Slayer’s eighth LP of original material, God Hates Us All, stands as one of their most divisive. To some, it appeared to be another record in which the thrash icons failed to diversify their songwriting. To others, Slayer had donned rubber masks and joined in on the nu-metal trend of the time. If this is a nu metal record, then it’s one of the best that period of music spawned; and if we’re searching for Slayer’s shittiest record, there are better pickings than God Hates Us All.
God Hates Us All sounds murky, a tone set by introductory track “Darkness of Christ,” which expounds that only the strong will prosper before launching into the album’s featured God-despising anthem, “Disciple.” When Tom Araya proclaims, “God hates us all / You know it’s true God hates this place / You know it’s true he hates this race,” it doesn’t sound watered down or played out. Unlike, say, “Let’s get high!”
While there are cringe-worthy nu metal moments that dip their toes a bit far into the genre (see: everything after the intro to “Deviance”), God Hates Us All is definitely not Slayer’s attempt to parrot a Korn album. But when they draw from those sounds sparingly, it does create a fresher sound for the band. The intro to “Seven Faces” is murky and heavy on reverb before Araya’s classic shriek comes in and “God Send Death” manages to get dark and slow without diminishing the enraged sound of the album. Still, it’s not like Slayer traded all of their fast riffs for slow, sludgy passages. “War Zone,” “Disciple” and “Threshold,” just to name a few, have burly and/or thrashy riffs that retain the band’s unmistakable thrash sound.
God Hates Us All follows what is arguably Slayer’s worst release, Diabolus in Musica. In that context, God Hates Us All sounds like a band fighting to return to form. Though both LPs share elements like lousy production and tedious, slower sections, God Hates Us All retains more darkness; to the same point, when Slayer eschew slow and dark for fast and thrashy, they sound energized and full of conviction as they dissect religion and its practitioners.
Guitarist Kerry King has said he wanted God Hates Us All to be a departure from more fantastical, lyrical themes Slayer had followed in the past. Topics like hate, self-control and religion are everyday subjects people confront. The focus on more immediate subject matter is one of God Hates Us All’s strongest points, and a necessary complement to the darker musical undertones of the record. If separated, the music and lyrics might feel hollow and overblown, respectively.
What’s more, the lyrics don’t tear apart organizations or systems of belief just for the sake of doing it. Exploring topics like self-control, death and even addiction, God Hates Us All contains more than just edgy proclamations like “I keep my Bible in a pool of blood so that none of its lies can affect me.”
Obviously, Slayer’s credentials as thrash progenitors are undisputed. If, in their minds, there wasn’t necessarily a need for another breakneck album when God Hates Us All was shockingly released on September 11 2001, they’ve earned the right to make that creative detour. By not relying on their traditional arsenal, Slayer created an album that is not only an enjoyable listen but placed them on an upward trajectory that has continued after the release of God Hates Us All.