Sound: Slayer has finally been getting it's due in the past year with the release of what could be considered its most critically acclaimed record Christ Illusion. Originally released back in June 2006, the record hit was at times as musically intense and well-written as the classic Reign In Blood -- and for what it's worth, the Grammy voters agreed. So when the track Eyes Of The Insane earned a Grammy this year, re-releasing Christ Illusion as a limited edition, complete with a few new tracks and DVD, was a very wise marketing move from the band.
The vast majority of the record hasn't changed from the content of the original 2006 release, but even back then it was a solid example of why guitarist Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are highly regarded as master shredders. Jihad features harmonies that are reminiscent of South Of Heaven, and thankfully the band decided to feature that song for part of the DVD portion of the limited edition Christ Illusion. It should be mentioned that there aren't that many performances/videos on the bonus DVD, so many a fan may be disappointed in the lack of content. One of the few that is featured in the DVD is Jihad, which is played underneath a series of film clips (both onstage and behind the scenes) at the introduction of the DVD, and it captures the chaos that goes on at a typical Slayer concert.
While the CD bonus tracks Final Six and Black Serenade (an alternative version of the original) are great new additions, it is the live video performance of South Of Heaven on the DVD that makes it all worthwhile. The sound quality is flawless, with the whole band sounding as good as they do on the CD. Vocalist/bassist Tom Araya does allow the fans to sing the entire first verse of South Of Heaven rather than sing it himself, which is a bit of a bummer when you watch it at home. At the actual concert it probably sounds incredible, but the mics just aren't close enough to the fans to get the full effect and you end up missing Araya roaring, Before you see the light you must die!
Black Serenade is a track released on the original Christ Illusion, and the latest version doesn't veer that much from the original. The real surprises (and highlights) come from watching the DVD, and hopefully Slayer will consider putting out a full-length DVD of their upcoming tour with Marilyn Manson. // 9
Content: The added features on the limited edition are fairly minimal when you compare it to most other bands' releases these days. Besides the 2 bonus audio tracks on the CD, the DVD features a live concert medley of sorts (Jihad), an actual live performance (South Of Heaven), and a music video (Eyes Of The Insane). Each one is a must-see, particularly the live performance of South Of Heaven which gives a bit more attention to the guitar work and drummer Dave Lombardo's insane drum skills. Unfortunately, the 20-minute long DVD goes very fast and you end up wishing the band added just a few more tracks to the playlist. On the positive side, each of the 3 videos is unique and doesn't get dull like some live concert DVDs out there. // 8
Production Quality: In both the audio and the video, Slayer has never sounded better. It's hard to say what kind of audio equipment they are touring with, but it picked up every slight little nuance played by King and Hanneman. And while some vocalists tend to get muffled by the mixing, Araya's vocals are extremely sharp in the concert portion and you can actually understand every line he utters.
The live performance was recorded with top-notch equipment as well, but it's the music video that actually goes above and beyond the usual. Directed by Tony Petrossian, the video for Eyes Of The Insane centers around a single eye belong to a soldier. In the eye's reflection you see everything that a typical solider might see -- from a battle to holding his child to living through life-and-death, bloody surgery. At first you might be skeptical that a video can sustain your interest with just one eyeball, but it absolutely works. It's a thought-provoking video that you'll have to watch a few times through before catching every little message being tossed at you. // 10
Overall Impression: While the limited edition Christ Illusion might not be as lengthy as a Slayer fan might hope, it's still a worthwhile addition to your collection. The newest CD track Final Six is up there with the best of the album, and it actually has the same beautifully foreboding quality that South Of Heaven captures. Some might argue that Christ Illusion doesn't come close to 1986's Reign In Blood, but the classic lineup of King, Hanneman, Araya, and Lombardo has still released some of the most interesting Slayer songs in the last decade. // 8