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Slayer are unquestionably my favourite band ever and as a great fan I must admit that this album is the last good one in their discography before the last Christ Illusion. I’m not one of those who are completely narrow-minded towards their favourite band, insisting on the fact that they never released bad efforts. Diabolous In Musica was mallcorish and quite bad for the songs and God Hates Us All was a bit better for the songs but it had a horrible, artificial production.
Anyway, there had a lot of expectations for this album, the very first one after the band’s split with Lombardo. The replacement was Paul Bostaph and despite all the criticisms, he’s a really good drummer. The main point is to erase the memory of Lombardo and conquer a small slice of the fan’s heart. At the beginning he was a bit criticised and that’s normal when you must replace a monster like Lombardo and take his burning seat behind the drums but at the end everybody understood and praised his style, brutality, passion and heaviness. Tom Araya once said that he is like a machine: you charge it and it goes until the end with no hesitations and I believe that it’s true also in the live gigs. He has always been a professional guy.
Talking about this album, the thrash metal period was definitely in crises and almost every band started to play groove thrash, at least the ones that survived but Slayer kept up the thrash metal massacre and released this Divine Intervention that could be easily considered a return to extreme after a more dry (for ideas) and less angry Season In The Abyss that was not the example of a band in perfect form. Maybe the four years were good for the band to get well again. Anyway, I really admire Slayer in this case because here we can see the right attitude of a band that never left the thrash path even during the grunge or alternative metal period.
I think that I admire more this album than Reign In Blood because here Slayer really demonstrated the balls even if the album is not perfect, but the will is what matters. The band itself has grown a lot since the early days and now the members reached a good level of technique. The tracks sound more or less a way between South Of Heaven and Reign In Blood, so we can meet hyper fast ones and darker, slower others. The massacre starts with the drums intro to “Killing Field” and the guitars soon enter the sound to create a massive wall of heaviness. No modernism, no melody but pure violence. Here Slayer are very clear in their message to the fans: we are back and fuck the trends. We still thrash hard.
The power of the new drummer is clear to anyone and with the following “Sex, Murder, Art” we go back to the 80s for speed and nastiness. Here Bostaph is inhuman while “Fictional Reality” is more mid paced but without the tired mood of the past released. The band is again vicious and some darker passages of the guitars are really good and well exalted by a truly pounding and clear production that puts in evidence all the instruments and give a vigorous sound to the axes. After, it’s time for “Dittohead” to break in with its massive burden of hardcore influences and neverending up tempo sections. The solo by King is, as always, devastating and truly thrash.
Also Tom’s vocals seem to be more pissed off and they re-conquered a lost brutality. His work on this album is very good but the bass is unfortunately not so audible. We go on with the title track that is a natural continuation of tracks like “Spill The Blood” and “Season In The Abyss” but this time with a more angry approach. The following “Circle of Beliefs” features four brutal, amazing, tremolo picking solos in four minutes of blasting power demonstration. The band is compact and seems a bulldozer that no one is able to stop. The fast sections of “SS-3” are amazing and the solos are just the pure inserts of insanity to an already excellent song, also during the first part that features galloping riffs and semi mid paced tempo.
“Serenity In Murder” is total mosh for the up tempo parts while it’s also able to be intense during the “calmer” parts. Surely the vocals’ artificial parts could be avoided because they are a bit annoying and naff. “213” is again a good break to the continue violence, showing good arpeggios and great dark atmospheres. Here they pointed more on the mid paced patterns and the last “Mind Control” is remarkable also for the catchy parts and the guitars duets that go along with the fury of a band that has found again the strength to put out really brutal stuff. Unfortunately, this album is just an isolated case in this sense and I wished that the following Diabolous In Musica could have sounded like this.
Coming to the end, I just want to recommend this album to those who were let down by Season In The Abyss because here the band is far more compact and brutal.