5 out of 5
Produced by: Greg Fidelman
Vicious? Furious? Aggressive? Yes; these are all terms I’d easily apply to several Slayer albums. But one that hadn’t come to mind until World Painted Blood: dense.
Surely a big ol’ chunk of the change in sound can be attributed to produced Greg Fidelman: while the group had worked with non-Rubin producers since God Hates Us All, it seems like the bait-and-switch Rubin pulled when producing a Metallica album instead of Slayer’s release preceding this one, Christ Illusion, prompted further motivation to ‘own’ their sound: World Painted Blood sounds like no other Slayer disc as a result. And far be it from me to claim that the kings of thrash don’t already own a massive chunk of influence upon the music world, but Rubin’s initial involvement notably changed the way they wrote and recorded, and while this has been common for when Rubin steps in to the booth for an established act, a little of his work goes a long way; his bottom-heavy, pummeling style often sacrifices nuance, and even when you’re as slick and smart as Slayer, that oversight can affect things. Under Fidelman’s oversight, the group finally manages the perfect melding of rock, and thrash, and punk and studio trickery, without for one instant sounding unlike Slayer. And while I’m floored by how many solid albums Slayer has released, they vibe very much off of momentum; I don’t really get a memory of standout tracks so much as I do the experience of listening to, say, South of Heaven. But World Painted Blood has a proper intro, leading into the true unleashing of its opening title track; it has a devastating closer in Not Of This God. Inbetween are all of these bullet points of punk-leaning thrash, properly dosed with Araya’s richest vocal contributions yet and, I’d argue, some of his most consistently inciteful (as in, like, anger-inciting; fight-inciting) lyrics as well. Normally the group can absolutely set the world ablaze with an anthem or two, with half of the tracks becoming a blur of “hell, murder, war” chants, but again, WPB conjures up its ire and reimaginings of a wrecked world with peak volatility, track by track by track…
This sounds like I’m ragging on past Slayer, but the album is simply a stunning achievement, decades on, from a group who’ve proven they can drop classic discs several times over. Some of the solo squalls and stop / starts here amaze in ways that I shouldn’t be capable of being amazed anymore.
If this does, indeed, turn out to be their penultimate release (with followup Repentless rumored to be their final album), Slayer will have set a mighty high record for long-standing groups to achieve, delivering what I’d consider fairly flawless discs at various points in their career.