Slayer Repentless2015 Nuclear Blast Entertainment
Still north of hell...
Slayer‘s hardships over the years have been many, be it personnel changes, frequent label moves or “Diabolus In Musica“. Nearly six years removed from 2009’s “World Painted Blood“, the Slayer of today have faced their biggest challenges yet. The 2013 death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman and acrimonious exit of drummer Dave Lombardo not only tore apart the lineup, but also the groups fanbase.
Thankfully, Exodus guitarist Gary Holt and returning drummer Paul Bostaph—last heard on 2001’s “God Hates Us All“—are solid replacements. But the loss of what many feel to be the ‘classic Slayer lineup’ is something that will likely haunt the band to their end.
With guitarist Kerry King taking on the reigns, “Repentless” is an album no doubt meant to silence those who question Slayer‘s continued existence. To that end, the band double down on thrash riffing and a punkier aesthetic, ripping through the 12 included tracks at a steady pace.
It’s a very workman-like approach that favors attitude over technique, but there’s still enough feverish soloing and crushing double kick to keep most longtime fans happy. What the album is lacking in however is groove and mystique. It feels almost linear at times, following too singular a vision.
They drop the tempo into a lower gear on tracks like “When The Stillness Comes” and “Piano Wire“—the latter a holdover from their previous album which the late Hanneman helped write—but even they still lack the depth and intrigue anyone who has heard “Seasons In The Abyss” still pines for.
The somewhat prosaic lyrical content spit out here doesn’t exactly impress either. It’s not that Slayer have been spinning gold for sometime now, but they have at least delivered a few memorable verses and choruses in recent years. Here the band almost feel like they are trying too hard, especially on the chorus for “Vices“. That particular song finds vocalist/bassist Tom Araya belting out the corny phrase of “Let’s Get High!“. Sure he’s referring to doing so on violence rather than illicit substances, but it still seems like pandering.
Meanwhile, nearly thirty years on from his infamous yelp on “Angel Of Death“, he spiritually revisits it near the end of “Chasing Death” and the results are a bit shaky. Yep, Slayer are officially elder statesmen of metal, embodying both the good and bad that has come with such tenure.
The track “Repentless” itself is essentially a slowed down version of “Dittohead” and displays just how comfortable this album can be. Yes, age may have dulled them a touch, but the riffs are certainly competent and fall in line with the modern Slayer canon—even if very few of them are memorable. King‘s input is mostly blue-collar, hitting the mark but never excelling past it.
All that said, even average Slayer is still better than most. You can’t argue against the band having earned their legendary status up unto this point. This latest album delivers another solid collection of songs from a group whose impact on the genre has been immeasurable.
“Repentless” doesn’t necessarily possess any standouts, but it doesn’t tarnish the bands legacy either. It is merely Slayer being (modern) Slayer and for many, that is all that will matter.