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Slayer - World Painted Blood

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 @ 7:11 PM


(Columbia)

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World Painted Blood is what I think a lot of people, myself for one, had hoped for from Slayer in 2006’s Christ Illusion: a return to form of the band’s classic Reign In Blood-Seasons in the Abyss period — what with drummer Dave Lombardo once again rejoining the fold — with some contemporary twists and turns to make it all sound fresh and forward thinking. Instead, Christ ended up being more of just a rehash that dipped into the old-school bag of tricks way too often, all the way down to Larry Carroll’s sacrilegious cover art, and offered little of one what might consider new, exciting or different.

Blood makes up for that on all counts, capturing the manic fury of Reign, the melody and range of South of Heaven and the grand scale of Seasons, all while offering some genuine surprises and unconventional ideas. And though it, too, employs sonic (clipped, staccato riff fusillades, runaway locomotive lead breaks) and lyrical devices (atrocity of every sort, the apocalypse, anti-religious screed) that will sound all too familiar, Blood is still Slayer’s most distinctive, satisfying effort since Seasons.

It’s certainly the most raw, natural sounding album the band have done probably ever, so much so that initial listens may leave you thinking you got a rough mix. The ragged, jangly guitar tones have, at times, a dry, almost surf rocky quality about them when Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman start sawing away, something that is apparent right away when the epic title track, which opens the album, gets revved up. But, ultimately, this understated abrasiveness — captured by new producer Greg Fidelman, who worked on Metallica’s equally gritty Death Magnetic — leaves more space in the overall soundscape for Lombardo’s galloping drum salvos, Tom Araya’s more expressive vocals and the dive-bomb wail of King and Hanneman’s leadwork, which is especially assaultive and shred-tacular here — the tandem solos on “Snuff” will scramble your skull. And it gives World a loose, engaging, organic feel, as if the band just plugged in and let rip, which is a nice change from the over-processed wall of sound approach.

Scratchy riffing or no, Blood definitely is not lacking for ferocity or, for that matter, velocity. Anyone wondering if/hoping that the readily available “Psychopath Red is indeed evidence of what Slayer have in store over the remainder of the album, rest easy. It was not some cruel psyche job. Along with “Psychopathy,” “Unit 713,” the “Captor of Sin” soundalike “Snuff” and “Not of This God” fuse thrash metal aggression and hardcore tenacity with a brutal, headlong assurance that recalls Undisputed Attitude.

The blindingly fast “Public Display of Dismemberment,” meanwhile, finds Lombardo venturing as close to blast-beat territory as he’s ever gone. Even the more deliberate “Beauty Through Order” and “Playing With Dolls” — which revel in grotesquery a la “Dead Skin Mask” and “Spill The Blood” — erupt in frantic, jarring bursts of speed that, with Araya’s accompanying “My birthright is murder” or “You wish you were in hell” bellowing, will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

Yet Blood also offers some remarkably catchy melodies — as in the aforementioned “Order” and “Dolls,” where Araya actually sings for stretches instead of merely chanting or barking — and plenty of crisp, punchy hooks that help balance the sheer relentlessness of much of the other material. The wah-wah drenched, politically charged “Americon” and “Human Strain” effectively ride the sort of simple, crunching grooves and mid-tempo pacing Slayer couldn’t get quite right on 1998’s rather forced Diabolus In Musica. The scraggly “Hate Worldwide” kicks up the pace, but still ends up being perhaps the most infectious bit of blasphemy and misanthropy — “I’m a godless heretic, not a god-fearing lunatic” — Slayer’s ever done, which is saying something.< p> It’s this element of contrast, of yin and yang and everything in between, that sets Blood apart from, and helps it stand above, its immediate predecessors. Instead of merely tossing in one or two slower epics – or in the case of Diabolus, one or two barnburners – to break up the bludgeon, Blood is a rollercoaster that starts slow before hurtling over the edge and racing around corners. Then, after letting you catch your breath for a bit, it’s off into hyperspeed again. Repeat this several more times, and it’s a pretty exhilarating ride to hell and back.

And while Blood is by no means perfect — given the redundancies and self-plagiarizing that will probably remain an albatross around Slayer’s neck until the band finally go tits up — it’s a complete, well-rounded album that does prove this old dog can still learn a few new tricks, as well as tear a big, meaty hunk out of your ass.

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