Slayer - Repentless #1

It's no secret that I thought Slayer's previous release, 2009's World Painted Blood, was an utter abortion. It's also no secret that in response to my scathing 2/5-score review, I received death threats for a solid eight months after the article was published - well, all of you die-hard Slayer fans/psychotic wankers can deactivate your caps lock keys and put the pitchforks down, because get this: Repentless isn't only better than Butthole Painted Brown in nearly every way, but it's... *deep breath* actually quite good.

No, I'm deadly serious. Stop fucking laughing!

It's no Seasons in the Abyss Pt.II by any stretch - and why would you want it to be? - but Repentless, despite its ridiculous title, is a genuinely decent record that's improved upon nearly every one of its predecessors shortcomings. It doesn't open with a six minute borefest, it doesn't have a painfully dry production job, and it manages to keep itself (relatively) interesting throughout - and the fucking ANGER is back! Windowsill Painted Teal had an uneasy air of 'going through the motions' about it; Slayer simply churning out another album because the bank balance was running a little low and their label wouldn't stop hounding them about it, but here, the band sounds vibrant and energetic again. Vices and Chasing Death in particular, while not Angel of Death levels of speedy, are well crafted and heavy enough to satisfy fans of Slayer's downtuned elements, and the title track offers enough thrash to give the nerdiest of denim-wearing lunatics a concussion. There's even a re-recording of Atrocity Vendor, a track from the WPB sessions that only got released as a 7" b-side, and alongside the 'final' version of the previously-released Implode, it's a drastic improvement over the lackluster original that raises the good question over why the first drafts were ever released in the first place. Yeah, demos are nice, but not when they sound like shit.

But this being Slayer, it can't all be good... and Repentless does have its fair share of flaws. The elephant in the room here being the unfortunate absence of longtime guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away two years ago and had little opportunity to fully contribute to the record. The record does boast a couple of Jeff-penned songs, but with Exodus axeman Gary Holt stepping into his shoes, there's an undeniable shift towards a more 'thrash' sound on Repentless. "Dingram, you hexagonal chronic masturbator, Slayer ARE a thrash band" I hear you say. Yes, yes they are, but they still had their own sound - you could listen to a song, even minus the vocals, and immediately tell that it's Slayer by the nature of the songs composition. That's still the case with a few tracks here, but others just feel like textbook thrash metal as opposed to SLAYER brand thrash, and there's something offputting about that - is it because of Holt replacing Hanneman? I don't know. But it's a very noticable difference. Holt does a splendid job here, but it's... off. On top of this, some tracks are just straight up terrible, the biggest offender being the excruciatingly bland and predictable When the Stillness Comes; a standard-setting example on how to try and do a slow, atmospheric track and fuck it up in every possible way. The preceeding Cast the First Stone isn't quite as unbearable, but it feels like an inferior attempt at other tracks on the album, and... well... it's Slayer. Had these two tracks been knocked off and kept as b-sides or bonus tracks, Repentless would feel a lot tighter than it is.

So excess flab and some chin-scratching decisions aside... yeah, Repentless is pretty good. It's far from great, and it's still not quite managed to live up to the hype that Slayer's name and reputation is known for, but it's a band taking a few large steps in the right direction in the face of tragic circumstances. It'd be rather unfair to jump to the assumption that the record would have been better if Jeff were still with us, and I'd say it's a moot point right now as this is quite the splendid salute to the man.

You heard it here, folks: Dingram thinks that the new Slayer album is alright.

1. Delusions Of Saviour
2. Repentless
3. Take Control
4. Vices
5. Cast The First Stone
6. When The Stillness Comes
7. Chasing Death
8. Implode
9. Piano Wire
10. Atrocity Vendor
11. You Against You
12. Pride In Prejudice

Reviewer: Dave Ingram Jr.
Sep 6, 2015
Next review: Disloyal - Godless

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