Slayer - Christ Illusion
Picture, if you will, an alternative universe in which Black Sabbath never split up, but instead continued to produce exactly the same music. At the same time, of course, they’d mature slightly in style, if not content, and absorb the influences of both punk and speed metal. This imaginary band would probably sound an awful lot like Slayer. This is either depressing or cause for joy, depending upon your own position on matters such as metal.
The Sabbath influence is plain to see in even the album titles that this jolly band produces. Look at the list to the left, though not complete, it gives a fair taste of the bands theological position. The Devil has all the best tunes. Well, sometimes he does, to be sure and there are certainly a couple of songs on here that you can imagine would go down very well in the comic book version of Hell so beloved of our Thrash Metal brethren. It’s a difficult album to review, really. If you’ve heard Slayer before, you’ve heard everything they have to offer on here. But if you’ve liked what you’ve heard before, then that’ll probably come as a huge relief. Not for Slayer the morphing into the mainstream that Metallica so effortlessly achieved by using strings and ballads. No, Slayer still think that the best way to play songs is a)loud b) heavy and c) fast (but with some slow bits). Your heart goes out to the producers. They must have had a ball with this lot.
The album starts as it means to go on. ‘Flesh Storm’ opens on a whine and its only a matter of seconds before the trademark ‘…Guitar riff through both channels that breaks, then continues in one speaker for a little bit, before starting again through both channels once more…’ happens. You probably know what I mean. There must be a technical term for that, but buggered if we know what it is. Lets make one up. Lets call it ‘Chagging’. There’s lots of chagging on this album. And ‘time-changes’, but they’re not as much fun, are they? Lots of guitar solos as well, but we’ll draw a veil over those, because, for the most part, its just a lot of noise widdling up and down the fretboard. Oh, sorry, its probably very technical and ‘good’ but it’s a bit dull to listen to and you find yourself tuning out for those bits.
No, where Slayer are at their very best is the big, heavy slabs of riffs that thunder and chag like nobodies business and make you think the world is ending. That’s the best stuff and there’s not as much on here as there could be. Having said that, where it happens, it happens in the loveliest way. ‘Catatonic’ opens with a riff straight from the Sabs’ ‘Sabotage’ album, it really is that good, and continues in similar vein for all of its marvellous 4 minutes or so. Again, the opening of ‘Cult’ is a really fun place. ‘Black Serenade’ will sound very familiar to those who know ‘Dead Skin Mask’. And so on, you know the score. It’s Slayer!
As an album, its slightly unusual as it seems to get better as it goes on. The highlights mentioned above are all to be found on what would once have been known as ‘side 2’ (ask yer granddads). Now, that’s not to say the start is bad, but it’s not as, shall we say, memorable. Where it probably would be memorable is in the live situation. There, it would probably be fantastic. Buy this album only if you really, really like Slayer. There’s absolutely nothing on here that would convert anyone to their cause. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It probably just the way the world works.