Perhaps the only issue that Slayer has—and, considering the band’s potency, it’s not even that much of an issue—is how they’re incapable of change at this point in their career. Even if they wanted to, they’d jeopardize alienating their devout fan base, a substantial populous of such loyalty that to tinker with the formula would be career suicide.
The Ramones suffered from the same plight and—if you’ll recall—twenty years into their own career, they began to wind the machine down until they finally imploded under the weight of their own pistons.
So if the Ramones represent a finely tune American V8, then Slayer adds a nitrous tank to it. And while the Ramones secretly pined for top forty success, Slayer seems completely ambivalent to it, perfectly content with appeasing their loyal fans with record after record of blitzkrieg bop, bam, and double-kick drum bash.
There are some subtle moments of change throughout the band’s career, but perhaps the biggest change came when drummer Dave Lambardo left after 1990. Everything since then sounded like Slayer on the surface, but there’s little to deny that the band was operating much like the corporate religious zealots that they regularly attacked.
It’s no surprise that when Lombardo returned, the band regained some of its organic punch and the material suddenly took on a more realistic angst.
For World Painted Blood, they’ve put Lombardo ahead of everyone else in the mix—which is totally a surprise if you’ve ever heard how the only thing larger that Slayer’s guitar punch is Kerry King‘s ego. So the fact that both he and guitarist Jeff Hanneman let Lombardo run ramshot over the mix—and that’s a complement, by the way—is as impressive as it is destructive.
And that’s a complement too.
All of this power struggle helps Tom Araya, who’s way up front in the mix and barks like he wants to make sure that there is no question as to where the band stands on every provocative subject. Even when they’re renouncing Christianity for what’s surely the millionth time, he finds new fire with King’s words of “A toxic threat on your nonsense I feed / I’ll be the one to bring Christ to his knees!”
At one time, the intellectual elite may have laughed off such nihilistic views, but I can’t think of any band who more eloquently states the hypocrisy of America than these metal statesmen do. “It’s all about the motherfucking oil / Regardless of the flag upon its soil.” screams Araya on “Americon,” And after our media outlets have moved on from hard questioning to more important news items like Tiger Woods’ infidelity, I’m starting to think that maybe Slayer’s apocalyptic dogma not only has its place, it is a necessity.
World Painted Blood may not shake metal’s core like Reign In Blood or their last recognized masterpiece Seasons In The Abyss, but it’s just as brutal. That’s especially notable since it’s been twenty years since that album was released and to be able to maintain that kind of velocity as they approach their 30th anniversary is utterly admirable.
And while knowing that they probably won’t be able to stray too far from the aforementioned formula of malevolence, World Painted Blood is stripped of any unnecessary adornments that would distract listeners wanting to hear Slayer’s muscle after three decades of aggression. It shows Slayer under the florescent lighting of a windowless rehearsal space, blowing out riff after riff of menace.
One would think that a band at this stage in its career would want to be recorded under the most luxurious of surroundings and doted on like royal statesmen. World Painted Blood reminds us such spoils are unbecoming of a band who has built a religion out of pointing out hypocrisy. To keep the faith, World Painted Blood clears the alter of all clutter and channels the spirit of their breakneck service to the point where even those who’ve never worshiped with Slayer still need to acknowledge the miracles they continue to bestow upon us.