No band has stayed good as long as Slayer, and any argument to the contrary pits the thrash-metal kings against the Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sonic Youth. Maybe Motörhead. Christ Illusion improves on its predecessor, 2001's clunky God Hates Us All, the low point of a 24-year run. The band's ninth studio album is comparable to Seasons in the Abyss, but its relentless frenzy lacks the subtleties that made Reign in Blood a high-water mark. With original drummer Dave Lombardo's return to the fold, the disc feels like a transitional phase of an upswing. Writing together, guitarist Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are thrash metal's finest lyrical tag team, capable of creating lyrics so striking that Tori Amos covered a song. Sixteen years after Seasons, the shredders' dizzying fretwork in "Eyes of the Insane" is a killer soundtrack for the latest Gulf War — the times haven't changed much, and neither has the music. Thankfully.


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