Slayer have always been consistent; their sound has remained unchanged and their focus has remained unsighted since their debut record, Show No Mercy, in 1983. World Painted Blood is the finest thrash metal album made by the Big Four since 1989.
Their prime was in the 1980s. Since then, three of those bands completely messed up: Metallica went down the radio route, Megadeth tried to do the same, and Anthrax turned to hard rock. Slayer, on the other hand, tried a reinvention. They lacked their sound with punk and decided to keep the train moving.
Now Slayer are fully functioning again, and it's hard to believe that a 28-year-old band can be this intense. World Painted Blood races through 11 tracks in 40 almost fat-free minutes. Slayer hasn't written a great slow song since Seasons In The Abyss, but the few that are here break up the album nicely. The rest of the record is fast and finely controlled. Hooks peek through often, and the interplay between guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman is lively.
Their trademark whinnying-horse solos are intact, and Lombardo still pushes the beat hard. 'Unit 731' features some of his best drumming ever, with delightfully crackling fills. An extremely dry mix practically brings the listener into the room next to the band. This performance aspect is crucial to Slayer's success.
This upfront sound is double-edged, however. It's thrilling to hear the band in such close audio quarters. But as a result, it loses some mystique. 'Hell Awaits', for example, indeed sounded hellish due to an excess of reverb. The tedious sludge of 'Diabolus In Musica' had a certain charm. Although Rick Rubin's production on Slayer's classic trilogy was dry, the songs still had a smoke-rising-in-the-distance quality. Now the band are aurally inches away from one's face.
Additionally, the band have turned their attention from the underworld to the real world. 'Americon', for example, condemns the US' blood-for-oil foreign policy. Slayer being timely is not Slayer being timeless. But the way they're still playing, they sure sound like it.