Slayer - _World Painted Blood_
(American Recordings, 2009)
by: Jackie Smit (
Everyone has a Slayer story. Whether you're the sort of obsessive nutcase who'd gleefully carve their logo on to your person, or whether you loathe every fibre of their vintage thrash make-up, chances are that if you frequent this website, you will be able to articulate with disconcerting accuracy the most recondite details of the first time you heard Slayer. For me it was December 1993; holed up in my bedroom, and gawking at amazement at the level of intensity captured on _Decade of Aggression_. At that point, I'd had more than my fill of Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, and in Slayer I had unearthed a band that had me convinced that they were potentially the most malignant musical entity to have slithered out of heavy metal's proverbial swamp. "Hell Awaits", "The Antichrist", "Altars of Sacrifice" -- each track bristled with a sense of impending peril that to a prepubescent geek like me was nigh on irresistible.Needless to say, that's a halcyon era that long ago galloped off into the sunset. For the past decade, Slayer have painted themselves as consistent under-achievers, their legacy spinning enough of a yarn to keep the promise of a comeback alive just long enough for them to circumvent our considerable expectations with another slapdash serving of infinitely forgettable dross. Adding insult to injury is Kerry King posing as heavy metal's self-appointed Director of Quality Control, lambasting whomever he pleases with an arrogant impunity that's impossible to mistake for honesty. The real tragedy is that he's been responsible for much of what's made the cut on the last three Slayer albums, while each full-length's saving grace has conversely stemmed from the collective efforts of Jeff Hanneman and Tom Araya. ("Eyes of the Insane" and "God Send Death" are two excellent examples of this, in case you need any proof.)So what happens when Hanneman gets off his lazy ass and actually writes more than one song a year? We end up with an album like _World Painted Blood_; almost certainly not in the same league as the band's creative acme, but definitely closer to recapturing its form than anything that's seen the light of day under their banner since _Seasons in the Abyss_. That's right, folks -- while Slayer's eleventh record is hardly a masterpiece, it's a very welcome antithesis to albums like _Christ Illusion_ and especially _Diabolus in Musica_. The likes of "Unit 731" and "Human Strain", replete with their delightfully deliberate old-school production, are glued together by a collection of riffs that are anything but the lazy chug-fests regurgitated ad nauseam on tripe like "Exile" and "Skeleton Christ". There's a bona fide aura of darkness seeping through the majority of the album's content, and on "Beauty Through Order" and "Playing With Dolls", they even prove that they're not afraid of taking a few calculated risks. This creative fortitude pays off handsomely and on the latter track in particular, the band have crafted perhaps one of their most iconic anthems since "Dead Skin Mask".While I'd hate it to seem as though I am crusading against King, it doesn't come as a surprise to find that _World Painted Blood_'s more supine moments are entirely of his design. "Americon", for example, is potentially one of the most embarrassing creations he's ever been responsible for. "Not of this God" closes the album in stunningly anticlimactic fashion; only "Snuff" and "Hate Worldwide" suggest that one of heavy metal's most revered songwriters still has the chops to hang with the best. But such is the relief to finally hear a Slayer album that isn't a complete disappointment that you're likely to find yourself almost not caring. Like many of their generation, Slayer has been talking up the possibility of this being their last hurrah. Were that the case, they'd certainly not be bowing out on a bum note.
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