Slayer, World Painted Blood (American Recordings)
Slayer stands alone as the bellicose avatar of so-called extreme heavy-metal music, in the form of distilled and undiluted American thrash, in part because the band never softened, never recorded ballads, and never bent the twisted metal wreckage of its detonative sound in the direction of mainstream FM rock. But just as important, the band has an inerrant sense of just where the outer limits of aggressive metal lie, of that subtly drawn boundary where power and volume devolve into mere noise.
No surprise, then, that Slayer's 11th studio album stomps right up to the edge of that boundary, then holds firm. Tempo, dynamics, and the barbarous intensity of singer/bassist Tom Araya's lacerating howl ebb and wax just enough that the songs maintain the constant pummeling energy of hell's jackhammer, yet still come through with big moments that hit like a world-ending sonic boom. A handful of dirges, such as the menace-laden "Beauty Through Order" and the apocalyptic "Human Strain," leaven the precision onslaught of archetypal speedfests like "Hate Worldwide." All of which leaves a jagged hole just big enough for the title track, a classic hate-anthem that stands with Slayer's most memorable (think 2001's "Disciple", with its shout-along refrain of "God hates us all!")
The lyrical themes run the expected course of war cries, murder celebrations, and anti-religious screeds. "Torture, misery, endless suffering," Araya intones on "Snuff." It's one area where perhaps the band is prone to treading, often, across that aforementioned, tenuously situated line.