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World Painted Blood

American Recordings (2009)
Rating: 8/10

Has, after all these years, Kerry King finally got the message? World Painted Blood is the only Slayer album to affect me since the blood-soaked atrocities of 1990’s Seasons In The Abyss. It must be said, although, that their 1994 opus, Divine Intervention, literally smokes in comparison to the drone of Diabolus In Musica (1998), the comical aggression of God Hates Us All (2001) and the poor man’s Reign In Blood (1986), namely Christ Illusion (2006).

With World Painted Blood, Slayer finally ups the ante, with Tom Araya and Jeff Hanneman digging in their heels and claws and constructing a batch of formidable tracks, starting with the superb title track.

‘World Painted Blood’ begins with an almost militant, marching drum sound, as Dave Lombardo revisits those Seasons In The Abyss alleyways before the band hurtle forth into one of those almost predictable rants. But where this track differs from past outings is Slayer’s ability to darken the mood without merely replicating all that has gone before. The title track features a killer, almost rock ’n’ roll lick and Araya’s hellish, debris-spattered narration, as three minutes in the song transforms into some dirty, chaotic dirge. Araya’s distinctive sermon gives the track an almost stark yet poetic feel before the band rush headlong into a deathly rattle, and I’m taken aback, almost drawn into thinking that Slayer have really, and I mean really found their roots.

Hesitantly I peer over the black wax as it spins and note that ‘Unit 731’ is a Hanneman number, and while it rattles by with fury at under three minutes it lacks the almost naïve aggression of previous Kerry King numbers, and features some killer lyrics that sound as if they’ve been extracted from the festering remains of Reign In Blood. The track also features some of the album’s most maniacal guitars, and again Araya narrates in the distance like a news journalist caught in the crossfire of bullets and bones.

There’s something very different about World Painted Blood from the previous non-starters. Maybe it’s the guitar sound that seems to have its claws very much embedded in that 80s style of thrash, or maybe Lombardo has truly settled into his throne, in turn comforting Araya who now, despite still spitting animosity, appears more controlled, even on Kerry King’s ‘Snuff’ and rather irritating ‘Hate Worldwide’, which suggests that King still isn’t over his Slipknot phase. But all can be forgiven with King’s clattering ‘Public Display Of Dismemberment’, which comes crashing through the walls like some jarring Euro thrash machine, the band finding elements of tune beneath those ravaging riffs.

However, it’s on another Hanneman / Araya track that Slayer 2009 really comes to the fore. ‘Beauty Through Order’ simmers with menace, harking back to the seedy days of the Ed Gein-inspired ‘Dead Skin Mask’ (from Seasons In The Abyss), evoking images of cobweb-strewn rooms concealing decomposing corpses and stuffy crawl-spaces. This is Slayer at their most ominous, slowing the pace and yet raising the sickness. ‘Beauty Through Order’ would not seem out of place amidst the bloody rivers of 1988’s South Of Heaven, such is it class.

Hanneman’s furious ‘Psychopathy Red’ batters the listener with hateful speed, as does King’s bombing raid which calls itself ‘Americon’. But again Slayer resort to their darkest corner with the creepier plod of ‘Playing With Dolls’, which Hanneman plays a great part in musically, with the sombre salutations of South Of Heaven once again coming to mind.

Despite a brace of average tracks, World Painted Blood is the album I’ve waited for since Seasons In The Abyss. Slayer finally slow things down and, with the exception of a few lethal injections of speed, find that there’s no longer any need to flog a dead horse. This time around Araya, Hanneman, King and Lombardo have thrown the demands, and the rotten horse, out the window and found a (un)happy medium, without resorting to Kerry King’s nihilistic, yet almost cringeworthy lyrical rants.

As Tom Araya screams “You’ll wish you were in hell” during ‘Playing With Dolls’, I find myself quoting the immortal words of AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott in response, that, well, “Hell ain’t a bad place to be”. Slayer is back!

Neil Arnold

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