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Dear Slayer 

The beloved thrash-metal pioneers survive their season in the abyss

When Slayer's Dave Lombardo hears the tracks his band has recorded for its forthcoming studio album, he's reminded of Slayer albums like Reign in Blood, South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss.

Lombardo knows he's dropping some bombs by name-checking those albums, which were released in 1986, 1988 and 1990, respectively. To many Slayer fans, they are the group's definitive records, the ones that established Slayer as the hardest, heaviest and most intense band in all of metal.

"There's a lot of good stuff on this record, of course," says the drummer, "what the guitars are doing and the way the rhythm is, the way it feels, the way it pulses, so many things. And the melodies, and Tom [Araya], the way he's singing ... I could just go on and on."

A founding member who met up with his bandmates while delivering a pizza, Lombardo went through a stormy split with the band after Seasons in the Abyss. Slayer moved ahead with Paul Bostaph taking over on drums, and the group continued cranking out albums on a regular basis. In fact, Slayer had released a well-received 2001 album, God Hates Us All, shortly before Bostaph had to leave the band due to a lingering arm injury.

With tour dates looming, Slayer's manager reached out to Lombardo and asked if he'd do the shows.

Lombardo agreed, but he was cautious about committing to anything beyond the tour dates. That was more than understandable considering the friction between him and other members of Slayer — bassist/singer Araya, guitarist Kerry King and guitarist Jeff Hanneman — before he left the band in '92.

As it turned out, Lombardo felt he fit right in with Slayer the second time around, and the problems that had once existed were gone.

"Things were great," Lombardo says. "We had grown up. We all got along.

"It's just that you stepped out of this world [of the band] for a while, and when you come back in, you step in with a different view. It was different. It's hard to explain. There was no tension."

Seven years later, Lombardo has stuck with Slayer through two studio releases, Christ Illusion (2006) and the forthcoming World Painted Blood, which is slated for release in late summer.

The promising vibe that Lombardo felt when he rejoined Slayer has only gotten better. In fact, he feels the group's attitude, creativity and level of dedication during the recording of World Painted Blood are the best yet.

"Everybody's head was in the mix," he says. "Everybody's mind was working together on this music."

Lombardo said those good feelings are also very much in evidence when the band plays on stage.

"We're so tight on stage that we do these little, like, for example, these little drum parts that don't belong there [in a song], that were never recorded," says Lombardo. " I'll throw these things in and kind of rattle the guys' cages because they're in a comfort zone. Then I start throwing in different drum parts, and they'll be, 'Whoa, Dave's doing something.' And they do the same thing to me, with their leads and stuff. We're learning kind of this new conversation on stage."

scene@csindy.com

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