Slayer’s Deadly Sin

November 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Music Australia Guide #71, November 2009.

Thrash icons Slayer have reinvented themselves via metal’s biggest faux pas: melody. Legendary drummer Dave Lombardo tells Dan Rule how the band’s new album World Painted Blood hits all the right notes.

Conventional wisdom may have metal heads dancing with the devil, but according to Dave Lombardo, plenty of his longhaired brethren are little more than frightened kittens.

“People in metal circles are afraid,” he announces ominously. “They’re afraid of the word ‘melody’.”

“It sounds like such a pretty word,” he continues, breaking into a low, grumbling laugh. “Well, it’s not.”

It seems an unlikely assertion, especially coming from one of metal’s most damaging practitioners. But speaking on the phone from his home in the Hollywood Hills, Slayer’s celebrated drummer has a point. Spend any amount of time with World Painted Blood and you’ll soon come to realise that the quartet’s tenth studio album is also their most markedly melodic.

“It’s melodic, and melodic in a good way I think,” he says. “It carries you through the album, it’s listenable and it doesn’t sound like the same old screaming and yelling through the whole thing, you know.”

“What people don’t seem to understand is that you can play music that is hard and aggressive but it still has melody. The art is to create a melody that has a dark twist to it.”

In many ways, Lombardo’s attitude doesn’t come as a surprise. While his band are credited as one of thrash metal’s most extreme, innovative influential acts – issuing a string of certified metal classics in the late 80s and early 90s, such as the iconic Reign in Blood (1986) and thundering Seasons in the Abyss (1990) – Lombardo has been one of metal’s most wide-eyed journeymen. Outside of Slayer, the 44-year-old has collaborated with anyone from hip hop post-modernist DJ Spooky and rabid experimentalist Mike Patton, to Testament and Grip Inc.

“From working with so many people, I kind of feel like I’ve just become so much more aware of what’s happening within the music,” he says.

“I hear these overtones – like these tones that you may not notice or perceive – like another whole set of notes or drum rhythms that will be inspired by hearing a guitar riff a certain way. It’s kind of like I’ve unlocked something.”

It’s a quality that has permeated the band’s process. Written almost entirely in the studio and recorded with master-producer Greg Fidelman, World Painted Blood proved Slayer’s most spontaneous, diverse and wholly collaborative project yet.

“There was a real camaraderie in the room, with all of us really contributing to the songs,” he recounts. “I’d never really experienced that with Slayer, where we would sit down and suggest things.The ears were open, you know?”

The results – from the deep, dirgy rock melodics of Playing with Dolls, to the intense, flat-out thrash of Public Display of Dismemberment – speak for themselves.

“It’s kind of cool, I really enjoy this album more than I’ve ever enjoyed any other Slayer record,” he says. “This one definitely hits a soft spot,” he pauses. “But you know, not too soft.”

World Painted Blood is out now via Sony Music



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