300 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
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"We definitely made our own road
and there's not too many people driving
down our road. Nobody's doing it."
Coming from anyone else, this might sound like an idle boast. When guitarist Kerry King of Slayer says it; it's a simple statement of fact. Almost 20 years after Slayer first started blending the heavy riffs of metal with the anger and violence of punk, the next chapter in the Slayer story will be written with the release of GOD HATES US ALL. It's been three years since Slayer last released a record, 1998's DIABOLUS IN MUSICA, but it's not like the guys have been lounging around poolside, sipping mai-tais and waiting for the royalty checks to roll in. "We started working on this record after we got done with a long touring cycle, but prior to Ozzfest '99," says guitarist Jeff Hanneman. "And like every three or four months, something would come up to sidetrack us so we couldn't finish it. We'd have to take a break and learn stuff for Ozzfest and come back, work for a few months, go in and do a WCW song for a month ('Here Comes The Pain'), go out on the Tattoo the Earth tour, last summer. Then we'd work for a few more months until we were asked to do a song -- "Bloodline" for the 'Dracula 2000' soundtrack, and that was the last break. Then we got our shit together, went up to Vancouver and made a record."
Recorded at The Warehouse, a Vancouver studio owned by Bryan Adams, certain alterations had to be made in converting Slayer's new environs from a studio owned by a lightweight Canadian pop singer to something suitable for four men recording a 12-14-song album titled GOD HATES US ALL. Slight alterations, like a chalked-out crime-scene-style drawing of a body on the floor. Candles. Dimmed lights. Incense. Porn-covered walls. All the little amenities that make a house a home.
"We had two banner flags that were of middle fingers," says singer/bassist Tom Araya. "As you walked into the first door of the studio, there was a Misfits' skull that said, Eat a bag. The next door you opened, there was a white flag with a middle finger pointed up right in your face. You'd open the door to the mixing room, there's another middle finger. That was basically the attitude of Slayer in the studio. We had a red devil head on one of the speakers. We had a skull on another. That_s the kind of shit we put up. Spooky stuff that makes you feel at home."
Slayer picked Matt Hyde to produce GOD HATES US ALL, after his stellar work on "Bloodline" for the 'Dracula 2000' soundtrack. "He had a handle on every aspect of the recording. He likes the band, he likes the music," says King. "He knew what we were trying to achieve, rather than just us telling him. He knew what was going on. I tell people he's God, might as well bring in the cross and nail him up to it because he's the fucking best."
As intense a record as Slayer has recorded, God Hates Us All found King and Hanneman stripping the songwriting down to the essentials, trimming the fat and keeping the fury. "I didn't write the usual Dungeons and Dragons shit, looking in the synonym finder for words I have no idea what they mean anyway, " King says by way of explanation. "This is a lot more how I talk, a lot more street. A lot of the topics are things people can relate to and they_ll hear the street-style version, so I think they_ll get more out of it."
You'd have to be deaf, dumb or dead to miss the message of songs like "Threshold" or "Exile", which crackle with the unchecked wrath Slayer, fans have come to count on. "Threshold" is about reaching your limit in any given aspect, with a person in a situation where you're about to break. You're about to blow-up," says King. 'Exile' is pretty much about a person--everybody's got one--who is like the anti-them -- you just hate with every ounce of your fucking being. It_s called "Exile" because you want them away from you. You want to kill yourself so you don't have to deal with them anymore."
King and Hanneman toyed with new guitar tunings on the album, taking the plunge down to Drop B a couple times and hauling out a seven-string axe for the first time in Slayer history. "A lot of people you see in Guitar World say, "I'm not Steve Vai, I have no reason to play a seven-string," says King. "That's like telling a drummer to play a single kick drum, trying to tell him he doesn't need a double-bass kick. It doesn't make sense. Or they cop out saying, 'I'm not that good.' You don't have to be good to make up a seven-string riff."
Slayer records begin with the drums, and Paul Bostaph, timekeeper for half of Slayer's nearly 20 years as a band, says there's a simple rule he follows in setting the brutal pace. "Rick Rubin once said the perfect take is the one that felt like it was going to fall apart but never did. I thought that was one of the wisest things I've ever heard and I always try to go for that."
During breaks from recording, Slayer hits the town, patronizing local bars like the Shark Club and the Cobalt Club and watching nearly every hockey game the hometown Vancouver Canucks played. Singer Tom Araya spent his off-hours reading true crime novels with cheery titles along the lines of "Happy Like Murderers'" to help him inhabit the minds of murderous priests ("God Send Death") and a fallen angel pushing drugs ("Cast Down"). "I use those books to spark my imagination, to go into the role playing that I need in order to sound convincing. I need to sing and make it sound like I'm actually going to do these things I'm saying. They help out a lot with the screaming."
Let other bands break-up, try to "find their sound" or record albums with symphonies. In the fickle, ever-changing world of music, Slayer remains a sure thing. "I think I'm a fan first and foremost," says King. "The difference between me and the people watching our show is that I learned how to play guitar. For some reason, I know how to make up riffs for Slayer and I get the opportunity to do that, so I'm like the superfan. It's what I'm into. If I was going to start a new band today, I'd want it to be just like this one."
It has always been hard to put a tag on GOJIRA, one of France's most extreme bands the country's musical pallet has ever known. But then again, the band has never really sought out such a tag, instead letting the music do the talking, preferring introspection and intelligence over preconceived notions and preexisting tags. Ever since the 1996 formation in town of Bayonne in the southwest of France, GOJIRA has been an ever-evolving experiment in extreme metal ultimately built upon a worldly, ever-conscious outlook with roots firmly-planted both in the hippie movement and an environmentally-conscious, new age mentality. This time, with The Way of All Flesh, GOJIRA harnesses a spiritual consciousness as well, but still culminates in a sound wholly heavy.
Originally dubbed Godzilla, after the scaly, green film star with an equally huge reputation as the newfound band's sound, the brothers Duplantier – guitarist/vocalist Joe and drummer Mario – and fellow Frenchmen Jean Michel Labadie on bass and Christian Andreu on guitar, quickly released several demos, ultimately changing the band's name and independently releasing the first GOJIRA album, Terra Incognita, in 2001, offering up a brief glimpse into the giant GOJIRA would eventually become through persistent hard work and years of toiling in the metal underground.
After the 2003 release of the band's follow-up, The Link, throughout Europe and the subsequent live DVD release the next year, of the aptly-titled The Link Alive, 2005 brought the release of From Mars To Sirius, the band's breakthrough release, garnering high praise and a North American release through Prosthetic Records in 2006. Fans of not only heavy, extreme music took notice, but so did the intellectual world, thanks to Sirius' thoughtful and expansive inner examination of the world at hand and the consequences of humanity's struggle to coexist without harm. The metal world was amused and amazed: much of it hadn't yet seen an equally intelligent and pummelingly heavy release that was as expansive and open as it was dense and concise.
Following the immense praise of From Mars To Sirius and recurring trips across the Atlantic for North American touring alongside the likes of Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, and Behemoth among others, GOJIRA established its stranglehold on the extreme metal spectrum with a linguist's touch, a lyricist's finesse, and a crushingly heavy live show that left audiences astounded, establishing the band's live performance as a spot-on recreation of the band's increasingly adept and intelligent studio output.
While 2007 wrapped with GOJIRA again touring North America on the Radio Rebellion Tour alongside Behemoth to the best reaction yet, the dawn of 2008 saw a nearly 10 month wait for while the band assembled The Way of All Flesh, one of the year's most anticipated records. This time revolving around the undeniable dilemma of a mortal demise, GOJIRA's soundtrack to the situation seems fitting. Shifting ever-so-slightly from the eco-friendly orchestra of impending doom on From Mars To Sirius to the band's new message of the equally uncontrollable inevitability of death, The Way of All Flesh melds the open and airy progressive passages GOJIRA has become famous for with the sonically dense sounds and bludgeoningly heavy rhythms that makes the band an equally intelligent force as it is unmatchably heavy.
Featuring a guest vocal spot on "Adoration For None" from Lamb of God's Randy Blythe – one of GOJIRA's most vocal supporters from their first moment making an impression in the Americas – and the now familiar Morbid Angel-isms of The Way Of All Flesh's title track join the angular riffing more akin to Meshuggah on "Esoteric Surgery" and the epic, artful plodding of the nearly 10-minute "The Art of Dying," showing that GOJIRA have indeed opened a new bag of tricks for The Way Of All Flesh, while not abandoning the sound that first showed a massive promise of potential on Sirius.
"It's more inventive than From Mars To Sirius and at the same time more straight to the point," GOJIRA frontman Joe Duplantier says of The Way of All Flesh. "The whole album is about death, death is like a step on the path of the soul. The mystery surrounding this phenomenon is just so inspiring, and death is the most common thing on earth."
"This album is also a 'requiem' for our planet," Duplantier continues. "We don't want to be negative or cynical about the fate of humanity, but the situation on Earth is growing critical, and the way humans behave is so catastrophic that we really need to express our exasperation about it. It's not fear, but anger. But we still believe that consciousness can make a difference and that we can change things as human beings."