Sound — 9
The hour is at hand. That's right, Slayer is once again taking it's dark throne in the music world and unleashing a fiery, pounding, and melodic blend of metal. Christ Illusion is the first full-length studio release from Slayer since 2001's God Hates Us All, and it will likely be a satisfying addition to Slayer fans' collection. With Dave Lombardo once again behind the drums after a long absence from the band's studio albums, and his amazing contribution results in some of the most memorable aspects of the new CD. Christ Illusion has plenty of what Slayer fans expect and adore: an insane tempo driving each song; dark and often inflammatory lyrics growled by vocalist/bassist Tom Araya; and the essential dual guitar sounds of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman woven through each song. From the first track Flesh Storm, the band sets out to prove that it is as fast as ever and that age has only intensified it's metal. The song lets up on it's mind-blowing tempo only long enough to feature an inspired guitar breakdown -- a classic Slayer formula that works over 20 years after the band first formed. The song that stands out from the rest of the bunch actually does not begin with the bang of the other tracks, but it first allows the music to build up in intensity. Jihad and Cult are reminiscent of the band's older tune South Of Heaven in that they feature and intro with melodic riffs over slower tempos, which is just as powerful as the fastest segments on the album. Plus, you still eventually get the best of both worlds in both tunes: the melodic base and an eventual insane tempo led by the skillful Lombardo. Slayer is not a band for everyone, with it's ever-controversial lyrics and mind-shattering speed, but Christ Illusion is a solid record that deserves more than a few listens. A few songs might lack the complete package Cult does, but the talent in Lombardo, King, Araya, and Hanneman is absolutely awe-inspiring. They all know they can play fast and showcase that talent, but they also aren't afraid to go a bit slower to showcase a guitar melody.
Lyrics — 8
When you listen to a Slayer tune, you probably already know what's in store for you lyrically. While most of the songs do have a dark theme, often involving death in one aspect or another, there are those tracks that go a little bit further than that. The band has always inspired an uproar with it's satanic lyrics, and Christ Illusion keeps the tradition going strong. In the song Cult Araya sings, There never was a sacrifice, No man who hung the crucifix; Beware the call for purity, Infections their facility; I've made my choice, 666! Yes, there's nothing subtle about Slayer and that's probably why the band has maintained such a strong fan base. Will some lyrics offend listeners? Absolutely. Is that a bad thing for a band like Slayer? Not a chance. Controversy has worked wonders for artists in the past and Slayer has been around long enough to know. The song Black Serenade takes a more basic approach (for death metal) lyrically. Araya sings, Welcome to my Black Serenade; The entrance to my hell your pain; Scream your song the Black Serenade; Live in fear a mind insane. Some might call the lyrics silly, but the words fit the song pretty well. For the fans needing a classic fix of the Slayer they knew and loved back in '85, the words in Black Serenade are probably kind of nostalgic.
Overall Impression — 9
Slayer has a history of releasing some amazing, memorable records and a few mediocre ones. So the anticipation for Christ Illusion, which features classic Lombardo drumming no less, has been high. The record does not quite reach the legendary status of Reign In Blood, but it will not likely disappoint die-hard Slayer fans. Most of the tunes have the standard Slayer arrangement, featuring more than a few tempo changes. The band knows how to keep songs interesting and that is why Slayer has become a household name among the throngs of metal bands. The album reaches it's peak when it allows enough time for Kerry and Hanneman's melodic guitar lines to take center stage, then immediately unleashes up-tempo madness. When Slayer is at it's best, it's when it can reach that equilibrium that other thrash metal bands just can't seem to find. And then there are those classic Slayer lyrics. Christ Illusion will incite furious anger some and be embraced by others. It will be burnt by church groups and cherished by kids learning to play guitar. When you can sense the storm before the record even comes out, that's a pretty powerful album. Yes, Slayer is back with a vengeance.