After 20+ years in the business, it’s inevitable that a band—let’s say, Slayer—will have controversy surrounding their music—let’s say, “Jihad”, a single off of their latest album entitled Christ Illusion—yet also keep an unshakeable fan-base. Slayer's tenth studio album is, in a sense, the culmination of their career: it summarizes their uninhibited controversial nature, exemplifies their tight thrash metal style, and presents a stubborn image of their musical determination. Without adding anything particularly new to the genre here, Slayer is perfecting their tried-and-true style; it won’t win over any new fans, but it’s sure to appease the old ones.

Obviously, the boys are playing their familiar old card: shock value. (Look no further than the box art featuring an amputated, zombie-like Jesus with gouged out eyes.) Yet Christ Illusion lacks a certain spirit possessed by their earlier works; it’s as if they’ve taken their controversial subject matter for granted, and used it as an excuse to mask their lack of any real substance. With lines like “I will eat your soul”, who even needs it? The album deals with heavy topical issues such as the war in Iraq, the hypocrisy of religion, and corrupt governments. But at this point such satirical, base lyrics have aged poorly and become trite. Luckily, far more poignant and soulful metal still exists.

However, the melodies aren’t bad—far from it. Many of the songs are expertly played; the bridge on “Flesh Storm” or any of the numerous impressive solos showcase the band’s actual talent. “Eyes of the Insane” is a particular standout track on the album, taking a slower, more atmospheric approach to complement the meaning of the lyrics. The chorus is aptly jarring, almost staccato as bassist/lead vocalist Tom Araya screams about the horrors of war in a first-person narrative: “Got to make it stop/ Can't take it any more!/ Death's face keeps haunting me/ And just keeps coming back for more!”

While the experimentation they once boasted has been effectively nullified, the album itself is well crafted. At almost 40 minutes, the length and pacing are perfect, and production quality is hard to complain about. Classic Slayer fans should easily find solace here; anyone else can just expect basic, well-executed but relatively uninspired thrash metal.

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