Saturday, July 01, 2006


I've never been a big one for musical nationalism. True Norwegian Black Metal seems as nonsensical to me as Lee Greenwood, conceptually speaking (from a purely aesthetic perspective, I like the former a hell of a lot more). So the choice of what to play on the 4th of July is a somewhat tricky one. I love early-70s American hard rock (Aerosmith, Grand Funk Railroad, Cactus, Mountain, ZZ Top, Montrose, Lynyrd Skynyrd, et al.), but that's not gonna fly in my reggaeton-slathered neighborhood. Plus, a lot of that music has been "co-opted" by knuckle-draggers whose politics I don't exactly share. (I particularly don't wanna talk about Ted Nugent - I love all the records he made between 1975 and 1980, but damn, he needs to shut up 'n' play his guitar.)

I've also been disappointed by recent "political" rock records. Neil Young's new one is, like every other Neil Young record, half-baked shit. Sometimes he stumbles onto a diamond, but the guy's more erratic than any major recording artist save maybe Lou Reed (and whether critics my dad's age [if he was still alive] wanna admit it or not, Neil Young is way more major than Lou Reed will ever be). Bruce Springsteen's album sounded fun heard with half an ear on the office sound system, but I haven't exactly been driven to go out and buy one for repeated home listening.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce the return of one of America's truly great bands, just in time (in my house anyway) for the 4th of July weekend. I got a watermarked advance of Slayer's Christ Illusion in yesterday's mail, and it fucking smokes.

As all devoted Slayer fans know, drummer Dave Lombardo has returned, invigorated by his tenure with Fantomas, guest appearances with Testament and John Zorn, and his sometime band Grip Inc., and he is slamming the kit with better technique, more control and yes, greater power than he did even on the band's classic 1986-1990 trilogy (Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss, for those not fully up on their Slayerology). Christ Illusion is a fast, enraged album. The disc I have is 43 minutes long, but includes two takes on opening cut "Flesh Storm," with imperceptible differences in the lead vocal performance (and Tom Araya is in fine voice indeed, sounding like he's on the brink of an aneurysm). Some of the noisy/artsy guitar sounds the band explored on the albums they did with Paul Bostaph are still there, but the way they lock in around Lombardo makes this a full return to form. And the lyrics are pure venom, with a more political edge than I recall in some time. Yeah, there's a lot of Jesus-bashing, but it's better thought-out (more aimed at the Church, and the followers) than, say, Deicide's equally musically excellent but lyrically boneheaded new one, The Stench Of Redemption.

Street date for Christ Illusion is August 8, but I'm gonna be blaring it (and the Slayer back catalog) on the 4th, because if you've ever seen them live, you'll understand why Slayer makes me proud to be an American.

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