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When Slayer goes grunge... - 90%

Slater922, May 9th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, American Recordings

The 90s was kinda an odd time for Slayer. The band had released "Seasons in the Abyss" back in 1990, and it was a good release, but for many fans it kinda felt off. Yes, it still had some great thrashy riffs, but this was the start of a time where Slayer begun to experiment with different sounds. It would start back in 1988 with "South of Heaven" going for a slower tempo, but would go into full force two years later with SITA, and would come to a crashing halt in 2001 with "God Hates Us All" incorporating some nu metal parts. "Divine Intervention" did felt more like the black sheep out of this era, however, with it coming out in between SITA and Undisputed Attitude's crossover thrash style. While it may not be Slayer's greatest album, it still is a great album.

One thing that makes "Divine Intervention" different from other albums would be the instruments. DI still has plenty of thrash elements, but since this album came out in the wake of Kurt Cobain's death and the death of grunge in general, the band decided to add in some grunge elements. To see what I mean, take the first track "Killing Fields" for example. This album goes for a slower tempo similar to SOH, but it also has some of the dirty production of grunge. The guitars in particular play some diverse riffs ranging from thrash metal-like riffs to some more sloppier grunge-like riffs. The drums also follow along the guitars very well, as it not only sets the standard for the tempo, but it also beats in some technical patterns that enforce the tone well. The album does go for some other styles, like the pure thrash sound of "Sex. Murder. Art." or the Nirvana-inspired intro of "213". While most of the instrumentals are great, I do like the tracks that mix in thrash and grunge the most, since it does show that these two genres can mix well if given the right execution.

Another drastic change from the previous albums is the vocals. Tom Araya's vocals are famous for the screaming and the utter mad personality of them, but Tom takes a different approach in them for "Divine Intervention". For a lot of tracks, he drags his vocals a bit and goes for a lot more chants. A great example of this would be in the track "Serenity in Murder". There, Araya sings half of the track and screams in the other half. The singing flows well to the more technical riffs and the screams execute the more insane atmosphere well. In some tracks like "Fictional Reality" and "Divine Intervention", Tom takes some more inspiration from grunge artists and slurs his vocals a bit. While it may sound unfitting on paper, the slower tempo and melodic-sounding guitars fit well to these vocals. They do have some weak moments, but overall, Tom's vocals are unique and stand out from their more abrasive releases.

One area that does need a bit of work though would be in the lyrical department. Slayer is known for having some dark and scary lyrics, but the lyrics here feel a bit neutered. For example, in the track "Dittohead", this verse quotes:

This fucking country's lost its grip
Subconscious hold begins to slip
The scales of justice tend to tip

Tom screams about the country going downhill in the justice department. The track goes for an aggressive thrash style, and the screaming vocals should enhance the lyrics, but they don't. The lyrics aren't bad, but they feel a bit broad and don't exactly reflect the violence in the instruments. While the themes of the lyrics and instruments feel out of place, there are times where they do work with each other. Going back to "Serenity in Murder", the lyrics of murder reflect well with Tom's singing and screams and gives the context of the murder a more sinister tone. While the lyrics don't always work well with the instruments, they are still written good and can sometimes work with the instruments.

So with that said, "Divine Intervention" is one of the stronger records during Slayer's experimental period. The grunge influence on many of the tracks mix well with the thrash elements, and Tom's versatile vocals sound great and mirror the instruments a lot. This album may be one of the weaker ones in Slayer's discography, but for what it is, it's a really good album. I recommend it if you're looking for some thrash metal with some grunge influence.