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Divine Intervention

American Recordings (1994)
Rating: 7/10

Slayer 1994, bereft of Dave Lombardo on the sticks, were still a formidable beast. How they managed to go from this to 1998’s Diabolus In Musica I’ll never know.

Divine Intervention is Slayer’s sixth full-length studio platter, and the first to feature ex-Forbidden drummer Paul Bostaph. Bostaph does a good job on the skins, still adding weight to proceedings. There’s no better way to introduce him than on album opener ‘Killing Fields’, which rips in on a killer drum roll and then we’re hit by that classic Slayer guitar barrage from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.

At only 36 minutes Divine Intervention, although short and sweet, is no Reign In Blood (1986). Then again though I don’t think it set out to be, with this record proving to be a transitional one, the band sadly going rapidly down the pan after this record.

Although Divine Intervention is a solid opus, it lacks any real identity and forever remains in the shadow of the trio of albums that came before it; the aforementioned Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven (1988) and Seasons In The Abyss (1990).

No longer were Slayer keen to daub their covers in grim imagery, and even the classic logo was gone, except for a vicious internal photo of the band’s moniker being etched into skin. The cover art of this album certainly isn’t their best, and it could be argued that of the ten tracks on offer, there’s nothing that really stands out. Compared to the follow-up however, Divine Intervention is still a minefield of madness. As an album, its strengths lie in the fact that Tom Araya (vocals / bass) has more of a say, something which is always a relief to me, as since this opus Kerry King’s reign has become all too damaging.

The brief aggressive blast of ‘Sex. Murder. Art.’, all two-minutes of it, is still potent Slayer, as is the equally nifty ‘Serenity In Murder’, one of the album’s finest moments where Bostaph fills those big, empty shoes with ease and the riffs cut and slash like a razor. Araya’s eerie drool is masterful, but it’s on the macabre ‘213’ – another Araya piece – that Slayer come to life, flirting with the dead, quite literally in their morbid homage to Milwaukee serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer. The track begins as a creeping pluck before being smothered by a weighty trudge, and apart from the title cut this is the album’s longest track, a pivotal mid-tempo chugger featuring another of those classic King / Hanneman riff / solo myriads.

With the title track, we’re treated to another reflective horror story which has all the grim gusto of a wartorn TV documentary, breaking the surface as a juddering riff and stormy drum plod. The track never feels the need to blast the soul. Instead it maintains a level of ferocity without losing control, particularly in Araya’s maniacal wails. The same could also be said for the Kerry King-penned tracks, ‘Fictional Reality’, ‘Dittohead’ and ‘Circle Of Beliefs’.

Divine Intervention doesn’t quite live up to its godly title, but it was very much symbolic of a band squirming, almost reluctantly, into the mid 90s.

Neil Arnold

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