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Drum and drummer
Dave Lombardo rejoins Slayer for Ozzfest
BY SEAN RICHARDSON

The big story at Ozzfest 2004, which kicks off July 10 in Hartford and comes to Mansfield two days later, is that Judas Priest are performing with original frontman Rob Halford for the first time in more than a decade. But metal fans shouldnít ignore the tourís other reunion, which has also been a long time coming. Slayer are no strangers to Ozzfest, but this is the first year theyíre bringing along original drummer Dave Lombardo. If your reaction to that news is, "Big deal, heís just the drummer," then you probably donít spend much time at metal shows.

Rumor has it Slayer have already started work on their first new studio disc with the classic line-up since 1990ís Seasons in the Abyss. But right now, the band are celebrating Lombardoís return with the release of their first box set, Soundtrack to the Apocalypse (American), which breaks their storied career into four distinct eras. Since this compilation is on their current label and their first two albums are on Metal Blade, the groupís early stuff is represented only by previously unreleased concert recordings. Their golden age, which began when legendary producer Rick Rubin signed them to his label for the 1986 landmark Reign in Blood and ended with Lombardoís departure, takes up all of disc one. On disc two, they keep it real through a tough decade for metal with replacement drummer Paul Bostaph. He left after 2001ís God Hates Us All, opening the door for the reunion with Lombardo. The deluxe edition of the box includes a bonus DVD of a recent show by the original band that marks the beginning of the newest chapter in their history.

With three CDs and one DVD, the standard edition of Soundtrack serves a few different purposes, all of them well. For one thing, itís the first legitimate greatest-hits collection in Slayerís 20-year existence. Nitpickers might point to 1991ís beloved double-disc Decade of Aggression, but thatís a live album, and those donít count in my book. Despite their four gold albums, the band have never had a hit single, for reasons which are clear to anyone whoís ever heard their signature song, "Angel of Death." The leadoff track on both Reign and the box, it tells the bloodcurdling story of Nazi butcher Josef Mengele without mincing words: "Auschwitz, the meaning of pain/The way that I want you to die." The music is just as harrowing, from frontman Tom Arayaís furious holler to the haphazard squall of guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King to Lombardoís breakneck solo.

Metal got more extreme after Reign, in sound if not in subject matter, but that albumís devastating focus has never been equaled. As for Slayer themselves, theyíve done a good job of expanding their horizons without going soft. The title track to 1988ís South of Heaven flirts with standard rock tempos, but the guitars are as evil as anything in the bandís repertoire. "Seasons in the Abyss" and "Dead Skin Mask" keep the horror-flick intensity high while branching out into Metallica-style epic territory. Rubin joined the group in the studio only once during the Bostaph era; the result, 1998ís Diabolus in Musica, has moments of modernization ("Stain of Mind") that helped them survive the Limp Bizkit era.

The punk covers from Slayerís 1996 Undisputed Attitude are glossed over on Soundtrack until a B-side of Suicidal Tendenciesí "Memories of Tomorrow" surfaces on disc two. Thatís part of a comprehensive selection of rarities, most of them from soundtracks both good (Less Than Zero, which yields a humorous "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida") and bad (Bride of Chucky). Two trendy collaborations have aged in opposite directions: the Atari Teenage Riot goof is grating, but the Ice-T shout-off will have fans hunting down the first Body Count album.

Disc three and the DVD tell the same story with different songs, offering up concert footage that dates all the way back to 1983. The fidelity isnít always high, but the performance quality is there from beginning to end. The band excavate everything from early home recordings to pro video from the infamous Clash of the Titans Tour. The one thing they donít include is any of their music videos, which remain unavailable on DVD. To this day, MTV is the groupís best gateway to the mainstream: the gory clip for "Bloodline," from the Dracula 2000 soundtrack, is nominated in the current Best Metal Videos of the New Millennium poll on Headbangers Ball. Fellow thrash titans Megadeth and Anthrax have faded over the years, but at this point, it might take the Apocalypse itself to stop Slayer.


Issue Date: July 9 - 15, 2004
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