 90% of the riffs on here - they sound pretty rehashed. Songs come and go, with nothing memorable to speak of other than that they were fast ('Consfearacy', 'Skeleton Christ', 'Catatonic'). The best riffs on the album are found on 'Supremist', which is a completely brutal and fast closer (although the last minute could have been better), the verse riff of 'Cult', and the intro to 'Flesh Storm'. Lyrically, it is the same Kerry King shit that we've been hearing for the past 10 years. 'Cult', for all its riffage, has some terrible lyrics, as does 'Skeleton Christ'. Tom Araya's lyrics are clearly more well put together, but Jeff Hanneman's songs to back them don't compare to any of his earlier material, and is only on par with his contributions to 'Diabolicus in Musicia' and slghtly better than 'God Hates Us All'.
The instrument production is excellent, with the guitars no longer as grating rhythm or solo wise as they were on GHUA. Hanneman's solos are once again better than King's, but at least King seems to be laying off the whammy bar a bit. Dave Lombardo is back on drums, and is better than Paul Bostaph, with the quickness of many songs being attributed to his incredibly fast galloping double-bass patterns. Tom Araya's voice is in the foreground the whole album, and is turned up too loud on 'Catatonic' and 'Cult, but his singing is better and more aggressive than it has been for a long time. His bass is still pretty low in the mix, but is booming on certain parts of the album ('Cult', 'Supremist').
Well...it is a new Slayer album, so check it out, but expect to be satisfied that this is only better than their last decade's output, and by itself, is only average music.
Best tracks: 'Supremist', 'Cult', 'Flesh Storm'
If you were to go in the dictionary and look up “mixed bag”, this album should be somewhere amidst the top of the definitions. I held absolutely no expectations for this album nor did I intend on letting their previous disappointments prevent from a fair and unbiased review of these former thrash titans. My main concern is that about half of this album is comprised of music (I’m being very generous on this one) that belongs on a Slipknot album or in metalcore. There is still a fair abundance of thrash tendencies, solid headbanging metal riffage, and aggressive, technical drumming. Which leads me to believe that this album could have been created for the sole purpose of creating a median point between their old and new fans.
The album opens with Flesh Storm after some trademark feedback, rolls into a competent opening thrashing riff. No arguing this album and song for that matter has thrash, good mid-tempo melodic riffs and punishing Araya vocals and SOLO’s. Its great, almost sounds classic but something seems missing. Great start. Catalyst begins with an absolutely heathenous riff and settles with a excellent blend of classic old Slayer and mid-tempo modernized metal riffs. Classic. This sounded to have the promise of an amazing thrash comeback album and then.. Eyes of The Insane or what I like to call Bloodline light. Its slow, plodding, welcome back GHUA. Not even a Marty Friedman solo could saved this song. The guitar solo’s in the middle are quite well done but the riffs are just far too bland and nu sounding for my tastes.
Jihad begins and I find myself reaching for anything to prevent going into a state of comatose. The song eventually picks up but the riffs sound like C-sides from their classic days. Consistent with the rest of the weak tracks the solo and drums remain the highlight. Tom Araya or his lyrical prowess(lack thereof) cannot save tracks on his own. Skeleton Christ the riffs drift from the nu or watered down side and almost sound akin to what I’d expect to hear on the latest Killswitch Engage album. What is with that riff at 3:24? Slaycore? Sheesh. You begin to notice how infinitely weak their solo’s are with poor riffing eh?
Consfearacy works much better sounding more akin to Divine Intervention with some very solid headbanging speed riffing. Great track. Black Serenade is mid-paced slower song with decent neck wrecking main riff and vocals for about half of it. Still far superior to their previous works so I’ll give it a mediocre. Cult isn’t a bad song per se, it has some good riffs with a really annoying chorus line and some solid drumming great solo’s to back it up. Good track, baaaaad chorus. Supremist, now this song is a juggernaut of a song if I’ve ever heard one. Not in the traditional Slayer sense, this has excellent chug riffs, tremolo picked riffs, solos and sick drumming courtesy of Lombardo. This has become an instant favorite Slayer song of mine. The ending is slow and pure evil. This is how GHUA should have sounded. This song gets 40 points itself.
To conclude you have two classics, some pretty good riff work, some above average drumming courtesy of Dave Lombardo whose presence was felt although I feel people make too big of a deal about his contributions on the album. Could have been a ploy to bring old fans back regardless of musical content which leads me more this to be a calculated effort with a fair amount of filler riffs that might catch the attention of the new crowd. What else can I say it’s the Slayer album I can’t help but like and despise at the same time. From a musical level, the highlights(mainly Supremist) lift this album to a B grade, but I would NOT highly recommend this album openly for reasons stated previously.
After five long years the new Slayer album has finally arrived. After the not-so-well-received God Hates Us All, Slayer had only one direction to go in, and that was up. While I personally enjoyed God Hates Us All, I think Christ Illusion is an improvement. The production is not overdone like its predecessor, and all the instruments sound great together. The drums could be a bit louder on some songs, but otherwise are at a good volume. The bass is also very audible, which I find a lot of times does not happen on a lot of albums; it seems to be the “forgotten” instrument.
Slayer has continued with their anti-Christian/anti-religion image. In the 80s they were more of a satanic band than an anti-religious band. While this album is definitely dominated by that theme, it seems they’re trying to slightly bring back the satanic image. This album is the first time they’ve mentioned Satan by name since South of Heaven (Read Between the Lies), along with the (hilarious) screaming of 666! in the song Cult. Of course they’ve always maintained their “evil” and “satanic” content in their 90s albums, it just seems more apparent in this one. With all that being said, it is a very good anti-religious album. For the most part, the lyrics are very well written. A definite improvement over God Hates Us All. The song Cult is one of my favourite anti-religious songs ever, though I think the 666 part should have been left out; I just don’t think it fits in with the song.
The one major downside of this album is the vocals. They literally “vokill” it. Araya’s vocals have deteriorated over the years and it really shows on this album. In certain parts it sounds so bad I can’t take him seriously. As much as I love Slayer (they’re my favourite band of all time) I think it would be better for them to stop making albums, tour for a few years (surprisingly enough Araya’s vocals aren’t nearly as bad live) and then just call it quits. Obviously they cannot replace Araya; Slayer just wouldn’t be Slayer without him. If it weren’t for the horrid vocals, this album would be very, very good. They’re not the worst vocals I have ever heard, but for Slayer, they’re the worst. The structuring of the vocals for quite a few of the songs sounds like they came right off Divine Intervention. Just listen to Cult and tell me the singing doesn’t sound like something off Divine Intervention.
The music isn’t as “heavy” or as distorted as it was on God Hates Us All. Slayer has thankfully dropped a lot of the Slipknot influence. It’s still there but not nearly as much as before. The return of Lombardo is certainly an improvement. Bostaph was a good drummer, no argument there, but Lombardo is just better. The snare/tom roll in the intro of Cult is awesome, and fits perfectly with the guitars; it really lets you know the song is about to begin, and does it ever. The double-bass in Supremist compliments the song very well. They weren’t very audible at first, but once I listened to it a few times I could hear them and they enhanced the song.
One unfortunate thing is the guitar solos aren’t that memorable. I can’t really remember any that stuck out to me other than the one in Catalyst and the one in Supremist. That’s not to say they’re not good, they just seem to lack that memorable aspect that is usually present in a lot of their solos. They’re also not nearly as chaotic as on their previous albums. Perhaps King and Hanneman are succumbing to the same thing Araya is: age. The guitars though sound well throughout most of the album. There are thrashy parts here and there, and some Slipknot-influenced parts as well. As mentioned before the bass is very pronounced and that’s a good thing.
As a huge Slayer fan, was I unhappy with this album? No. Was I ecstatic? Certainly not. I think their only album worse than this one is Divine Intervention. Even though I said it’s an improvement over God Hates Us All, at this point in time I still rather listen to that album than this one. Perhaps it’s because I’ve listened to it a million times and it was the album that got me into Slayer, and I just find it really catchy. I haven’t purchased this album yet, but I definitely intend to. It’s not a bad album, but it’s also not a great album. It’s just good. It has the signature Slayer feel to it. If you like Slayer then I recommend at least listening to this album. If you’re new to Slayer then check out their earlier albums first, most notably their 80s material and work your way up to this one.
Slayer's long-awaited "comeback" album is precisely what one might expect from the band who just recently released the dregs that were Diabolus in Musica and God Hates Us All. Now, if these two weren’t horrid enough in their complete lack of depth or authenticity, we are subjected to Christ Illusion, a culmination of essentially all of the band’s pop-art work over the last 10 years or so. For those like myself, who would gladly kneel before the throne and grovel in homage to the might and brilliance of what Slayer had managed to achieve in the mid to late 80’s (South of Heaven primarily), it’s not difficult to assess their current state of shameless commercialism.
One of the most irritating aspects of the album is its packaging. Speaking metaphorically, listening to this album is like opening a birthday present wrapped in shiny gold paper only to discover a box filled with charcoal. The album cover in itself provides an ample precursor of this marketing ploy; the artwork is clearly intended to be reminiscent of pre-mallcore albums, with a return of the old logo as well. As one might logically assume, the music and accompanying thematic elements work under the same basic concept; some songs vaguely resemble genuine thrash metal, but upon closer inspection are completely superficial and obviously worship the god of mediocrity.
The main goal here that will make this album to incredibly successful with Slayer’s newly-garnered gathering of loyal radio-rock adolescent followers, is realized with the ability to create musical pieces which loosely hold your interest, but then quickly descend into the exact same formless sap-riffs that we’ve all come to know and love from God Hates Us All. In essence, it’s not totally horrid when dissected into individual phrases, but falls entirely to pieces when looked at as a whole. There was once a time when King and Hanneman would marvelously trade off fluid and creative guitar leads, and Dave Lombardo would add equally invigorating drum fills honed with innovative cymbal work. Now, we have a bunch of two-finger 10-second guitar “solos,” with absolutely nothing in which to make them interesting or memorable. Similarly, in spite of Lombardo’s return to the band after almost 15 years absence, the drumming is there, it’s fast, it borrows from some “new age” styles such as blasting, but nothing augmented which would make it truly captivating or inspiring.
Obviously borrowing heavily from favored tour mates Slipknot, the lyrics rarely move beyond the realm of melancholy and interpersonal angst. Of course this isn’t in any way a new development, as we’ve seen basically the exact same thing from Slayer’s latest two developments. While there are certainly several anti-Christian and pseudo-satanic diatribes presented, they are so pathetic and laughable within the context of the remainder of the album, it’s nearly impossible to take them seriously. Relatively speaking, it’s not quite as blatantly idiotic as Exodus’ post-millennium material, but trying to write lyrics with mountains of profanity geared to mildly offend the greatest number of people does not represent an intelligent ideological statement.
Age-old thrash bands can perform partially successful necromancy on their good albums all they want and still not be able to hide their product-oriented mentality, as Christ Illusion clearly displays. Slayer, together with their Bay Area thrash mates, and most of the German bands following suite, have successfully turned thrash metal into a bloated, commercialized shell of itself, ready to be packaged and sold to drooling mall goers across the globe.
First off I'd like to make clear that I am anything but a Slayer fan. 'South Of Heaven' was an amazing album, but overall, I think they are slightly overrated. Surely they have made some great songs and 'Show No Mercy', 'Hell Awaits', the severely overrated 'Reign In Blood' and 'Seasons In The Abyss' were decent Thrash albums, but I personally think they miss that something that made a band like Forbidden or OverKill such an awesome Thrash band. In addition, they definitely test the patience of their fans by having very long intervals between their last few albums, which were bad to mediocre anyway.
But if you ARE a Slayer fan, your patience will probably be rewarded this time! I never thought I would ever say this again, but 'Christ Illusion' is the best album Slayer has made since 'South Of Heaven', it's a lot more old school than the previous albums as well.
A quick check-up for the old Slayer-elements. Fast and heavy guitar riffs? Check! Intense drumming? Check! Guitar solos that are terribly off-key? Check! More than three riffs a song? Check! An album cover that looks like it's been drawn by a five year old? Check! And the bad lyrics? Worse than ever!
There are some things here that could be taken really negatively, but these are trade marks for Slayer. I'm not saying that 'Christ Illusion' is back at the level of 'South Of Heaven' or 'Hell Awaits', but it's closest they have gotten the last 16 years. Part of that could be the return of Dave Lombardo. Not that Paul Bostaph was a bad drummer (on the contrary...after he left Forbidden, there was really something missing), but it's a remarkable coincidence that they got back to their old sound now that Lombardo has returned.
First things first...this album isn't a full blown Thrash fest from beginning to end. 'Eyes Of The Insane' is a mediocre track in the vein of the last two albums and 'Jihad' starts out interestingly, has some killer riffs, but gets a little too repetitive in the end, which causes the song to get really boring near the end. It goes wrong in the last minute, I'm sure there could have been something better there, which is really too bad, because the rest of the song really ain't that bad! Coincidentally enough, both of these songs have been written by Jeff Hanneman, who has in the past written most of the songs I consider Slayer's best. The vast majority of the album has been written by the other guitarist, Kerry King.
Let's get back to the positive news then! The album starts out with a killer track called 'Flesh Storm'. There are some really nice riffs in this old-school sounding track. Most of the song is fast, but there are some time-feel changes throughout the song, which keeps it interesting. No complaints here! It's no 'War Ensemble', but pretty damn close!
'Catalyst' is also a fast, old school track which could have fit anywhere on 'Seasons In The Abyss'. Tom Araya, who I consider a really bad singer, but quite fitting for Slayer, actually excels in this song. He knows just where the vocal tracks need a little more power and where they should be a little lower. Very cool!
Up next is one of my personal favorites off the album, it's called 'Skeleton Christ' and it contains some of the coolest riffs ever written by mr. King. Some nice staccato work there, and Dave Lombardo's drumming fits those riffs perfectly. It's that kind of stop-and-go staccato work. The tempo changes in this song are awesome as well. Judging from the lyrics, Kerry King has probably found his anger caused by religion again and even though I think the choice of words is a little childish in that subject, but hey...we're used to that aren't we?
After the less interesting moment of the album ('Eyes Of The Insane' and 'Jihad'), we're back to the speedy, pissed-off moments again. 'Consfearacy' isn't exactly one of the highlights of the album, but it's definitely a nice track for people who prefer Slayer fast, heavy and angry. There's this punk-ish energy to the song, which would make the song quite fitting on 'Undisputed Attitude'.
What I have always liked about Slayer were the songs that were slightly "different" on the albums. That's the very reason why 'Dead Skin Mask', 'Crionics' and 'Seasons In The Abyss' are among my favorite songs the band has ever made. 'Catatonic' will most probably be in that same list soon. The mid-tempo song is doomy and intense, features some very interesting drum work by Dave Lombardo, especially in the middle part, where he goes wild on his toms, and once again features a relatively stellar role for Tom Araya's vocals. I think the guys in the band understand that it's songs like these that keep a furthermore fast and Thrashy album interesting.
So off to another one of my favorite tracks of the album. 'Black Serenade' features some killer guitar riffs, courtesy of Jeff Hanneman, who makes up for the two monsters he created earlier on the album with this song. There is a dangerous atmosphere in this song, which most reminds me of the atmosphere set on 'Hell Awaits'. There are some killer rhythm changes, which is always a pro for me. When they are executed right, that is, but that is definitely the case with 'Black Serenade'. Thumbs up!
Since it was the first track that could be heard of the album, there has been a lot of discussion about 'Cult'. Personally, I have said that I liked the song right from the beginning. Sure, there's this childish anti-religion lyrical content once again, but the music is killer. There are a lot of changes in this song and whenever there is a change, it is a change into a great riff. I seriously don't understand what the crap was all about, it's a song that would have fit perfectly on 'Seasons In The Abyss'. It probably would have outdone several tracks that actually are on that album.
What a smart move of the band to save the best for last! It's really unbelievable what they do in 'Supremist'. To be honest, I didn't think they would have been able to do a song like this. It's amazing! The perfect finale for this album! From the awesome opening riff on, I had the feeling this was going to be something special. And that feeling didn't betray me. The bass is actually audible and good on this track, the riffs are probably the best on the entire album (maybe excluding those to 'Skeleton Christ'...ask again later) and what did I just hear...? Blastbeats by Dave Lombardo! That same man does a great job during the entire song, probably the most interesting rhythms I've ever heard him do. 'Supremist' also houses a lot of changes and once again, they're executed excellently. And to conclude the whole thing in style, the ending of the song is doomy, chaotic and pissed off! That's the way to do it!
And if that wasn't enough, the production to the album is flawless as well! The band's choice for Josh Abraham, previously responsible for the albums of i.e. Linkin Park, raised some eyebrows at first, but the final outcome shows that there probably couldn't have been a better choice. He's given the drums as well as the guitars the incredibly dry sound they need and that gives the album a little extra! Let's put it like this, the album would probably have gotten 5 points less from me if it didn't have this production.
So what's my conclusion? Well, to be short and simple: Slayer has impressed me! And I'm not really a fan of theirs, but I am a fan of Thrash Metal and that is exactly what you get when you put on this album. Recommended to anyone who has a heart filled with Thrash Metal!
After listening to this album, I think it's safe to say that Dave Lombardo is the only drummer that belongs in Slayer. Not to say that Paul Bostaph was bad (in some elements he was better than Lombardo) but Lombardo definitely brings back a lot more of that 'Slayer' feel than has been there for a very, very long time.
Let's look at Bostaph's contributions. Divine Intervention was undisputedly the best post-Lombardo work of Slayer. Lots of speed, pretty consistent songwriting despite a lack of classics or standouts. Diabolus was noticably slower, like South of Heaven, but not nearly as good and with a lot of modern experimentation. Only a few songs worked, others had their moments, but overall it was a quite lackluster release. GHUA had some of the most ridiculous and pointlessly vulgar Slayer lyrics yet, and really only held three standouts (the classic Disciple being the only amazing point of the album). The rest, like Diabolus, had a lot of more modern experimentation (comparisons to Slipknot often drawn) and usually didn't work.
So here we are, a tedious 5 years after GHUA, and we have Christ Ilusion. Larry Caroll (designing this album's art as he did with the unholy trilogy of RIB/SOH/SITA) and Dave Lombardo in tow, Slayer seemed set to release their best album since Seasons and reclaim that classic sound they used to have.
I can say that for the most part this has been achieved. This is clearly the best album since Seasons (although Divine Intervention is really not far behind). There's more speed then there has been since Divine Intervention, and there's just much better songwriting overall. I don't really see the comparisons to War Ensemble, but Flesh Storm starts the album off in speedy/catchy fashion, followed closely by the similarly fast Catalyst. Skeleton Christ has a chugging riff that is better than just about any of the midpaced material off of Diabolus/GHUA, and features some truly catchy and evil riffs. Eyes of the Insane...lord knows why Slayer chose this one as the video. Although the song isn't completely bad, it is clearly the worst on the album and really doesn't go anywhere. Jihad is a song that seems to grow on you and is currently my favorite on the album. Very fast and full of classic Slayer riffage (is it a coincidence that my favorite song on this album is written by Jeff Hanneman?...I think not, I think he deserves a lot more credit than all the attention that Kerry King gets). Consfearacy is another speedy number, much akin to the first two songs. Catatonic is one of the BEST slow Slayer songs ever (mostly due to the fact that isn't oppresively boring and the ending riff is brutal as hell). Black Serenade is another evil little number written by Jeff, with a catchy if not overused chorus. Cult features some of Slayer's dumbest lyrics ever (Religion is a whore?...cmon Kerry, enuff's enuff), but despite this remains a riff-fest and is a pretty fun listen. Supremist is the first Slayer song to feature blast beats and closes the album in fashion.
Overall, this album is extremely fast and brutal, mostly on par with Divine Intervention in that it's extremely consistent (far more so than DIM/GHUA were) but seemingly lacks truly classic tracks that we find on older Slayer material. Jihad and Cult may be the new classics from this release...maybe. It's too soon to say.
Bottom line-the best since SITA, and Lombardo is with them once again. Coincidence..? I think not. Lombardo is one big key to the 'classic' Slayer sound. Kudos to Slayer for putting their last two releases to shame and making something in the old vein again.
Yeah, what we got here is the best album since Divine Intervention. Indeed, we all know Slayer's recent mallcore infested abominations, but Christ Illusion is the first step into the right direction.
The preceding single "Cult" showed a few good glimpses of the album, but didn't do it the deserved justice. "Cult" tended to sound like a watered down Divine Intervention at times, which obviously bothered many, even though it was an improvement over the quite hideous God Hates Us All.
Now, excuse me for not waiting until the album is released (which would be another week or so) but I tend to be careful with modern Slayer releases. Well, so I'm glad I bothered to check it out. Read on to find out exactly why.
The album starts with "Flesh Storm". Well, what an adequate title. It begins with a feedback, slowly fading into quite a thrash riff! No, it's not as fast as Reign in Blood, but it would easily fit onto Divine Intervention. Hey, who's drumming here? It sounds damn fine! Yeah, if you didn't hear it already, you must've been living under a rock for quite some time - Dave Lombardo is back. Now, I really enjoyed Paul Bostaph's drumming on Divine Intervention, but it's always nice to see some legends back in the band. Another improvement you'll be able to hear instantly is Tom Araya's voice. No stupid fucking around with dumb effects anymore, just an angry yell we haven't heard since...Seasons in the Abyss? Yeah. That's is quite an accomplishment for the old fellow.
The fast thrash riff leads us into a slower groovy riff with catchy vocal lines on top before the thrash reappears, but with a nice and short typical Slayer-solo added this time 'round! The song reaches it's climax with the solo on about 2:40. I'm sure you haven't heard solos like that in ages. It's fast, semi-melodic and still whammy-bar driven like in the early days. The song had quite an impact on me when I heard it first. No signs of mallcore to be found.
I was still afraid that they could let me down with the second song, "Catalyst". Well, I stopped worrying when I heard the intro. "Catalyst" starts with another nice thrash riff and leads into another short and pretty swell solo section. Hey, we only heard 5 minutes of new Slayer so far, and already 3 solos? Impressive. The song switches between nice single note thrashing and a few brooding, headbangable riffs. Catchy as fuck. Araya's vocals are very nice again, especially the passage starting around 2:20 is so catchy "You know what I know, no matter what you say, you've been beaten today, like every other day..." Trust me, you'll sing along with him after the second listen.
You shouldn't forget that Slayer released crappy albums before this. So you can't expect that their songwriting skills are suddenly entirely flawless again. A testament for this is sadly the next song:
"Eyes of the Insane"
From the beginning, something just doesn't sound right (except for Dave's drumming, which is especially stellar here). The song is very slow but it already becomes boring after the riff gets repeated for more than once. The real problem starts with what's supposed to be half of a "chorus". The "riff" underneath consists of a few rapidly changed power chords, which get repeated over and over. Maybe that is still a reminder of Kerry King's Slipknot worship before God Hates Us All was released. The only keeper in the song is the nice solo in the middle. As long as you ignore the supporting "riff" underneath. The song is not AS horrible as it might sound, but it's definitely a lot weaker than it's two preceding songs.
Too bad that the next weak song follows immediately after it. "Jihad" might already be known to some, because it could be heard somewhere (forgot where, to be honest). "Jihad" is better than "Eyes of the Insane". But not by a great margin. It consists of some faster half-thrash riffs. Half- thrash in the sense that the rhythm starts like thrash but ends on groove notes. Might work for early Pantera, but not quite for Slayer. It picks up towards the end and a nice solo comes in, while the ending is just a lead guitar riff with march drumming below and a speech sample on top. A mediocre song.
Luckily, Christ Illusion picks up again with the next song, "Skeleton Christ".
Its main riff is very groovy and headbangable and transcends into another thrash riffs shortly later, before the main riff returns with a short solo on top. They really brought back the solos on here. The song remains fairly strong until a nice riff changes the song quite a bit. It's again very catchy and the melody's quite infectious until another solo forces it's way into the song, and again - it's very welcome. The song ends with a nice groove and screaming leads on top. Nice finish.
Then it's time to put on some thrash again. "Consfearacy" starts in a high-speed manner and breaks into a fast solo almost immediately. Classic Thrash, Slayer style. The riffs in this one are among the best that the album has to offer; I'd say it's the most brutal and straightforward thrasher we heard yet on this album. Solo after solo follows, the riffs never slow down. The song is fast throughout, almost reaching Reign in Blood speed. No, I'm not kidding. "Consfearacy" surely's going to be another fan favourite.
Another midpaced track follows, but don't worry, "Black Serenade" is done right. The song's vocal lines and riffs are some of the catchier ones in the Slayer catalogue. Sometimes they switch into some serious thrashing, which happens mostly when a solo approaches. Like the one shortly after the minute mark. Great stuff. The overall speed reminds one of the slower tracks on Seasons in the Abyss for a bit.
"South of Heaven" follows. Oh, wait! No, the track is called "Catatonic". The lead guitar work on the song's intro could've been taken from "South of Heaven". You remember the "evil" atmosphere those leads had? The riff that comes in at 2:30 sounds great alone already, but when Dave's drum patters follow shortly after, it really sounds good. Then, another evil harmonized riff and "South of Heaven" calls again. The riff at 3:20 is almost moshpit worthy. Pretty great track.
"Cult" starts rather unspectacular. Then when the first "real" riff starts it sounds quite nice, but it's a bit watered down afterwards. A somewhat punkish interlude follows but turns into a second-rate thrash riff afterwards. Nowhere close to the riffage in the other thrash assaults we heard so far. The soloing is the best part of the song. Not the best solos on the album, but about average, which is quite good on this album. The song crawls along without any particular standouts, until the riff under the solo at about 3:20. The solo rules, as well as the riff underneath it. The song's worth it because of that short passage. Why this one was chosen as the initiate single is beyond me, but I'm glad they didn't take "Eyes of the Insane" or "Jihad" instead.
Well, but they kept the best goddamn song for the end. "Supremist" could have been on Reign in Blood. I'm not kidding. Listen to the damn thrash riff. It's fast as fuck, but something unique in the Slayer catalogue comes right after afterwards. The great riff is repeated again - with blastbeats underneath. I can't remember that Slayer had used this technique before (please correct me IF they did, but I don't think so), but it fits SO DAMN well into song! Some slower passages follow afterwards, mainly power chord driven, but very well done with great drumming in support. If that wasn't enough, a thrash break follows at 1:35, and it's devastating. It makes your neck snap and is followed by one of the best solos on the whole album and you can't help but get off your chair and thrash around like a maniac. After the solo, Tom screams "Must men take control of the weak!?" which leads us into a great slower, headbangable passage with soaring leads on top of it. It lasts until the end and closes the album in the best way possible.
The production is very nice overall. The online version of "Cult" had the guitars and drums toned down and the vocals and bass too upfront, which made a few fans afraid of how the production would turn out. Don't worry, it's a lot better than I expected. It's powerful, yet dirty and raw enough. Very fitting for a Thrash Metal release. I'd say it reminds me of typical 1990 thrash album production, which is indeed very fine.
What else is to say about Christ Illusion? Well, my expectations were easily topped and finally, these four guys seem to be in good shape again and don't sound like they want to retire anytime soon. I can only hope that Slayer will continue to release albums in this vein.
Overall, Christ Illusion is a recommended listen for anyone who abandoned Slayer after Divine Intervention and for any thrash metal fan, be it modern or not. It's not flawless ("Eyes of the Insane" and "Jihad" come to mind) but shows many signs of their former glory.
Flesh Storm, Catalyst, Consfearacy, Catatonic and Supremist.