Slayer - Diabolus In Musica
American Recordings
Thrashy Groove Metal
11 songs (40:19)
Release year: 1998
Slayer, American Recordings
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

I braced myself for a wave of hatred from the basement-dwelling Thrash-loving hordes the moment I realised that I was going to write a positive (well, fairly positive) review for Slayer’s most hated album, the moment that they sold out and wrote an album full of the most turgid Nu-Metal anthems, the point where true fans everywhere took their leave of the band forever. Except the sad truth is that Diabolus In Musica isn’t quite that godawful, isn’t the most terrible thing ever to hit the face of Thrash Metal, isn’t a complete and utter pile of Nu-Metal shite. Yes, if you arranged all of Slayer’s albums from best to worst then Diabolus... would be at the bottom, but that says more about the quality of this oft-maligned band’s discography than this album.

Let’s get the negativity out of the way; Slayer undoubtedly moved to ‘update’ their sound for this album, downtuning and applying liberal amounts of groove. Of course, it sounds dated over ten years later, but it’s also clear that there are actual riffs and solos in there, often rather good ones. Tom Araya’s vocals are another bone of contention, especially the silly whispers and vocal effects which really don’t do the band any favours, but the main problem I have with Diabolus In Musica is the dreadful production, the kind of artificially ‘raw’ job which the likes of Slipknot love. It makes the instruments sound terrible, especially the drums – provided on this album by Paul Bostaph, and whilst he does a more than decent job (without coming close to Lombardo’s position as master and commander of the good ship Thrashblast, obviously) it’s bloody annoying to listen to at times.

Now, for the good: a fair few of the songs present are more than enjoyable. Opener Bitter Peace is definitely good, sounding like your typical slower Slayer song at first before unleashing the Modern Thrash fury. It could have come from Christ Illusion, such is the quality, and even the vocal effects can’t stop this from being a killer track. Death’s Head may be a little more ‘jumpdafuckup’ in style, as my colleague Charles likes to say, and really if you’re a die-hard Slayer-er it’s indefensible, but forget that it’s Slayer for a moment and it’s a perfectly reasonable Groove Metal song. Of course, the following track is the one song that people acknowledge as being good, and Stain Of Mind is truly kickass, heading straight for the catchy section of your brain and cheekily throwing in Slipknotty whispering, yet so infectious is it that you won’t care. Well, I didn’t.

From then on out, things are a little more varied. Overt Enemy flies by, attacking Christianity and doing a mediocre job of it even with a good solo and some decent riffage, Perversions Of Pain is nice and speedy with a Seasons In The Abyss-esque chorus, whilst Love To Hate is another one of those catchy, bouncy ones with a neato solo that Razor and Tankard fans wish didn’t exist to tempt them away from their true Thrash heaven. Heck, even I’m not going to attempt to defend Desire or the slightly better In The Name Of God, but just because an album has a few crappy songs on it doesn’t mean that it has to be dismissed out of hand, surely? In the end, Scrum is a huge step up from the prior Nu-Metal-influenced madness, and whilst Screaming From The Sky is utterly forgettable, the album ends on a high point with Point. Really, if Slayer had put it alongside Bitter Peace and a few live tracks then this may have ended up as a perfectly respectable EP, but yes, of course, they cobbled together an album, and no, of course, this isn’t as good as Slayer’s other albums, but it’s not half so bad as it’s painted. Frankly, you knew whether you’d enjoy this album even before you read this review, but if you’re wavering then it has enough positive moments to make it enjoyable, even with your finger hovering over the skip button. It’s certainly not the equivalent to St Anger that it’s been painted as, however, and that’s a daring enough opinion for me right at this moment.

Killing Songs :
Bitter Peace, Stain Of Mind, Love To Hate, Point
Goat quoted 64 / 100
Other albums by Slayer that we have reviewed:
Slayer - Repentless reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Slayer - Haunting the Chapel reviewed by Tony and quoted no quote
Slayer - World Painted Blood reviewed by Goat and quoted 76 / 100
Slayer - Divine Intervention reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Slayer - Undisputed Attitude reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 14 reviews click here
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