Slayer: World Painted Blood
American Recordings (2009)
‘Heavy Metal’ was my introduction to the world of music. I must have listened to Slayer’s genre defining trilogy of albums – Reign in Blood, South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss – thousands of times. In fact I still listen to Reign in Blood pretty regularly; that record has more in common with modern Noise and experimental rock than you might be willing to admit. But, I digress.
I haven’t bought, or heard a new Slayer album in years, certainly not since Seasons in the Abyss. But the amount of talk about World Painted Blood, and the return of Rick Rubin on production duties, had me intrigued.
Songs about serial killers: check. Tracks that devalue religion: check. Manic guitar solos: check. Dave Lombardo’s fucking awesome drum skills: check. Everything that you want and have come to expect from a Slayer album is here, and it’s enjoyable in a lot of ways, but the overall effect falls just shy of what they’ve achieved in the past. They guys are in the grips of middle age now, juggling families with demonic possession and head banging. It’s not fair to begrudge the fact that they might not be as driven by fury as they once were. Still, World Painted Blood lacks the oomph of its predecessors. Tom Araya’s vocals sound forced instead of menacing and lyrically Slayer aren’t as in-your-face as they used to be either.
Beyond that, Rubin’s production has rinsed out the grittiness of their early records. The guitars don’t buzz the way they should. The drums aren’t strong enough. On a few occasions Araya turns to spoken word, in a voice that calls to mind Nu-Metal. Likewise the Drop-D tuning on Not of this God could almost be a Slipknot riff. The beauty of Slayer has always been their punkish, anarchic roots but the polished sound of World Painted Blood defies this.
Even so, is the album any fun to listen to? Hell yes. It makes me want to don black denim, Reebok pumps, flannel, grow my hair, crush beer cans with my teeth and play air guitar. Sure, it lacks the character and vitality displayed by the band during the peak of their career, but nor can you expect a band that’s been around for 25 years to keep pumping out classic records. And I tell you, there’s far worse Metal out there than what’s on World Painted Blood. Just ask I Killed the Prom Queen and their brethren.