Photos © 2009 by: Amy Aiello
Biography (from their Facebook page 10/5/13)
Fucking Slayer is back.
From the opening squeals of the guitars of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and the punishing breakaway attack of Dave Lombardo’s drums on “Flesh Storm” it’s clear from the first thirty seconds the thrash metal titans have returned to pummel listeners with a raging onslaught of new music guaranteed to lay waste to MP3 players, car stereo speakers and whatever else gets in their way.
Christ Illusion marks the long-awaited return of the legendary Slayer. Its first record in five years and its first record in fifteen years with the original band line-up, Christ Illusion is a cacophony of brutality. A soundtrack for the post-Apocalypse. Steeped in scorching riffs and a litany of menacing tracks/tirades on religion and violence, Slayer forges ahead on its devastating path of aural destruction with ten new songs, each charged with the electric hostility for which Slayer is renowned.
Of the record Kerry King is ecstatic: “I love it. I really like God Hates Us All and I think that’s the best record we’ve done in my opinion since Seasons In The Abyss, and I like this better than that one. I think it’s a more complete record, I think sonically it better: all the performances are awesome. I think this one is more intense not because we’re trying to do ‘Reign In Blood: The Sequel,’ it’s just that’s where our writing is taking us now.”
Songs like the “Flesh Storm,” “Eyes of the Insane,” “Skeleton Christ,” “Jihad” and the first single, “Cult” showcase the band at its most blazing intensity. The sonic excitement of speed, propelled by King, Hanneman and Lombardo and lead by the immutable roar of Tom Araya provoke the listener with Slayer’s trademark fascination with terror, violence and religion.
For as long as Slayer has been making records it has been surrounded by controversy.
Since the band recorded its first album, “Show No Mercy,” Slayer has been plagued with accusations of Satanism, fascism, racism and so on. Christ Illusion gives no quarter to critics who would mindlessly attack the band for, what the Germans call, “der Reiz des Unbekannten” (meaning “the attraction of the unknown”). A lyric fascination with violence and terror which guitarist King enthusiastically describes this way: “When I was I kid I would see a horror movie over a love story. Being shocked, being in an environment that’s not reality might be frightening but is cool nonetheless. With a lot of our songs we put people in that place. It doesn’t bother me because I enjoy it. It could easily be programming from all the fucking news channels.”
Slayer is often assailed for its subject matter, though the band is unrepentant. ” According to Araya, “Violence, darkness… So much of my inspiration comes from news articles or pictures and just start describing the images. Television- A&E, the History Channel, Court TV, Documentaries.”
The singer continues, “With this record, as far as a theme: there is none. That’s just our favorite subject matter. The common thread is death. I think that’s just a common thread in general: we all share death, and we all share it at different times in different ways, but it’s the one thing that we all have in common. We all die. It’s how we live that makes us different.”
Beyond being controversial Slayer is an exceptional force in music, highly praised for its trailblazing style of fast, heavy and aggressive music yet bristling with melody. The much-heralded return of Dave Lombardo to the drummer’s throne will leave fans gasping for breath as he clobbers the listener on song after song.
Commenting on Lombardo’s return to the fold, King notes, “Not to say the shine’s worn off, but it’s old news to us. I think the thing the kids are going to get into, besides just being the first Slayer album in five years, is that Dave’s on it. When he came back he wasn’t a member, he just came back to do a couple of tours and people started asking back then ‘Is he gonna hang around?’ And I would tell them that was up to Dave. But I could tell that Dave was having a killer time.” King confided. “So it was just a matter of time before he said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ But it’s great. And now that he’s got a new Slayer album that he’s played on, I think he’s going to get some more enjoyment out of playing. He takes pride in everything he does and it’s awesome to have him back with us.”
Having the original members record their first album together in fifteen years is certainly newsworthy but the lasting might of the band and its continued popularity is an achievement few can boast. For each of the members, the band is resolute. There is no other band like Slayer.
“The staying power behind Slayer is that we’ve stuck to our guns,” Says Araya. “Integrity… that would be number one. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve stuck to what we do best. And the fact that we’ve been together as a band for so long. Ten years with Dave; another ten without Dave; and now Dave’s back. It has a lot to do with compromise, that’s just the way it has to be. You have to be able to compromise and give and take and that has a lot to do with why we’re still together and a force to be reckoned with. I’ve learned that without each other, Slayer wouldn’t exist, and that the whole is greater than its parts.”
Kerry King is far more succinct. “Slayer to me is the coolest band on the planet. There is a timeless quality to Slayer. It’s cool, but I can’t explain it. It’s our life.”
Slayer has created one mesmerizing record after the next, has influenced many of today’s most successful bands, including Slipknot, Sepultura, Killswitch Engage, and continues to earn new generations of fans, while staying true to its ceaselessly devoted followers. Slayer’s legacy is cemented in music forever and the band remains undaunted in its directive to make punishing, aggressive and exciting music. With Christ Illusion the band marks its territory. Slayer has exceeded itself far beyond thrash metal to become an unstoppable juggernaut without equal.
Tom Araya sums it up: “I think the best thing is the band’s longevity and the fact that we haven’t bowed to anyone. That we were able to make a record like Reign In Blood, which, to us, was just another record, but to others, was something very special, it’s had such an impact. People will remember it for a long time, and it’s all because we did things our way, we didn’t bow down to anyone. We didn’t compromise. We stuck to being who we are.”
Amy Aiello Photography: http://amyphotochicago.com
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival: http://rockstarmayhemfest.com