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Slayer: Part 3 'Diabolus in Musica'
Is this the Slayer album worth a re-visit? The Aquanaut re-visits and finds out.
Apologies for the lack of posts over the past few weeks. I work full-time and the start to 2023 has been hectic. The Aquanaut is now (hopefully) back on schedule and without further ado, here is the long awaited part 3 post on the mighty Slayer.
In 1994 Machine Head and Korn released their debut albums. In 1996 Sepultura (who were already guaranteed a place in Metal’s Pantheon of greats from their first five albums) released ‘Roots’. In 1997 Coal Chamber released their debut album and the lead single ‘Loco’ went on heavy rotation on the music channels. The video even featured Ozzy Osbourne as a deranged Ice Cream man. Nu-Metal was born and the Godfather of metal had been there at it’s baptism.
Nu-Metal was massively popular and quickly went from being a sub-genre of Heavy Music to literally the main thing in Metal in the space of a couple of years. You can compare it to Grunge in the early nineties in this respect, where for a while Alternative Rock and Grunge were synonymous. The main difference between the two genres, being that some rock bands were only labelled grunge as a marketing tactic by their record labels. ‘Floyd the Barber’ by Nirvana has little in common with ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam. But you could pretty much spot a Nu-Metal act a mile away. Seven string guitars and five string bass guitars, all down tuned, and an almost complete absence of blast beats and guitar solos. Throw in a rap segment and you were on rotation on MTV.
Slayer didn’t set out to make a Nu Metal record with 'Diabolus in Musica'. Guitar player Kerry King once commented that he hated the nu-metal sound, and that it reminded him of ‘frat boy music’. However, 'Diabolus in Musica' was written almost entirely by Slayer’s other famous guitar player Jeff Hanneman. King was on his honeymoon.
The album kicks off with the track ‘Bitter Peace’, which by Slayer’s standards has a rather dull into riff. The track then progresses in heaviness with impressive vocals by Tom Araya and great drumming by Paul Bostaph. ‘Death’s Head’ is an almost experimental track, which though extremely trashy, it definitely sounds more like the era it was recorded in. In fact the main riff sounds very like that of ‘Sugar’ by System of a Down (though it slightly predates it). There’s a little bit of spoken word vocals from Araya, before his trademark staccato vocal delivery begins. ‘Stain of Mind’ is like a Slayer version of ‘Loco’ by the aforementioned Coal Chamber. More spoken and whispered vocals before the explosion of screaming. Paul Bostaph kills it on the drums. This really is the album where he came into his own. There is a quick guitar solo here, otherwise this is definitely Nu-Metal territory. ‘Overt Enemy’ has another dull intro (with more spoken word stuff). Then a very interesting riff starts, but what’s this? Tom Araya using some kind of vocal effects to achieve an underwater style sound. It’s very experimental. You know its Slayer, but it also is a departure. ‘Perversions of Pain’ is a noisy, aggressive Slayer track. It’s reminiscent of some of their early tunes. ‘Love to Hate’ sounds a bit like Pantera to be honest. This is interesting because by some accounts Jeff Hanneman didn’t like Pantera. Maybe this is the Kerry King influence on the track? The next track ‘Desire’ is credited to Tom Araya. I really, really like this one. Tom experiments a lot with his vocals here and the riffs foreshadow the next few Slayer albums. This is the sound of a band finding their groove for the future. The next track ‘In The Name of God’ has a killer riff and Araya doing his way-too-enthusiastic-vocals-with-tricky-subjectmatter trick. Allegedly Araya found the lyrics to this one a bit distasteful. Araya was raised Catholic and by some accounts, practices his faith. He has been fairly consistent separating art from reality in his career, and this is no different. He totally sells the “Antichrist is the name of God!” outro. The next track ‘Scrum’ is just over two minutes long and has great riffs. It’s reminiscent of the middle tracks of the ‘Reign in Blood’ album. ‘Screaming from the Sky’ is a great tune and evokes the slower, more doom laden tracks of ‘South of Heaven’. My version of the album ‘Diabolus in Musica’ has a bonus track called ‘Wicked’ (so I’ve apparently picked up the Australian edition on my travels). The final track is ‘Point’ which is a glorious Slayer mish mash of lots of their previous tunes.
So, to conclude, this is a good Slayer album. If you grew up with it, or it was your first Slayer album, you might regard this as a great Slayer album. It certainly isn’t a nu-metal album. At least, it has nothing in common with Korn or Linkin Park, for example. But it may have been ever so slightly influenced by the likes of Pantera and Sepultura’s ‘Roots’. I’ve enjoyed re-listening to it. But I will say this… none of the riffs stick in my head. That’s not a slamming indictment by any means, but I can name my favourite tune off of every Slayer album except for this one.
I’ll be taking a short break from Slayer’s discography for a while, but when I return to them we’ll be taking a listen to their first album of the 2000’s (and one of their best).
Next post: I’m not okay