Slayer hasnít embarked on some newfound relevancy; the times have merely given its wrath a fertile context. Ever since the California metal quartet formed in the early 1980s, Slayer has made bank and a furiously ornate rumble out of graphically confrontational anger. Religion, war, murder--all are horrible human conditions, but such volatile elements are Slayerís lyrical and thematic DNA, which vocalist/bassist Tom Araya screams inside blisteringly paced guitar and drum throttling. The fortuitous timing of 2001ís God Hates Us All and the new Christ Illusion are but the ongoing evolution of a band that knows very well how to bring its it. The culture is merely providing something to see in what has always been the bandís bread and butter.
All of which doesnít stop Christ from being a fine outing of nouveau-retro thrash: 10 songs, 38 minutes and change of focused rage against the usual suspects, chiefly religion and war. Itís only the you-know-what that gives the serrated jolt of "Jihad"--"War of holy principles/ Iíve seen God helping your destruction/ Slit the throat of heathen man/ And let his blood dilute the water/ Bury your dead"--a certain resonance. The return of drummer Dave Lombardo, who spent that past 15ish years John Zorn-ing percussion for Mike Patton and others, adds a baroque texture to the knife-edged melodies. A staccato rattle underscoring the anxious "Eyes of the Insane" explodes into machine-gun hammering. A bass drum and high-hat punching joggles the bowels in the guitar duel "Skeleton Christ" before sprinting between a hardcore mosh rattle and free-jazzy cymbal filigree. And "Consfearacy" and "Catalyst" ride asymmetrical meters delivered at crystal-meth speeds.
Better, though, is when Slayer eases up on the speed and mines spiraling whorls of colliding textures. The rising swells and steep drop-offs of "Catatonic" give the songís screed against religion-as-narcotizing-haze a more powerful thrust. And the might-is-right spleen "Supremist"--"Must men take control of the weak/ Must contain the minds of the free," you get the idea--extrapolates Slayerís classic twin guitar assault into a shimmying menace equal parts Kyuss viscous and Breadwinner bruising. Christ is yet another solid slab of speed/thrash mayhem, but itís no forward-thinking metal next level. Like Jerry Falwell and Michael Moore, Slayer just knows how to get the choir to sing.