Released: 2006, American Recordings
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com Staff
The release of a new Slayer album has become nothing to write home about, nothing to warrant a Metal-Rules.com staff revew, or, for old Slayer diehards, to really lose their mind over for basically 16 years...until now. Oh, how we’ve waited…waited for years for Slayer to deliver a worthy follow-up to 1990’s SEASONS IN THE ABYSS, a landmark album in heavy metal and the final piece of the brilliant trilogy completed by 1986’s REIGN IN BLOOD and 1988’s SOUTH OF HEAVEN. Perhaps the band painted itself into a corner with the successes of those albums but every release after that has paled in comparison. While all possess their share of brilliant moments, 1994’s DIVINE INTERVENTION was a major step backwards and 1998’s DIABOLUS IN MUSICA and 2001’s GOD HATES US ALL were mired in phoned-in riffs, tired vocals and seemed to signal the band had run out of ideas, leading to more “filler” than “killer.” Whether it is a coincidence or not, original drummer Dave Lombardo is back in the band and the result is CHRIST ILLUSION, Slayer’s strongest album in sixteen years. Paul Bostaph was no slouch behind the kit but Dave Lombardo is among metal’s elite and his presence is certainly felt here with energetic fills and mammoth double bass. Like the last few albums, this is essentially the Kerry King show in terms of songwriting. Only three of the ten tracks on CHRIST ILLUSION were not penned solely by King and the guitarist’s hatred of religion is once again the main lyrical focus. King has managed to write a lot of memorable riffs for these songs, as well, something that was notably lacking on GOD HATES US ALL. It is clear that the band is rejuvenated and ready for a career resurrection with CHRIST ILLUSION.
Lord of the Wasteland / 4/5
“Flesh Storm” exudes all the magic that made Slayer one of the most feared and inspiring metal bands of our time. King’s speed metal riffs fire like a cannon and the aggression of tracks like “War Ensemble” and “Dittohead” are immediately invoked. Araya hasn’t sounded this mean in years and the pair of shredding guitar solos unleashed by King and Hanneman are glorious in the splendor of the duo’s patented blazing, whammy bar dives. This is a sure bet to make its way into Slayer’s live set, too, as a vehicle for their infamous moshpits. King’s riffing on “Catalyst” is among his best on the album, each run immediately sticks to memory and his solos are fast, furious and cutting in their intensity. The downtuned riffs on “Skeleton Christ” could be taken from DIABOLUS IN MUSICA but the thrashy chorus moves along at a brisker pace than the dark muddiness that plagued that album. The lyric “It’s all a fuckin’ mockery, no grasp upon reality…the abortion known as Christianity” is sure to reserve King his own place in Hell, too. “Eyes of The Insane” is a dark, mid-tempo track, not unlike “Dead Skin Mask” from SEASONS IN THE ABYSS, that touches on the atrocities of war and the effects it has on soldiers fighting for a greater cause. Where that track examines the mental, emotional and physical anguish from a soldier’s point of view, “Jihad” explores the first-person outlook of a terrorist. Fast, angry and resonating with bilious hate, “Jihad” is sure to rankle more than a few people still devastated by 9/11 with lines like “I’ll take his towers from the world, you’re fucking raped upon your deathbed.” “Cult,” while not for the faint-hearted (“The target’s fucking Jesus Christ, I would’ve led the sacrifice, to nail him to the crucifix…I’ve made my choice, 666”) is probably the most accessible track, musically, on CHRIST ILLUSION. Aggressive melodies populate the riffs and the slow-building tempo leads to a neck-snapping groove but an underlying throb of double bass from Lombardo commands the listener to take notice. Much like “Jihad,” “Supremist” will stir mixed emotions in people with its first-person account of hate, racism and superiority over others (“Pissing on your faith…I will eat your soul”) but Slayer has never been a band to mince words or shy away from controversy. It’s good to see that they still hold true to that facet as the band members reach their mid-forties. As mentioned earlier, Araya’s perpetual use of a shouted vocal style has been rampant since DIABOLUS IN MUSICA. While he has never possessed a remarkable singing voice, the last ten years have seen him almost completely drop his blood-curdling screams and a true vocal—most likely due to advancing age—to rely on a bellowed roar. This was a major complaint with GOD HATES US ALL and DIABOLUS IN MUSICA as Araya sounded like his vocal parts were recorded through a megaphone. Thankfully, he does lay down some more varied vocals on “Black Serenade” but “Catatonic” adopts the megaphone style, so there is a bit of both here. CHRIST ILLUSION left many people waiting with baited breath, some inevitably hoping for failure before hearing a track, while many others rallied for Slayer to deliver the goods after a string of uninspired albums. Slayer can do “pissed off” with their eyes closed but also need to stay away from redundancy and avoid churning out the same album over and over again. They fell prey to that with DIABOLUS IN MUSICA and GOD HATES US ALL but CHRIST ILLUSION shows the band marching off to war, leveling whatever that gets in its path and living up to their much-heralded reputation as metal’s thrash titans. The original lineup is back and CHRIST ILLUSION is a scourge upon religion, terrorism, war and the various social ills that plague our world. While CHRIST ILLUSION will not be spoken in the same breath as their unholy triumvirate, the haters be damned, as Slayer fans can finally rejoice in hearing a revitalized band, obviously driven to remain relevant to a new generation but also to give long-time fans the album they have been waiting a generation for.
EvilG / 4.5/5
Slayer are back in a big way with CHRIST ILLUSION. This reminds me of why I called Slayer my favorite band in the late 80's and early 90's. After SEASONS IN THE ABYSS, Slayer’s musical style took an increasingly abysmal turn with each release, culminating in their creative low-point GOD HATES US ALL. With CHRIST ILLUSION, all memories of their sub-standard material are forgotten. This should have been the album that followed after SEASONS. The biggest improvement on CHRIST ILLUSION is Tom’s return to his normal/classic vocal style. I hate his mega-phone screaming that liters past albums. He also sings punchier, faster, and more rhythmic like he used to instead of just annoying screaming. Another improvement is on the drums. Dave Lombardo still totally has it and I don’t know who to commend more, him, Tom for the vocals, or perhaps more importantly, Kerry King for pretty much single handedly writing most of the new album. Without doubt, King’s material is the strongest on here. His lyrics also stand out as does the return of Satan in the lyrics, something Slayer has stayed away from in such an up-front way recently. The lyrics on here are brilliant with some of the best appearing in “Confearacy” and “Cult”. Without going into a full song analysis, let’s just say I’m impressed and surprised at the quality of this album. No it’s not REIGN IN BLOOD or SOUTH OF HEAVEN, but it’s damn good and puts Slayer back into my revered list of metal bands.
After years of disappointment (12 to be exact), the prospect of another Slayer album has lost a lot of the excitement for most of us. Well, the Slayer that consistently failed to meet fan expectations isn’t completely gone, but this newly reunited Slayer is helping people to forget the crap of yesteryear. The crushing opening salvo of “Flesh Storm” will make you forget the jumpdafuckup crap of albums past with one swipe of a bloody RIB-stained claw. Whether it’s Dave Lombardo’s renewed presence that has made King and Hanneman re-find their balls (and songwriting skills ) I don’t know, but there is a formidable fire burning within these veterans today. Sure, there are still the occasional missteps along the way, such as King’s irritating chest-beat “Catalyst” and jumbled single “Jihad”, but overall the band (OK, mostly King judging by the writing credits) have done a fantastic job. Slayer has taken a lot of shit over the last decade, much of it deserved, but CHRIST ILLUSION is a huge step towards regaining the throne. Welcome back!
Luxi Lahtinen / 4/5
Here is undoubtedly one of those albums that - at least most of us, have anxiously yet optimistically been waiting to come out for quite some time already. Of course we talk about the legendary Frisco-thrashers Slayer, and their 9th studio album in their career titled CHRIST ILLUSION which also means the return of the band's original drummer Dave Lombardo back to the drum battery in the Slayer line-up, who originally re-joined Slayer for the God Hates Us All tour as a short term fill-in, but stayed with the band up to this very day. I think it's good to have him back in Slayer because CHRIST ILLUSION is a Slayer record that I can honestly say to enjoy quite a lot indeed since... well, - huh, since their DIVINE INTERVENTION album which was released as many years as 12 years ago. What is even more surprising, there's not one single track on CHRIST ILLUSION which I hate from the bottom of my guts. All 10 songs have rightfully earned their place on the new Slayer album - and that's a fact. It's great to notice that Slayer has returned back to the more dark themes again ("Skeleton Christ" and "Cult" have actually very anti-religious lyrics - nice job Slayer) that are supported by fast, brutal, thrashy, and heavy elements that make a Slayer record to sound like a Slayer record. There's also a bit of a punk vibe (sort of) on CHRIST ILLUSION. I mean, King's and Jeff's sharp, meaty riffs come across quite simply at times, but they simply fit into the songs very well. Tom Araya has improved his signing style, too - sounding incredibly fresh and passionate with his vocal parts unlike he did on Slayer's previous two albums. As for Dave's input on the album, he sounds like he tries to prove the good ole old Dave is back, bringing in his own trademark pounding and relentless drum style for the record. We already know what he's capable of behind his drum kit, don't we? There's definitely a somewhat classic Slayer formula going on CHRIST FORMULA, and I'm actually happy for them they actually managed to put together this vile, dark and brutal sounding Slayer album because otherwise, I think I probably would have given up my faith completely for them. CHRIST ILLUSION should clearly prove to everyone that the root of all evil in Slayer gets stronger the older the band gets, if it can be put this way. Darkness has returned back to Slayer... and in a very positive way. m/