Sunday, 20 September 2015

Slayer - 'Repentless' (Album Review)

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 11/09/2015
Label:  Nuclear Blast


Overall, I would be confident in hailing this the best Slayer album for some time. It is certainly better than “World Painted Blood” and, for all its fury, “Christ Illusion” had no real staying power for me. It is not perfect by any means, and is perhaps a couple of tracks too long, but all in all, this is SLAYER. No sell out, no compromise, no change. Business, in fact, as usual.


‘Repentless’  CD//DD//LP track listing

01. Delusions Of Saviour
02. Repentless
03. Take Control
04. Vices
05. Cast The First Stone
06. When The Stillness Comes
07. Chasing Death
08. Implode
09. Piano Wire
10. Atrocity Vendor
11. You Against You
12. Pride In Prejudice

Slayer is:

Tom Araya | Vocals, bass
Kerry King | Guitars
Gary Holt | Guitars
Paul Bostaph | Drums

The Review:

Well, it is not every week that one of the classic metal bands releases a new album... except in the last month, as Motorhead, Iron Maiden and now Slayer put out their latest efforts. So far, the Motorhead album showed itself to be an immediate rip roaring success and a worthy addition to their catalogue. Meanwhile, Maiden are back on form and have put out their best in decades. Now, it is over to Slayer to show the new generation of hi-topped, patch jacketed long hairs how it is done.

Slayer, most would agree that they are the definitive thrash band. With the exception of the dull “Diabolous in Musica” and the pointless (Repointless?!) “Undisputed Attitude” they have stuck to their thrash guns and churned out albums relatively regularly over the last couple of decades since their true glory years. Truthfully, I have not been really interested in hearing a new Slayer record since 1994's “Divine Intervention”, but I cautiously enjoyed “God Hates us All” and “Christ Illusion”. A one trick pony the band may be, but it remains a damn good trick. Live, they are still a sight to behold, even if their more recent records seem to be somewhat formulaic to my ears. For me, their best album is not “Reign in Blood” but “Seasons in the Abyss”- it had the songs, the variety, the production and the atmosphere. To be fair, I am hugely fond of “South of Heaven,” “Reign in Blood” and I like “Hell Awaits” and “Show No Mercy” a lot too (even if the production is awful on both).

The question is, without Jeff Hanneman (IMO the heart and soul of the band) and without the trailblazing Dave Lombardo, can the band still cut it?! The addition of Gary Holt increased my expectations but then they were reduced when I learned that he would contribute a solo here and there but no writing. A shame, that, as Holt's recent writing with Exodus is the best of his career and I think he runs rings around King as a riff writer and shredder, but there we are. The addition of Paul Bostaph as a replacement for Lombardo was a fine choice- he acquitted himself well on “Divine Intervention” and his playing on, for example, the “War at The Warfield” video (VHS when I saw it!) was monstrous, as it was when I saw him with Testament a few years ago. Without Hanneman, I really was concerned that the songs just would not cut it and that the resulting album could be formulaic at best and at worst.... boring.

First things first, I liked this album when I first heard it. It is immediately, definitively and recognisably Slayer from the opening instrumental of ‘Delusions of Saviour’ and straight into the title track. I knew what to expect. It is thrash metal. It is Slayer. It is Slayer without Lombardo and Hanneman though- gone are the really creepy atmospherics and the crazed tempos of the two missing members. I have heard whispers of criticism of Bostaph's performance on this album. Make no mistake, Bostaph is a fine drummer, a human metronome and capable of playing ordered thrash. However... he is not Lombardo. He does not have Lombardo's feel or sense of urgency- that is not a criticism per se; he just plays more “solid” and less “frantic”. His performance on this record does just fine- much better than all the keyboard warriors out there who have not played on any classic metal albums and just geek out in their garage about double pedal technique. That said, if Bostaph has lost none of his precision he may have lost some of his speed. Read on...

Holt's presence is kind of negligible. It is a shame, as he really could contribute, but so be it. We all know that Slayer is now Araya and King. Simple. The title track is a fine slab of latter day Slayer- catchy and fast with Araya on fine form. ‘Take Control’ is similarly thrashy if less memorable. ‘Vices’ is more memorable and goes back to the well of Slayer lyrics, to find it not yet dried up completely (violence is the ultimate drug; let's get high!).

‘Cast The First Stone’ is badass- lovely sinister intro and then chugging riffs to compliment it. Some fairly speedy double bass drumming from Bostaph comes in (I can't help but think that it should have been a little quicker...but also thinking that it perhaps could not have been any quicker). A fine track, though.  Next up is the first heard ‘When The Stillness Comes’, which I think is pretty good. It is no ‘Dead Skin Mask’, but it is Slayer doing a serial killer song (always welcome) and has the right pacing and atmosphere in my view. I don't really know why it was roundly criticised when first previewed, as to my ears it is a cool track with a great pick up section towards the end.

‘Chasing Death’ is latter day Slayer and thus unremarkable- it would fit right onto the second side of “Divine Intervention” just fine (which is a great album!)- but that it not necessarily a criticism. Remember, Slayer are one of the best metal bands of all time, so even their “unremarkable” is better than most bands on their best day. ‘Implode’ is more (less?) of the same- chugging riffs and moody Araya vocal combine to lead up to the first thrash section at the one minute mark. Things quite literally pick up from there as the tempo shifts and the familiar storming riffs take over. ‘Piano Wire’ for me is a bit of a stand out- I like the snare sound a lot here- as while it is “slow Slayer” it is done very well and allows the riffs to breathe.

‘Atrocity Vendor’ is a fast and furious track (lyrics are a little uninspired here) before ‘You Against You’ delivers something a little different rhythmically and riff-wise and makes for an excellent late album track. ‘Pride in Prejudice’ (which may sum up King's general attitude to life, sadly) is a slow burner to finish off the album. Overall, I would be confident in hailing this the best Slayer album for some time. It is certainly better than “World Painted Blood” and, for all its fury, “Christ Illusion” had no real staying power for me. It is not perfect by any means, and is perhaps a couple of tracks too long, but all in all, this is SLAYER. No sell out, no compromise, no change. Business, in fact, as usual.

‘Repentless’ is available everywhere now


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