New Music, Please? – Slayer & Julian Casablancas

So, here you go – A new column dedicated to NEW music. Every week I’ll be reviewing two CD’s; one from a signed band and one from an unsigned band. However, for the first two weeks it will be two signed bands, with the first unsigned band to debut in week three. If you are an unsigned band or are aware of an unsigned band and want their CD to get reviewed, email the band details to: [email protected]

Now then, without further ado, let’s get into some new music!

Signed Band Of The Week

Slayer – World Painted Blood

Slayer are too big and too infamous to simply be a “band”. They’re an institution. A religion, for some. Since 1983 they have provided the angry with thrashy goodness that has helped lay the foundation for many of the metal bands we see playing today. Regardless of whether you like Slayer or not, if you listen to recent metal you owe some form of gratitude to them.

However, like all veterans of their trade (except Brett Favre, it seems), as time goes on they slowly seem to diminish in quality and become irrelevant. This theory was only affirmed by the release of Diabolus in Musica in 1998 – an album which threatened to spell the end of one of the great names in metal. Annoyingly, while the releases of God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion seemed to signal a return to form for the boys from California, it was almost as if Slayer were taunting us with a product that, while good, could not be talked about in the same sentence as some of their early releases.

Resultingly, World Painted Blood is an album that has the potential to bring the band full circle and back onto the forefront of the metal scene because of a recent release, rather than because of a 1980s-1990s back catalogue.

The album starts strongly enough, with the self-titled opening track building its way into trademark riffing coupled with the usual lyrical themes one can expect from a Slayer song; “Disease spreading death/Entire population dies/Dead before you’re born/Massive suicide.” While the whiney guitars in the chorus and the slow breakdown have all the makings for a great thrash song, it all sounds a bit Lamb Of God-ish – not an insult by any means, but it just isn’t the trademark insanity provided by Slayer in their heyday.

This trend of ‘almost, but not quite’ continues with songs like Beauty Through Order, which undoubtedly rocks, but with the exception of the blistering solo sounds more like an uninspired Metallica song. Moreover, Americon should have never seen the light of day, as the anti-American lyrics and boring riffs serve to act as a major blemish on the Slayer name.

Fortunately, World Painted Blood is home to some absolutely brilliant moments. The trio of Unit 731, Snuff and Hate Worldwide are all fine examples of thrash at its best and will no doubt result in the mindless injuries of hundreds of future Slayer concert-goers, with the latters’ lyrics possessing the power to burn down a church on a rainy day; “I’m a Godless heretic/Not a God fearing lunatic/That’s why it’s become my obsession/To treat God like an infection.” Moreover, Public Display of Dismemberment is one of the finest Slayer songs in recent memory – a simply awesome example of thrash metal and a triumph for the band.

Human Strain and Playing With Dolls show Slayer are still unafraid of experimenting, with the former having a breakdown which wouldn’t sound out of place on an Opeth album, and the latter being a brilliantly evil track that sounds like it was written by a bi-polar serial killer; “Your body’s not of Christ/It’s my altar… Enveloped in my sin/Faceless canvas/Tearing at your flesh/Bathed in blood…Brutal is your pain/Anguish is the game/Broken and afraid/God can’t help you now/You wish you were in hell.”

One particularly vexing aspect of the album, however, is the severe lack of production on the songs. Executive Producer Rick Rubin is well-known for leaving his records with a raw and bare sound, but some of the songs sound down-right unfinished, with Public Display Of Dismemberment and Psychopathy Red being the only two which stand out for having a ‘full’ sound.

Regardless, World Painted Blood is an enjoyable album. Slayer have managed to put together ten songs which combine old-school thrash with new-school musical ideas (I’m disregarding Americon, that song just sucks) and create a great new album. Can it be mentioned in the same sentence as their finest work from the 80s and 90s? You decide, but if it’s a no then I doubt anything ever will be.

Rock on KFK!

The Other Signed Band Of The Week

Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young

The Strokes are great, but let’s face it, oh so repetitive. Their debut release Is This It was largely hailed as one of the greatest albums of this generation. Their second album Room On Fire was just as good, albeit a little similar. However, their third album, while experimental and progressive, was simply not as good as the first two. Not exactly where the next ‘biggest thing’ was meant to be heading.

Therefore, at the risk of becoming stale and predictably mediocre they need to make some changes. They need to keep their core sound, the element of their music that makes any listener go “oh, that’s The Strokes” – that would be Fabrizio Moretti’s metronomic pulse, Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr.’s shiny guitar wail, and Julian Casablancas’ trodden down vocals – but musically modernise through the addition of new elements.

Now don’t fret; I know The Strokes are where and who they are today because they captured that great garage rock sound from the 70s and brought it into our current musical landscape of over-produced garbage. I know that. But that revival has passed; there are countless numbers of bands the world over doing what The Strokes are doing, and let’s face it, no matter how much a garage rock band develops within the strict guidelines of that genre, there is only so much they can do until everything just starts sounding the same.

So, what they have to do is take their core sound and add elements of what is now incredibly popular. They need to add synths. They need to add pianos. They need to adapt!

Calling me an idiot now, are you? It worked for Muse. Coming off the back of the unspeakably excellent Absolution, Muse took a dramatic leap forward with Black Holes & Revelations. They modernized their sound through the addition of new sonic elements and were thrust into the role of one of the world’s biggest new bands.

The Strokes need to do that.

The Strokes need to release a song like Out of the Blue, a shimmering song where Casablanca’s chorus vocals shine like stars amongst the the intergalactic shimmering of the synth ostinatos and the trebly guitars. Or like Left & Right in the Dark, a nostalgic observation of a childhood, where once again synths, guitars, drums and bass form a perfect backdrop for Casablanca to wail, “How long must she wait/How long must you stay/Oh wake up!”, or the synth-pop 11th Dimension, which is sure to ignite the airwaves of worldwide radio very soon.

Moreover, should the blusey duo of 4 Chords of the Apocalypse and Ludlow St. appear on a Strokes album, they would push the band into unchartered territory, benefiting them immensely. The former is a country western tune which explodes in the shouted chorus and shines in the doubled guitar solo, while the latter is an alternative look at the bleakness of our surroundings; “Everything seems to go wrong when I stop drinking/Everything seemed to go my way last night/Everything seems so wrong to me this morning.”

Furthermore, the up-tempo dance track River of Brake Lights which breaks down into a gritty acid trip-like final act, the soaring Glass (seriously, it SOARS, it’s sick), and the shifty Tourist would all revolutionise The Strokes’ sound for the better, should they appear on their new album.

I guess what I’m trying to say is pretty simple.

The Strokes need to release an album like Phrazes For The Young, because fuck it’s good.

I believe in you, Julian!

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