Slayer are one of those bands who, some may say, follow the same dynamic with every album. Even lead guitarist Kerry King has pretty much declared that he agrees to that. Such has really only been the case for the last few albums. Up until and including Season In The Abyss Slayer seemed to change things up quite nicely (I’d love to get in to detail on that but it would take up so much room it may as well be its own article) while still making thrash metal the way thrash metal was supposed to be made. Since then they’ve had some moments where they changed things up, like the punk cover album Undisputed Attitude or the so called “nu metal” album Diabolus In Musica, and album I enjoy than most, including members of the band. So needless to say this same dynamic has been followed on their most recent release Repentless, but just how much was it followed?
When people think of Slayer they tend to think of super fast thrashed out almost incoherent bashing, the “classic” thrash metal way you might say, but that is only one ingredient in what has made them one of the most recognizable acts in metal. Sure two of the first three tracks on Repentless follow this motto, the title track as well as Take Control, but after those two tracks you have an albums worth of fine thrash metal songs that don’t have to be ridiculously fast to be considered Slayer tracks.
Take one of my favourites off the album Vices for instance. The song is a slow burner but it’s as loud as ever, and Paul Bostaph‘s double bass drum playing makes it as true to a Slayer song as any other from Repentless. The same goes for Chasing Death. Implode is as close to classic Slayer that the band gets, blending in that slow doomy sound with the speed limit breaking playing of the title track. You Against You also transitions between the two sides of Slayer quite nicely while closing track Pride In Prejudice ends Repentless in an intense double bass drum onslaught of doom.
One thing that can’t possibly go unnoticed on Repentless are the tracks that Kerry King (who wrote all but one of the songs on the album) really put time and energy into. First of all there is the instrumental opening track Delusions of Saviour. I can’t immediately think of many Slayer instrumentals. I need verification but I think this is their first one, and if it is they made a pretty epic sounding one. Beyond that there are the tracks Cast The First Stone and When The Stillness Comes, both of which I think are two of the best thought out metal songs of Slayer’s entire catalogue. Both start off with instrumental intros, though the latter’s is longer, and both sound nothing like anything else on the album, though I must admit this is an exceptionally diverse album for a Slayer output. For a fast intense song, Atrocity Vendor is a well written track as well in that it has very distinctive changes and Tom Araya‘s vocals are easily remembered when he proclaims he’ll “beat you, break you, sever every part of you.”
Of course I have to pinpoint the lone Jeff Hanneman penned track Piano Wire that Slayer included on Repentless. Being the first Slayer album ever to not feature the late founding member, the band picked a pretty good track written by the axe-man to unearth. I wouldn’t put it against the well written tracks from Repentless. Actually it’s a pretty short track, but in its less than three minute time frame you can really hear the classic Slayer sound similar to the magic that Jeff has sprinkled on so many other Slayer greats.
Tom Araya said Repentless is pretty good for “half of Slayer.” I don’t know if the interviewer he was speaking with referred to the band as “half of Slayer” or if Tom felt he’d refer to the current incarnation of the lineup as such, but I don’t look at it that way. Sure one original member has passed and the other (Dave Lombardo) has problems so far beyond repair with the remaining band members that we’ll likely never see him behind a Slayer kit again, but Paul Bostaph has been on enough Slayer studio albums now (five when you include his first stint) to be considered a genuine member and he sure does a fine job of showing it while Gary Holt, who I’m still unsure whether or not he is now a fully fledged member of Slayer despite being a member for almost five years now, adds some superiority to the guitar playing on Repentless.
Regardless of who may consider this “half of Slayer” or just simply the current incarnation of Slayer, I can’t deny that Repentless is a fine album that shows Slayer can still make thrash metal best. They stay more true to it than most bands from the classic thrash metal era. Metallica keep trying but failing, Anthrax lost the credibility when they helped create rap metal, though Megadeth‘s upcoming release shows promise. Slayer also show the newcomers what thrash metal is. I keep hearing new bands who scream their lungs off and fill your speakers with bass drum kicks calling themselves thrash metal, but these bands really ought to listen to Repentess and get their acts straight.
Long gone are the days where Slayer could come up with a guitar riff and it would become a metal classic. Hell, Raining Blood has about three riffs in it alone that have gone down in history, but Repentless shows that they still make great metal. Repentless doesn’t go down as a Slayer classic of course, but when you finish ranking those classic albums, which most to all would consider to be Reign In Blood and all subsequent releases up to and including Seasons in the Abyss (and I’d personally include the bands first two albums as well) Repentless shouldn’t fall too far down the list.
Thanks for reading!
“Implode” – I thought it would be a tough choice to pick a highlight, but it actually came naturally. Implode‘s transition from slow doom metal to fast thrash metal shows both spectrums of Repentless perfectly. I’m unable to provide the album version of the song, but here is the earlier version of the song released by the band a little over a year ago which is really just mixed differently.
8 (Out of 10)
|1.||“Delusions of Saviour”||1:55|
|5.||“Cast the First Stone”||3:43|
|6.||“When the Stillness Comes”||4:21|
|11.||“You Against You”||4:21|
|12.||“Pride in Prejudice”||4:14|