Slayer – Divine Intervention

4 out of 5

Label: American

Produced by: Toby Wright, Slayer

There’s really only one thing standing in the way of this being a masterpiece: volume.  Something that Slayer has no problem bringing, of course, but there’s an oddity to Divine Intervention: a mix that seems to have a different genre in mind.  New drummer Paul Bostaph’s insanely pummeling skins are undercut; King’s and Hanneman’s layered guitars cut in and out for focus; Araya’s snarl is forefront, but indecisively raw at times and polished at others.  If you turn the thing up loud enough, most of these are not issues: this is a concise, 36 minute album of insane and supreme Slayer thrash, with some tracks (Dittohead, Mind Control) whipping out mind-warping instrumental interplay.  The lyrics are also interesting, straying from the usual ‘fuck everything’ mode into something that feels a bit more contemplative; these are still intended-to-offend narratives, but Araya and crew try on different points of view this time, allowing for more incisive criticisms (Circle of Beliefs) and the bizarre romance of 213.

But that mix, man, it still affects some damned key moments: you can tell opener Killing Fields is meant to be evidence of Bostaph’s abilities, but farts, his efforts are buried so low and the production on the time-changing guitar work isn’t up to handling both the technical wizardry and the sludgey stuff… and similar issues plague the title track, halfway through.

Thankfully, the group’s skill and bluster still mostly makes these songs work, but if this happened to be your first moments with the band and you didn’t know to listen harder, you might be misled into hearing sloppiness when it’s a fidelity limitation.  But again, even setting those tracks aside, the rest of this is a blazing work of metal genius.

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