No band has stayed good as long as Slayer, and any argument to the contrary pits the thrash-metal kings against the Rolling Stones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sonic Youth. Maybe Motrhead. Christ Illusion improves on 2001's clunky God Hates Us All, the low point of a 24-year run, but its relentless frenzy lacks the subtleties that made Seasons in the Abyss and Reign in Blood high-water marks. Even with original drummer Dave Lombardo's return to the fold, the disc feels transitional. Together, Jeff Hanneman and guitarist Kerry King are thrash metal's finest lyrical tag team, capable of turning phrases so striking that even Tori Amos covered one of their songs. King wrote most of this album himself, though, dipping his quill in blood. Saving complexity for blinding guitar leads, he's content with middle-finger missives like "You'll never see the second coming/It's all a fuckin' mockery," from "Skeleton Christ." Sixteen years after Seasons, the shredders' dizzying fretwork on "Eyes of the Insane" is a killer soundtrack for the latest Gulf war: The times haven't changed much, and neither has the music. Thankfully.


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