Slayer‘s Repentless is probably the most anticipated release of 2015 for most metal fans. It’s been brooding for years, and with the line-up changes that have taken place, it will prove to be a vitally important release for them and the telling of their future.
I grew up on Slayer, discovering them on one of the first Metal Blade compilation albums. “At Dawn They Sleep” was my introduction, and I’ll never forget that moment. It was like nothing I had ever heard before! Not only was it sharp and blistering, it was evil. After the glam years took their toll on the music industry, this is what the metal scene needed. After Reign in Blood was released it was a fixture on my turntable for months. It is the epitome of the thrash genre, and while there are other albums that come close, Slayer had it all with punk energy, scathing riffs, blistering speed, and thought-inducing, overtly evil lyrics. The pummeling continued with South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss and then the almighty God Hates Us All. I’m not a huge fan of Divine Intervention, Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood, although they do feature some good songs.
Jeff Hanneman‘s death and Dave Lombardo‘s departure caused a major shit-storm in the band. Hanneman was the primary songwriter, and Lombardo’s drumming is simply inhuman. Nobody knew what the future would hold. Kerry King and Tom Araya recruited Gary Holt of Exodus and brought back Paul Bostaph to record Repentless, their first release for Nuclear Blast Records. Well, enough of the history lesson. Let’s dig in!
“Delusions of Savior,” the instrumental that opens Repentless, has an overtly Middle Eastern tone that builds to a magical crescendo. It leads right into the title track with its familiar Slayer feel and galloping, breakneck speed. Araya’s vocals are spot on and he is pissed. The guitar solos are cool, and the song seems to end as fast as it begins. “Take Control” has an awesome groove that recalls the Show No Mercy album. “Vices” has a more mid-tempo feel, and I almost feel like it would fit on Undisputed Attitude. “A little violence is the ultimate drug … let’s get high,” Araya delivers in his classic scream, and it will make your head rattle and bang like no other. The guitar solos are, once again, fucking spot on. Things get a little shaky, though, with “Cast The First Stone.” It is lackluster and sounds like it came off Diabolus in Musica or one of the last two albums. It’s just not the Slayer I enjoy. Although “When The Stillness Comes” is simple and brutal, it still retains the same feeling I get from its predecessor. It’s good, but not great. “Chasing Death” has a cool vibe and sounds like it could have grown from the South of Heaven era, but it is followed by “Implode,” the worst song here with its corny lyrics. “Piano Wire,” partially penned by Hanneman, continues this trend of “meh” tracks. “Atrocity Vendor,” on the other hand, completely makes up for this. It’s full of raw energy and boasts an old school feel. The riffs are fucking killer, as are the solos, and it captures the Slayer I know and love. “You Against You” follows suit and would have fit well on Undisputed Attitude. I don’t know who plays the solo here, but it’s absolutely crushing! “Pride in Prejudice” brings the album to a close and is brooding and overtly angry.
Slayer haven’t recreated any of their best albums on Relentless, but what they have delivered is a damn fine piece of modern metal with a classic vibe. I do thoroughly enjoy most of the songs here and look forward to hearing them live. The truth is that Slayer are legends and could make an honest living off touring without ever releasing another album. I’m just glad we did get to hear this one!
Repentless is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Buy it here!