By Keith Carman
“Just a second… let me turn down my music,” shouts Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, his voice barely audible over the sound of clashing guitars and hyperactive drums. When he says “my,” he means it literally — Lombardo is listening to Slayer’s forthcoming 10th studio album, World Painted Blood, at head-splitting levels.
“I can’t get enough of the new Slayer record,” he continues proudly, sounding more like a fan than a band member. “I’m really excited about this one. I could try to pinpoint [why] but I can’t. It’s just very cool.”
Slayer albums are an enigma. Anticipation builds around them for months as reports trickle out of the studio and people wonder how Lombardo, guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and bassist-vocalist Tom Araya will usurp their previous speed-metal efforts. In this case, that would be 2006’s Christ Illusion, the album that marked Lombardo’s return to the fold after a decade-long absence.
While lauded at its initial release — as all Slayer albums are — most fans still drifted back to the essentials after the album sunk in: 1986’s Reign in Blood, 1988’s South of Heaven and 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss are certainly hard to compete with. With World Painted Blood, though, Lombardo feels strongly that the band has matched the musical muscle and brilliance of its older output.
“[The album has] elements of Seasons, South of Heaven, Reign in Blood,” he says. “It’s inspired. The vocals, the leads, the rhythms — it’s pure, classic Slayer…. I’m not trying to push a record. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. I’d keep quiet. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t say much, but this one is really exciting for me. It was exhausting at times, but it was worth it because the outcome is so solid.”
Lombardo isn’t the first one to mention how World Painted Blood borrows some of its finer moments from the band’s storied past. Typically outspoken, King has been babbling about the album for months in interviews, stating how it harkens back to the band’s legendary catalogue. So what exactly brings this out now, almost 30 years into a career full of combative lyrics, demonic imagery and hyperactive tempos? Lombardo would like to know, too.
“I could easily say that maybe musical growth or maturity comes into it; unintentionally putting the best ideas and a big variety of ideas together to make it interesting,” he says. “Maybe it’s unconsciously happening. I don’t know. Maybe it’s wilful — nah, I don’t think that.”
“[At the onset of Christ Illusion], we were a couple of months shy of my 10-year anniversary of departing from the band,” he adds, finding his point. “Getting back together, we felt comfortable performing the old stuff and I felt comfortable performing Paul’s (Bostaph, Lombardo’s replacement) stuff, but maybe we didn’t establish our method of operation, our songwriting operation or collective efforts to the extent that this album has them.”
While the world is salivating while waiting on World Painted Blood, there’s also another aspect that haunts the album’s release. As previously mentioned, King is quite vocal about, well, everything. That includes Slayer itself, and King has pulled no punches in the past. While not asserting that there’s an end to the band in sight, he has mentioned that he’s uncertain of Slayer’s future. The band members are getting older, after all, and they’ve been at it for three long decades. This has fans wondering if World Painted Blood could be the last new Slayer material thrust into the world.
“I don’t know,” Lombardo says. “I hear that rumour, too, and I can only speak for myself. I have enough fire and energy to last I don’t know how long. I can imagine myself at 75 looking like Charlie Watts playing speed metal. I’m OK with that. I don’t know about the other guys. I’ll keep playing, though, and as long as Slayer needs me, I’ll be here. Whatever they wanna do. I haven’t heard anything internally about, ‘Oh, this is it.’”
Regardless, as long as World Painted Blood delivers on its promise of featuring classic Slayer, the Slaytanic wehrmacht (the band’s fans) should be quite pleased, right?
“I hope so,” he gushes. “But then again, maybe I’m overdoing it. You guys tell me. Either way, I’m sure I’ll hear it through the grapevine.”
Originally published in FFWD Weekly. Reprinted with permission.