Review Summary: Did Slayer drop the ball? Or did it bounce right back into their hands?
To say this album is disliked amongst the majority of Slayer fans would be merely scratching the scab from the surface of the wound in Slayers discography. Apparently, no amount of recollecting ‘the Slayer glory days’ can cauterize such a crippling injury. From the legions of thrash metal bands that shred throughout the world, there are but 4 which are recognised as deities of the genre. Slayer is one such band; causing any mistakes they make to sting that much more.
Now, Slayer isn’t the first band to take a stumble on the golden stairway that leads to immortality within a genre. Metallica fans should recall ‘St. Anger’ with the bitter taste of regret lingering somewhere near the back of the throat. A more recent disappointment came in the form of Megadeth’s ‘Super Collider’ which was a dark stain on 2013’s thrash scene. So sometimes your gods have one too many and blunder around a bit, that doesn’t mean that underneath their drunken haze your good friend Zeus isn’t still electrocuting sh*t for fun. What I’m trying to articulate through these faulty metaphors and ‘from god to mortal’ juxtapositions is that even though albums such as these are a fall from grace, or are just very different from what made them titans of terror in the first place; it can still contain stuff that’s pretty damn good.
There are two main methods that fans choose between when dealing with albums that they view as disappointments:
1. Abuse the sh*t out of it. Rant, rave, pirate for fun and then delete immediately to spite the artists etc. This is the angry response, the giant middle finger to an artist’s apparent betrayal.
2. Ignore, forget or accept. Like all the other things in life you don’t want to deal with, you ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s that, or resigned acceptance that, yes, even divine beings have to take a dump every now and then and there’s nothing you or your mortal wholegrain-sourced fibre can do about it.
So the big question remains; is the unbridled hatred and general ambivalence warranted?
In this case the answer is a firm; nah, not really.
Okay, so it’s not the Slayer your familiar with. This isn’t your beloved ‘Reign in Blood’ or ‘South of Heaven’. This is 1998 Slayer. Yes; the title (Diabolus in Musica, just in case you’ve forgotten) is shoddy and causes those annoying, wavy red-lines to assault your Word document, and the bald guy on the cover is in desperate need of a tan, but beyond the obvious aesthetic pitfalls, the music itself is still bloody good.
1998 was right around the time where nu-metal was at its peak and thrash was losing the spotlight. Imagine yourself as a…Pizza shop owner. Everybody loves Pizza; but then hotdogs come along and suddenly flat-bread covered in random sh*t doesn’t appeal as much as round bread filled with rounder sh*t in the centre (drowned in sauce of course). So what do you do? You make your bread round and go ape-sh*t with the mustard. Slayer were appealing to the taste of the time and as much as you thrash fans love your pizza, the rest of the metal world had a taste for blood. And, apparently hotdogs.
Music goes through cycles and no matter how much you’d hate to admit it, no-one could listen to ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ for 20 years or more, especially if you had to spell the title more than once per review and your ‘s’ key was broken. So there are nu-metal influences spread throughout the album. Prevalent as they are, there is still an abundance of all the iconic Slayer riffs played at super human speeds, and Tom Araya still sounds much like he used to. The main problem that plagues this album is not the new sound or the stupid name; it’s the repetition which annoyingly is a common occurrence on a number of tracks, especially the train-wreck that keeps on train-wrecking; ‘Screaming from the Sky’, the 3rd last track on the album. Good thing they decided to put most of the great tracks right at the start of the album…actually, no it’s not. This album is pretty top heavy with all the amazing, attention grabbing material near the beginning and some filler-filled tracks in the centre. This album does have a load of redeeming qualities though, that more than make up for the repetition. The production is excellent. The guitars shriek and groan; so does Tom. The bass guitar is mostly audible as a constant dark rumbling in the background (much like an intoxicated deity, I’m looking at you Poseidon), which is especially cool on tracks like ‘Love to Hate’ and the drumming is punchy and intricate. In fact, opening track ‘Bitter Peace’ might be one of the best Slayer tracks…ever. It’s certainly the best on the album and blends all the new aspects of sound that Slayer has picked up, while incorporating the symbolic riff fests and heavy thrash atmosphere dominant on just about every Slayer album ever. Maybe it is a weird conglomeration, but tracks like ‘Bitter Peace’, ‘Scrum’ and ‘Stain of Mind’ offer irrefutable proof that it can sound great.
The only thing that you, as the listener and ultimately the most important person in your own life (you narcissist you) can do is hit the play button and clear your mind of preconceptions that might just turn out to be misconceptions. Maybe the cynicism regarding the motives behind such an album is misplaced. Maybe the clash of two not-completely-different genres can turn out to be great. The only way to really be sure is to listen, forge your own opinion and stop invoking random assortments and combinations of Greek gods in your reviews.
Stain of Mind
Love to Hate