God Hates Us All is the ninth studio album by American thrash metal band Slayer. Released on September 11, 2001, the album received positive critical reviews and entered the Billboard 200 at number 28. It was recorded in three months at The Warehouse Studio in Canada, and includes the Grammy Award-nominated "Disciple". The album is the band's last to feature drummer Paul Bostaph until their 2015 Repentless. Guitarist Kerry King wrote the majority of the lyrics, taking a different approach from earlier recordings by exploring topics such as religion, murder, revenge and self-control.
Slayer began writing lyrics for a new album prior to their appearance at the 1999 Ozzfest. However, every three to four months the band was distracted by commitments to Ozzfest and worldwide "Tattoo the Earth" tour with Slipknot. Guitarist Jeff Hanneman later admitted, "That was the last break. Then we got our shit together." The band's longtime producer, Rick Rubin, was too busy to work with Slayer and felt "burned out"—unable to create intense music. Araya and King had similar feelings about Rubin, and King remarked he "wanted to work with someone into the heavy-music scene, and Rubin's not anymore. I wanted somebody who knows what's hot, knows what's selling, knows the new techniques, and will keep me on my toes." Rubin recommended two producers, although the first producer was not going to work out personality-wise according to Hanneman. The band gave a second candidate, Matt Hyde, a trial on the song "Bloodline", which appeared in the movie Dracula 2000. The band was pleased with Hyde's work on "Bloodline" and hired him to produce the entire album. "Bloodline" was also briefly used in the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen. The song "Here Comes the Pain" had originally been recorded almost two years prior to the release of God Hates Us All, appearing on the compilation album WCW Mayhem: The Music in 1999, and then used as the opening theme for WCW Thunder from February 16, 2000, to the final episode on March 21, 2001.
God Hates Us All was to be recorded in a Hollywood studio; however, the band relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia due to the availability of cheaper studio time. Hyde recommended a studio to the band—The Warehouse Studio (owned by Bryan Adams) as he had previously worked there. The studio was altered to make it "feel like home" for Slayer; as opposed to the setting for, in King's words, the "lightweight Canadian pop singer". This consisted of adding incense burners, candles, dimmed lights and pornography on the walls. Two banner flags of two middle fingers were also hung up. Vocalist Tom Araya says, "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 is the kind of shit we put up. Spooky stuff that makes you feels at home."
Hyde used the digital audio workstation Pro Tools during the engineering, production, and audio mixing stages of the album. Slayer members wanted to keep the use of computer effects to a minimum, only to include a small amount of delay and distortion. As with previous recordings, the drum tracks were recorded first. Drummer Paul Bostaph follows a simple rule suggested by Rubin when in the studio: "The perfect take is the one that felt like it was going to fall apart but never did." Seven-string guitars were used on the tracks "Warzone" and "Here Comes the Pain," the first time Slayer had done so. King was at the B.C. Rich guitar company (manufacturer of his signature model, the KKV) and decided to borrow a seven string guitar. After writing one song, King ordered a seven string as he thought "there's no point having one tuning for just one song," so he wrote another, going on to comment "you don't have to be good to make up a seven-string riff." The album features two songs on seven string guitars, four songs with guitars tuned to Drop-B and all other songs in C# Standard.
God Hates Us All explores such themes as religion, murder, revenge, and self-control King wrote a majority of the lyrics, which he based on "street" subjects which everyone could relate to, rather than "Satan this, Satan that," and "the usual Dungeons & Dragons shit" from the band's previous records. King told Guitar World:
I definitely wanted to put more realism in it, more depth.God Hates Us All isn't an anti-Christian line as much as it's an idea I think a lot of people can relate to on a daily basis. One day you're living your life, and then you're hit by a car or your dog dies, so you feel like, "God really hates me today."
The song "Threshold" is about reaching one's limit with a person in a situation where one is about to break—and are about to blow up as they get "under your skin", while "Cast Down" features a fallen Angel who falls into drugs. "God Send Death" and "Deviance" take up the idea of killing people for pleasure. Both songs were written by Hanneman. Having read several books on serial killers, Hanneman came to the conclusion he could only kill someone if they really "pissed him off", and decided he was unable to kill someone he did not know just for power. He later admitted he was trying to get into that person's mind; "why do they get off on it? Without being angry, just killing for the sake of killing and getting off on it. I just wanted to get into that mindset."
While other members went to local pubs, Araya spent his free hours reading factual books regarding serial killers, including Gordon Burn's Happy Like Murderers: The Story of Fred and Rosemary West. Araya was seeking inspiration and aimed to sound convincing while singing the lyrics, avoiding himself to sound like a gimmick. Araya sang the lyrics more "over-the-top" than done on previous albums, as King's writing style is more "aggro." This resulted in Kerrang! reviewer Jason Arnopp describing the album's lyrics as "so packed with foul and abusive language that it sounds as if D-12 and the Sopranos family were going head-to-head in a celebrity marathon."
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