REVIEW: SlayerRepentless (2015)

Repentless marks Slayer’s first album without Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and legendary drummer Dave Lombardo (in their place, Exodus’ Gary Holt and returning drummer Paul Bostaph) so the album had a lot to live up to, and was the first studio since World Painted Blood (2009). The singles themselves hadn’t drummed up much hope for me. “Implode” sounded OK, but I liked the heavy guitar tones in “When The Stillness Comes” and the title-track sounded like Slayer of old. The band, for a while, had sought the help of Exodus’ guitarist Gary Holt to temporarily fill in for Hanneman who was, at the time, recovering from a spider bite. Following what happened, it only seemed logical to make Gary a permanent member, whilst for the vacant drum stool the band re-enlisted the help of Paul Bostaph. Bostaph had previously been the drummer for Slayer from 1992-2001 (Divine Intervention to God Hates Us All) so that decision makes perfect and absolute sense. The album begins with “Delusion of Saviour” which is a fairly standard intro the album with the track’s length at just under 2-minutes, which directly leads into the title-track “Repentless”. I said before how this track feels like Slayer of old and it certainly does. At 3:19 it’s perhaps one track that fans may come to favour and feels like one of the more straight-to-the-point tracks. With King calling it the “Hanneman Anthem”, the lyrics certainly give rise to the album’s meaning.

“My songs relive the atrocities of war
Can’t take society any f****’ more
Intensity, anarchy, hatred amplified
Playing this s*** is all that keeps me alive
I leave it all on the road living on the stage
This is my life where I kill it everyday
So take your shot, bottom’s up, this is no lie
I’ll be beating this guitar ’til the day I die”

Track 3, “Take Control”, follows up the momentum nicely by delivering yet another fast and to-the-point track. “Vices” and “Cast The First Stone” continue the momentum by offering some groovy tracks here, but I feel that, personally, “Cast The First Stone” is one of the weakest tracks on the album because it’s by-the-numbers song writing and predictable chorus. However, I really like the way the track builds (similar to the next track “When The Stillness Comes”) with Bostaph’s tom work on the drums. “Vices”, though, has my favourite lyrics on the album, especially the chorus:

“Life drags on and we watch it bleed
On controversy and madness we feed
It’s a rush you can’t deny
A little violence is the ultimate drug
Let’s get high”

“When The Stillness Comes” has really grown on me through listening to the album. It takes a while to get going – Kerry’s soft guitar tones with Bostaph’s ride cymbal work – before the guitar gets slightly heavier and when Bostaph starts to cue the beats on his hi-hat, what follows is one of the heaviest riffs on the album – it just smacks you in the face. As Robb Flynn (of Machine Head) would say: “Headbang motherf*****!” Yes, on its own it sounds like a weak track (what most people were saying upon its release on this year’s Record Store Day), but in the context of the album it sounds just heavy. Track 7, “Chasing Death”, is another groovy track and I really like the guitar tones on this one. The slower tracks seem to have more punch to them sounding somewhat like their last album World Painted Blood in some respects, whilst the ‘thrashier’ and faster tracks are just typical Slayer.

“Implode” follows this up. It was one of the first new Slayer tracks that fans could listen to and whilst the early demo version sounded rough and out-of-place (it was a demo after all) the final album track sort of has this fairly standard groove to it and then, halfway through, it kicks into this very typical Slayer thrash metal track. “Piano Wire” I believe, was a Slayer track that was originally by Jeff Hanneman but never used on a Slayer album. Tom Araya had said in the lead up to the release that they would, hopefully, use some material that Hanneman had written before his passing and put it on this album — “Piano Wire” is that track it seems. It is also a favourite track from the album. It doesn’t have an intro or build up, and being just under 3-minutes in length (the second shortest track on the album) it’s one of the more direct tracks on the album.

“Atrocity Vendor”, much like “Piano Wire” before it, is another direct and to-the-point track. Again, it’s one of those tracks which is very wishy-washy with me: I can take it or leave. The final two tracks, “You Against You” and “Pride In Prejudice”, really finish this album off well. The former has a very predictable subject line…just listen to the lyrics. After the intro bit, where Tom screams out “I wouldn’t have it any other way”, the track shifts into thrash metal. On “Pride In Prejudice” the band lay it on thick in terms of heavy guitars and groovy rhythms, but I just like the way that Tom (vocally) swaggers on this track. It sounds almost like a challenge:

“Pride in prejudice
Don’t give me that power bulls***
Pride in prejudice
One gunshot sets the precedence
Marshall Law a militant state
Barrel of a gun seals your fate
Fire burns with media hype
Speak the truth through your own lies”

BONUS DVD/BLU-RAY:

On special editions of this album there is a DVD which includes a ‘making of’ documentary and a concert from Hellfest 2014. Watching the ‘making of’ documentary on the DVD it gave me a better understanding of the album and the tracks, as it goes through various different aspects of the recording. The concert from last year’s Hellfest Festival, an annual event held in France, is exceptional. The band play both old and new songs (playing a favourite of mine, “Disciple”, from God Hates Us All) and the performance is of a high standard.

OVERALL:Six years between albums and two significant fans doubted whether Slayer still had life left in them. It seemed as if the final nail had been hammered into the coffin. With the whole drama surrounding Lombardo, the band sought the help of John Dette (who briefly toured with them) before the band brought in Bostaph. Gary Holt had been filling in during Hanneman’s absence, and with his passing it seemed only natural (in some cases) that Holt would become the permanent guitarist. Personally, I think this album is fantastic and there is a good variety of both fast and slow (groovy) songs on there. All hats off to Slayer for releasing such a triumphant sounding record after all that’s befell them.

RATING: 4 / 5

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