On the first few listens through thrash music giant Slayer’s tenth studio album, World Painted Blood, listeners may find themselves a little confused — unsure of not just what these songs are, but even where they fit within Slayer’s past discography.
On the newest album, Slayer has gone and done what it does best: make dark, violent thrash music. Thrash, for the unaware, is a subgenre of heavy metal that uses fast tempos, excessive aggression and guitar solos. Having been hailed as the “godfathers” of thrash, Slayer became known as one of the original bands to play the style during the ’80s — and there is something to be said about a band that, after over 20 years, is still able to stick to what it does best.
Slayer perfected its fast-paced, shredtastic, apocalyptic thrash metal stylings long ago with classic albums like Seasons In The Abyss and Reign In Blood. However, like any band, they have had a fair share of missteps: Diabolus in Musica found them changing their overall sound to reflect the once increasingly popular nu-metal stylings. But, more often than not, Slayer has stuck to being the same pissed off guys that founded the band so many years ago. And that’s what World Painted Blood is: Slayer being Slayer.
There’s no mistaking the vocals for anyone but Tom Araya, who puts on some good performances for the album. Then there’s the evilest guitar duo on Earth in Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, whose screeching whammy bar dive-bomb guitar solos have always been essential to Slayer songs. Last, but certainly not least, there’s Dave Lombardo who as the drummer sets the breakneck pace and speed that dominates much of the album. Each is essential to the band’s headbanging whole, and their combo makes World Painted Blood a diehard’s delight.
In World Painted Blood, Slayer plays through the entirety of its numerous styles. Songs like “Public Display of Dismemberment” and “Hate Worldwide” harken back to Slayer’s punk roots. Other standout tracks like “Beauty Through Order” and “Playing With Dolls” have Slayer slowing down the tempo and amping up the creep factor, akin to Season In The Abyss. In fact “Playing With Dolls” includes one of the new album’s best moments, when a slow build up leads into the chorus that suddenly manages to amp up the tempo, signaling listeners to start going crazy.
Yet while most songs are exceptionally well done, well played and get your head banging, what they lack is originality. We’ve heard Slayer preach the apocalypse, distrust the government, and hail Satan before — and they’ve done it even better than any song on this album does. While instrumentally Blood has the band doing everything fans want Slayer to do, it’s the content and what they say within the songs that bring this album down.
Granted, the album delves into modern territory with songs like “Snuff,” which reflects on the new age of the Internet and the violence created from it. But with lines like “Action, you’re the main attraction,” it’s hard to help but laugh. There’s also the ridiculous chorus from “The Human Strain”, which features Araya screaming “The human strain, returning plague. Drink the tainted blood from the only child,” which, again, just sounds ridiculous.
It’s these moments that prompt confusion about World Painted Blood. While the overall album thrashes about in true Slayer fashion, it doesn’t add anything new or overtly exciting to their larger discography.
And though no one to my knowledge has ever called Slayer the most poetically sensible band out there despite creating such classics like “Angel of Death” and “War Ensemble,” lyrically the album new album falters heavily in some places; maybe Slayer has reached a point where it can no longer shock us with songs of violence and chaos.
A real surprise would feature an acoustic guitar and a song with the poignancy of Metallica’s “Fade to Black”. Blasphemy? Maybe. You can just call me progressive. World Painted Blood isn’t another Reign In Blood or Seasons In The Abyss, but it isn’t as bad as Diabolous In Musica either. This is Slayer churning out more Slayer, which, while not bad, just isn’t new enough for me.
Three Zombie Babies out of Five