Repentless is Slayer’s eleventh studio album but also their first album without guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died of liver failure in 2013. The big question prior to the release of this album was: will Slayer still be able to deliver without their prime riffmeister? Just think about it, all your favourite Slayer tracks were written by the late guitarist: Raining Blood, South Of Heaven, War Ensemble, Dead Skin Mask, Seasons in the Abyss, Disciple – all Hanneman. Will a Slayer album still be worthwhile without his creative input? It turns out the answer to this question is a resounding Hell Yeah! Repentless sounds surprisingly good, and as an album as a whole it is also more consistent than anything the band has put out in a long time.
If bassist & vocalist Tom Araya and remaining guitarist Kerry King wanted to do their best to deliver a worthy tribute to their fallen comrade, then they gloriously succeeded; Slayer still sounds as aggressive, angry, and intense as ever. This may partially be due to the energy that newcomer Gary Holt on guitar and returning drummer Paul Bostaph (who replaced Dave Lombardo for the second time in the band’s history?!) have brought to the group. Holt is turning out to be as good a replacement they possibly could have gotten for Hanneman, and how can you not love a guy who performs live in a Kill The Kardashians-shirt?
Perhaps credit for the album’s success should also go to producer Terry Date (best known for his work with Pantera), who may be responsible for the reinvigorated feel throughout the record. It’s as if Date made the band members sit down and listen to the band’s impressive back catalogue in order to rediscover what made the band so great in the first place. And although the result may sound very familiar at times, it mainly sounds energetic and inspired. After the instrumental intro Delusions Of Saviour the album kicks off with the terrific title track. The song sounds a lot like War Ensemble, but that’s nothing but a good thing. This track is classic Slayer straight away. Take Control follows suit with a groove reminiscent of Mandatory Suicide, while fourth track Vices initially starts off unimpressive but recovers halfway through with some grooving riffs and a few excellent solos.
Then we get to the chunkiest bit of the album with four tracks that have been featured in online previews already: Cast The First Stone, When The Stillness Comes, Chasing Death and Implode. Two of these songs are already being played live, and the other two will probably be added to the setlist soon. Cast The First Stone features a great solo by Holt and it may just be the first ever Slayer Guitar solo that stays complete within the right melodic scales and does not feature any of the weird dissonant chromatic notes that have become King’s trademark. When The Stillness Comes is a mid-tempo song with typical unpleasant Tom Araya-lyrics, that has already become a live favourite. The low grooving Implode is another track that has become a permanent part of the band’s setlist.
This impressive centrepiece of the album is followed by the track Piano Wire, composed by the late Hanneman. Ironically enough it is not one of the stronger tracks on the album. Just when you think we’d be getting into filler territory the band surprise with two more trademark tunes, Atrocity Vendor and You Against. Closer Pride in Prejudice is a bit underwhelming, but by this time most fans will have a sore neck from banging their heads to the tracks that came before.
All of The Big Four have been working on new albums in 2015, and with Repentless, Slayer are the first one out the gate. If they have set a benchmark for Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax to follow then, there’s a lot of greatness in store for metalfans right now!