A little more than 23 years after their game-changing breakthrough fulfilled its promise to Reign in Blood, and eight years after God Hates Us All was the cruelest-seeming of unfortunate September 11 album releases, thrash gods Slayer are coating the world in hemoglobin, and if you play all these albums back to back, I bet your grandma couldn’t tell them apart. Slayer mostly sticks with what’s been working for the better part of three decades, and considering most of the better modern metal acts (we’re looking at you, Mastodon) are still swiping moves from “Angel of Death,” who can blame them? The band still sounds fast and violent as ever, but more importantly, the music’s still impossibly technically solid. The best tracks on WPB retain the time-stretching quality that allows Slayer to cram entire prog-metal concept albums into three-minute shred fests. That goes double for the title track, which comes dangerously close to six minutes and brings on a Reagan-era apocalyptic vision so vicious it washes away any hint of the self-parody its name suggests (see also: “Public Display of Dismemberment”). The album’s best songs all sound like 1986, but Slayer fans shouldn’t want it any other way. “Snuff,” a song about a webcasted killing spree, can’t overcome its inherent ridiculousness despite some solid soloing by King and Jeff Hanneman, and “Playing With Dolls” takes an ill-advised stab at nü-metal melodics (but fortunately skips the rapping) before drummer Dave Lombardo comes to his senses and redlines the beat. The equilibrium-crippling, oddly sitar-influenced guitar riff from “Psychopathy Red,” which leaked more than a year ago, remains the true highlight, but taken as a whole, WPB is just further proof that these guys are something more than human.
— Jeremy Martin