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Let me start by saying although I do love Slayer, I've never been a huge fan per se, so this is review is not coming from the perspective of a fanboy. The only albums of theirs I have are Reign in Blood and God Hates Us All (the former I like, the latter...eh, not so much), so I can't really compare this to their previous material other than to say that it sounds more like RiB than GHUA.
That said, let's take a look at this new song that took them five years to come up with.
First of all, the positive side:
The intro is pretty damn cool, and it's nice to hear them doing some progression instead of the appalling simplicity that dragged down about 2/3 of the songs on GHUA. The first thing I noticed is how much better the guitar tone is than on the latest album. That in itself is a plus for me, but not only do the guitars sound better, they're also playing decent, memorable riffs again. Not riffs to shit oneself over, mind you, but decent all the same. The main thing is they have a little bit of that evil sound to them that the riffs on God Hates Us All sorely lacked. Oh yeah, and there are pretty good solos, too. Yes, solos, plural, because there are multiple solos in this one song...a little trick that Slayer seemed to have forgotten you could do.
The best news, however, is the fact that Tom Araya actually sounds good. Gone is the distorted Slipknot shouting of the previous release, and back is the harsh thrash-yell that he used in the early days. If he does the whole next album this way, it should actually be listenable - which is more than can be said for God Hates Us All.
And now for the negatives:
Despite improvements, "Cult" is still haunted by a shadow of the bad songwriting into which Slayer appeared to have descended by 2001. It's not quite as disjointed as some of their other songs, but it seems a bit unfocused. That and well, it's sort of a mediocre song as a whole. It may be inestimably better than anything they put on their last album, but that still doesn't mean its anything special objectively speaking.
And then there are the lyrics. Pretty silly, and nothing we haven't heard before - but then again, if I cared too much about lyrics, I probably wouldn't be listening to Slayer in the first place.
So there you have it. If I were to compare this to God Hates Us All, I'd probably give it a 90; if I were to compare it to Reign in Blood, maybe only a 25. Objectively, I give it a 50 because it's good but unspectacular...and also because only putting one song on a CD single is kind of lame. Throw in a cover, a re-recorded old song, or a b-side or something. We're not picky.
Well lets start with the bad. The song still has annoying parts that King still can't shake from his Hardcore/Numetal lovefest days. That breakdown at 2:48 is absolute garbage. Luckily it only lasts 20 or so seconds. The lyrics are also a bit silly, and aren't very convincing.
On to the good. The intro is decent, an attempt at a Hell Awaits/Jesus Saves type intro where they start with 3-4 different mid paced riffs before breaking out into a full on thrash assault. Once the main riff comes in with Tom's vocals , it is 100 percent Slayer. 3 Quality riffs in a row, which is about 2 more quality riffs than the entire GHUA album. The rhythm guitar is kinda buried but it's not too bad, it should stand out alittle more though. The vocals are also a major improvement over GHUA. Sounds like Araya circa Seasons/Divine Intervention.
Anyway, if this song didn't have that annoying breakdown, it would get into the 80s. When it thrashes, it's pretty damn good.
The first Slayer material in...5 years? Well, as probably any other reviewer before and after me, I expected total crap. I was pretty surprised actually, the production, as well as the riff and song structures actually have nothing in common with the quite awful "God Hates Us All". "Cult" sounds very much like a song that didn't make it on "Divine Intervention".
The riffs themselves are mainly thrash. About one half of them are somewhat toned down and mediocre, but the other half is actually pretty well crafted. Total "Divine Intervention". Two "we are Slayer - whammy bar" solos also found their way onto the song and they actually fit rather well.
The vocals are just a tad too loud, even though Araya doesn't even sound that bad. There is no stupid distortion or experimentation layered on his voice and his voice sounds pretty fit. Of course there are no "Angel of Death" - esque screams (fuck, what did you expect?) but he sounds very much like he did in the early 90s.
The drumming is very fine, but what did you expect of Lombardo? He did a fine job, as always.
So, Slayer delivers a rather fine piece of music, leaving all the shitty experimentation and most of the mallcoreness from their last albums behind.
Of course you can't compare this single to recent Thrash releases from oldschool bands (Destruction, Kreator, Heathen...they all beat this one easily), but it might be worth a listen or two.
Is it possible that we'll be getting a good Slayer album again?
It all depends on what you expected it to be. No, it's not "faster than ever", no it's not a return to Reign in Blood, but hey, at least it's not Diabolus in Musica or God Hates Us All.
Personally, I expected absolute shit. I think it was due to the fact that the EP is only being released to Hot Topic stores, or maybe it was due to the fact that Slayer has been touring with shitty mallcore bands like Shitknot, or maybe it was due to the downward spiral that Slayer have thrown themselves into by trying to appeal to mallgoths in the first place. But I digress, I think the reason why I don't hate this song like many others have is because it turned out better than I expected.
Some parts of the song sound like Slayer, other parts just don't seem to convince me. The intro to the song seems like an attempt to sound creepy, I don't exactly know what it's supposed to be, all I know is that it sounds familiar to something off a Korn album. After this though a familiar Slayer type intro starts, it's simple and short however and doesn't progress into anything better, but rather, into something much worse. It progresses into a Korn-style "breakdown" (the main "breakdown" of this song apparently), rather than being a Thrash-style breakdown in which it gets faster or harder, it goes mallcore style in which it gets slower, simpler, and lower. Sounds a lot like Korn. But to be fair, at the start after this slow "breakdown" the Thrash part kicks in to start the verse. The best part about it are the drums (hell, the drums are really the best thing going on for this song), as for the riff itself, well, it sounds cool, even though its simple. Although after hearing the song for a while it might start to sound like something off Shitknot's third album. The chorus riff follows the same fate, although it's better than the verse riff. As for the solos, they're lazy, forgettable and random. In general though, the instruments arn't too bad, despite their simpleness. The problem is that after a while you get to notice a few small details that make them sound like a song written by a mallcore band. But even though it's simple, it's not as crappy and boring as their 2 previous albums, it's definitely more catchy too. It's not as good as anything before that though. But who knows, maybe they're saving the best for last. Maybe the album will turn out even better.
But anyways, on to the vocals and lyrics, the lyrics are pretty stupid, but at least not as retarded as the ones in God Hates Us All. The lyrics seem like they're written by a "mature" 17 year old liberal mall goth child ranting about how much he hates religion and how much religion is all about violence and rape and torture and blah blah blah. I think the funniest part was near the end when he says Jesus is holding a trigger to your head, or something like that. The other really funny thing about it is when he screams "666!" every now and then, it reminds me of those stupid people that send Varg Vikernes letters every day about how much they love and worship Satan. The vocals themselves don't sound too bad though, they just sound like the good old Araya vocals (without the high pitched screams), even though there are times when it sounds worn out. There are however, a few occassions where he tries to scream harder, but it just sounds annoying.
In the end, I guess one could say it seems as if the new album might sound most like Divine Intervention. The song is fun to listen to if you get past a few of its bad sides. It's an ok song I suppose. The main reason it gets a higher rating though is because its better than the 2 previous albums, other than the fact that the song itself is decent enough. Would I buy this single or the EP? No way. If you want to listen to Cult, just listen to it on http://www.slayer.net or download it somewhere. It's too early to say how the album will turn out, but download it first. Judging from this song, the album itself might be decent enough to buy, but at the same time, it might not be. Check out this song in the mean time. You might like it, you might hate it, you might think it's simply decent, but at least you'll satisfy your curiosity. One thing is for sure though, mallgoth kids are going to masturbate to this new album.