Review Summary: No thank you, Slayer.
Slayer is a band that has always sounded like Slayer. No matter if you put on "Hardening of the Arteries" or "Catalyst", you'll be able to tell that it's Slayer a mile away. Slayer are an iconic band, a band with legendary status, a huge band. They headline festivals, have toured with many of the biggest names, they are one of those bands a metalhead can't be without - and woe the person that doesn't own Reign In Blood. Unfortunately their legacy as one of the most influential and best metal bands a) compromises their live show in that Slayer fans complain if the band doesn't play War Ensemble or Raining Blood every night and b) it means that after the last really good album, Seasons in the Abyss, they haven't released anything worthwhile.
"What"? You say? I can hear the fanboys crying "But what about Christ Illusion? God Hates Us All? Eh? Eh?" Now, most of these albums weren't bad, but they weren't in any way much good either. Christ Illusion is probably the album that comes the closest to their glory days of old, but with better production and lacking songwriting. I mean, if you like Slayer, you'll like what they have to offer regardless, and it's no different with this album - it sounds like Slayer through and through, just like the previous few. But Slayer have cocked up (what) and released something that is generally inferior, and that is where the surprise lies; for Slayer this album is so ball-bustingly average that it doesn't really matter.
The first problem is that the songs don't work. Lots of chug riffing, lots of tremolo-ism, lots of things that sound like Slayer, just none of them stick. It's like they released it on autopilot, because they needed a new album; the only song that really works well is Psychopathy Red. Thanks, Slayer, for one good song on this album. The rest all sound the same way, with fast tempos, chugging riffs, Araya's shrieks (man, this guy's vocals have gone down the ***ter) with the same oblique lyrics, the same tempos, and the same bulldozer sound, except after 4 songs you just really want to turn it off. There's nothing extra here, nothing that gives it the Slayer spark. Even Lombardo, the drum god, doesn't seem to pull anything off that is more than capable. These guys have lost their spunk. Even the Sepultura-esque opening of World Painted Blood won't save this album.
The other issue is the production, which is really weird and lends it a feel that is close to that of Death Magnetic. The guitars are heavy and punchy, but overbearing. The snare sound is weird. It's like the band, for the fast songs, wanted too much punch, but it doesn't work; you can only get that groove at a lower tempo. Now it's just too chaotic, too much nothing. It just doesn't work. The last thing is that Araya's vocals are weird and sound too screechy. He's just missing every form of proper tone and shouts everything in a one note stream. It gets really annoying by the time you've hit "Beauty Through Order."
Even though it has all the things that are characteristic of a Slayer album, it's just not "good" ; even Christ Illusion was better than this, and that album was already a mediocre rehash of their former glory. Nobody in their right mind should take this over Reign In Blood or Seasons in the Abyss. If you enjoy Slayer, please indulge, but I'm going to listen to "South of Heaven", and remember the days when Slayer were still good.