Next week on August 8 Slayer‘s Christ Illusion will celebrate its tenth anniversary. Christ Illusion was the band’s tenth studio effort and when it was released in August of 2006 I was preparing to enter 8th grade. As someone who was born between the time the band released Seasons In The Abyss (which some may consider the band’s last good album and may group it with the band’s 80′s efforts even though it was released in 1990) and the time they released Divine Intervention in 1994, to mature to the ripe old age of 14 in time for Christ Illusion seems like a blessing to me.
I remember getting on message boards to talk about my love for Christ Illusion and what a fucking mistake that was. I was lambasted by curmudgeons who thought that anything after Haunting the Chapel was exclusively for poseurs and scene kids. You had the occasional kind soul who argued with the curmudgeons that the first four albums were good fare, but the general consensus was that Illusion sucked!
Still this album (along with the likes of See You On The Other Side and the Marilyn Manson greatest hits CD) are what initially made me a metalhead, so I do owe it some fucking credit.
Read my full retrospective on Slayer’s Christ Illusion here.
Outside of the horror movies my dad loved to watch, when I got my hand’s on the Christ Illusion jewel case the album art was the most brutal thing I’d seen to date. I’d seen Sam Dunn talk about the album art of that Autopsy record and this was that moment for me. Decapitated heads floating in a river of blood. While an amputated Christ stand staring with his one good eye into your very soul. As a kid who grew up playing Doom but who didn’t know where those midis originated from, I’d finally found my soundtrack.
And then you put the record on and you get that mind-numbing ring that pierces out of your speakers. It only lasts 17 seconds, but as you wait for the drop it feels as if it might go on forever and ever. By time the instruments come down I want to sling my head off of my neck. The first time I heard Tom yell, “TAKE A DEEP BREATH BECAUSE IT ALL STARTS NOW!” I knew that I was fucking hooked.
That’s the first 35 seconds of “Flesh Storm”. To other Slayer fans “Flesh Storm” may not be a stand out track, but the first time I heard the first lyric: “Take a deep breath // ‘Cause it all starts now // When you pull the fuckin’ pin // The Shrapnel burns // As it tears into the skin // Ever wonder what it takes // To be questioning your faith // This is what it’s like // When it happens every Goddamn day!” I felt like I was fucking home. I’ve been a metalhead ever since.
The second song is “Catalyst”. “I live for competition // Your cynicism only makes me stronger // I am the culmination // setting the standard that all will follow.”
“Your cynicism only makes me stronger!” Who the fuck doesn’t want to have that attitude in their life?
I grew up in a Bible Belt town of 3,000 people. I grew up listening to country music because that’s all my mom wanted us to listen to. But when I went to middle school, the people who listened to country music were the people who laughed at me and at all the weird shit that I wrote in my notebooks instead of paying attention in class. I had friends who introduced me to My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace and hell, even Ice Cube. But metal, metal was my own. I would get home from school and my dad and I would fight and he would go to work and I would put on the music and thrash around my house a lame one person mosh pit.
Jamie Thomson wrote for The Guardian that Christ Illusion didn’t succeed in being as shock heavy as previous efforts (suggesting that there was no oxygen left for the shock of Slayer’s act seeing as the world supposedly was preoccupied with Marilyn Manson and National Socialist Black Metal). The first time I heard “Skeleton Christ” (“You’ll never touch God’s hand // You’ll never taste God’s breath // Because you’ll never see the second coming // Life’s too short to be focused on insanity // I’ve seen the ways of God // I’ll take the devil any day // Hail Satan.”) – I mean, when you’re dad’s raised Catholic and your mom is raised Mennonite and you’re raised Southern Baptist to hear some gruff sounding motherfucker bark out “Hail Satan!” It makes you feel powerful. Is there any logical reason it should? It’s fucking autonomy. 8 days a week if people are insisting you go to school and do your chores and go to church and do your chores well then hell, if you can get them to do a double take at the sheer composition or speed of the music, or if you can get them to scowl at you when they hear a “Hail Satan!” well then it makes you feel like maybe you have some control over your own life.
While this was my first exposure to thrash, Christ Illusion has some interesting moments. “Eyes of the Insane” with its slower start that gains speed and crashes again into a slower tempo is a great example of this.
“Got to make it stop // Can’t take it anymore // Death’s face keeps haunting me // It just keeps coming back for more.”
There were times when in middle school when I listened to this album that I wanted to be one of the owners of one of the floating decapitated heads in a river of blood, but that’s the kind of odd paradox about heavy metal… even when it talks about death or dying, it makes you want to stay alive. It made me too stubborn to want to fucking quit.
Even ten years later, this is still my favorite Slayer album, and still the type of album I want to spin from start to finish every time I put it on.
I definitely think it stands the test of time, and if you’ve never given it a chance, you should now!
I give this album five out of five decapitated heads.