Christ Illusion (expanded edition)
How and when did the world go so fucking insane that Slayer, fucking Slayer, would become a calm, reasoned voice for secular humanism and a moral existentialism? Well, it fucking happened while we were sleeping, bucko. In a world where a whole fucking town will shield Eric Rudolph, where the Florida school system is STILL fucking cagey about teaching fucking evolution (saw a bit on the local news where a local UNF SCIENCE professor said that he only taught evolution because it was forced on him by the curriculum, but he made it clear he wasn’t buying it), and where Left Behind is a constant best-seller and cornerstone of a wacky cottage industry of masturbatory Christian Revelations revenge fanfic — to say NOTHING of radical Islam and radical Judaism — suddenly Slayer… well, let’s just say it seems like maybe we weren’t listening to them closely enough.
Satan! In the context of Christ Illusion it’s less an invocation of some bogeyman with horns and a forked tail and much more a cry of pure freedom, of negation of God, Inc. and the whole religious-political complex. Satan as a rejection, a casting off, a purification. Consider it, in a less arcane light, as “keep your god off my body.” The lyrics, too, contemptuously put the knife into the surface; lazy piety characterizes so much of American society (“Eyes of the Insane” and “Cult,” just for starters). So it couldn’t be more fucking timely and necessary to hear things — a teensy bit more blunt — that are certainly a welcome antidote from what you’re getting forced down your throat on any given Sunday, or in any State of the Union address.
So there’s that. But there’s also the satisfying realization that Slayer’s quality control has not dipped at ALL in over twenty years of playing music. And I’d have to say that makes them pretty much a complete anomaly in the popular marketplace. Them and like, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I guess. You know what you’re going to get with Slayer — prime(vil) cuts of state of the art metal/hardcore/speedkicks — and that’s fucking amazing. Unlike a lot of their erstwhile peers, they’re not going to go through all sorts of painful pandering to endear themselves to anyone. They’re not going to be on a reality show, they’re surely not going to be in group therapy and they’re not going to try to change their image and sound to keep up. They’re so refreshingly free of the desperate poochie-isms of the likes of Metallica that I don’t even care about the Hot Topic thing. Plus they pretty much created modern black metal whole cloth and can still go toe to toe with any of their bastard children.
All well and good, but how does it sooooooound? Well, Dave fucking Lombardo is back for one thing, after extended dalliances with the Mike Patton experimental set and it seems as though he’s just the shot in the arm Slayer needed. With Christ Illusion, they’ve delivered their most consistently chill-inducing album since Seasons in the Abyss and I think it easily stands up to a classic like South of Heaven. It’s a masterclass of brutalist economy in heavy metal, and indeed popular music, lean and mad-eyed from start to finish.
There’s a DVD, too, in the expanded edition, which shows that Slayer brings it even harder and faster live than they do on record. They just thought you’d like to know.