"You self-righteous fuck/ Give me a reason not to rip your face off." These are not healing words. Slayer's God Hates Us All, released September 11, is a soundtrack to terror and mayhem, making it either one of the most prescient or ill-timed albums ever. Its cover, a photo of an antique Bible that appears to have been used for some barbaric sort of vivisection, is censored with a white façade, but no one's going to bother with a "clean" version of the music. Even though Slayer's macabre seismic metal no longer inhabits the dank underground, it is ultimately unsanitizable.
Vocalist Tom Araya has never been as guilty as his peers of the "Hey, kids, isn't this spooky?" vocal affectation, and here he employs a bare, tormented growl. "I hate everyone equally/ You can't tear that out of me/ No segregation, separation/ Just me in my world of enemies" -- you can't accuse this death-metal Viking godfather of rapping, but he spits out such lines with a tight, rhythmic catchiness that's not totally untouched by nu-metal trends.
With 1998's plodding Diabolus in Musica, Slayer discarded the now-clichéd marching mosh, double-bass-drum sound it helped create in the '80s. But from the trebly, washed-out chaos of the opening "Darkness of Christ" spoken-word experiment to the near-traditional hardcore of the closing "Payback," God Hates Us All sees Slayer returning to the pumped pubescence of classics such as Seasons in the Abyss. "Disciple," which is either an indictment or a celebration of religious zealotry, careers like "Helter Skelter" with a dangerously extroverted punk-rock anxiety disorder.
But what is to become of Slayer now that we've had harrowing violence thrust in our faces instead of seeking it out for entertainment? The example of our tentative ally, Pakistan, is instructive -- as riddled with tragedy as any society, it still can't get enough of gory action movies. And with some members of the Senate sounding notes as vengeful as anything on this album, it could be that Slayer has just arrived.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.