I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Slayer - "Repentless"
Nuclear Blast Records, 2015
12 Tracks, Run Time: 41:58
Slayer's Repentless was released in 2015, but since I am perennially behind on such things, I didn't get around to adding it to my CD collection until late 2020 (better late than never, right?).
Honestly, after 1990's high water mark Seasons In The Abyss, the bulk of Slayer's catalog tends to fall into the "if you've heard one, you've heard 'em all" category for me, but Repentless turned out to be the final studio album from the thrash-metal pioneers, so I felt that it was worth a belated investigation.
Musically, Repentless was business as usual for these soldiers of Satan, but the album's creation involved numerous changes behind the scenes. Repentless was Slayer's first (and only) studio album for the Nuclear Blast Records label, ending their nearly 30 year association with Rick Rubin's Def American Records (later American Recordings). It was also their first (and only) studio album to feature Gary Holt of fellow thrashers Exodus on guitar. Holt originally came on board in 2011 as a temporary fill-in for founding Slayer axeman Jeff Hanneman, who was suffering from health issues, but Holt's place in the lineup became permanent when Hanneman passed away in 2013.
Repentless opens with the awesomely-titled, guitar squealing instrumental intro "Delusions of Saviour," whose sinister tone sets the proper mood for the blasting title track. The skin-peeling guitar work, Paul Bostaph's hyper-speed drum abuse, and Tom Araya's trademark rage-filled screams about anger, hate, fire, blood, and violence combine to create an aural maelstrom that is distinctly Slayer's own.
I wondered if the addition of Gary Holt might result in a slight tweak to the band's guitar sound, but apparently Kerry King recorded the bulk of Repentless' guitar work himself, with Holt only providing solos for each song (which he claims he banged out in a single day).
"Vices" contains one of the most quotable lyric on the album when Araya snarls, "A little violence is the ultimate drug -- LET'S GET HIIIIIIGH!" "Cast the First Stone" lets off on the gas pedal slightly in favor of a mid-paced groove that had me nodding along. "When the Stillness Comes" is a disturbing little ditty told from the viewpoint of a mass murderer ("The last thing you'll see is my eyes!"), and it grinds along at a pleasantly bruising tempo.
The punishment continues with the razor-sharp "Chasing Death" and "Implode," then the pace picks up again with the speed-metal blasts of "Atrocity Vendor," an ode to brutality in which Araya promises that he's "a motherfu**kin' equal opportunity offender," and the fangs-bared "You Against You." The middling slow-n-doomy closer "Pride in Prejudice" is the only downer on the album for me; it's not a bad song per se, but I would've preferred to see them cap the album off with a final blast of speed!
Overall, Repentless does its job. After thirty-plus years in the game, Slayer obviously knew what their fans wanted, and this album delivers. Producer Terry Date (who's worked with everyone from Pantera, Soundgarden, and Overkill to Sir Mix-A-Lot, Deftones, and Limp Bizkit) doesn't polish the songs up, he keeps things gritty and full of that dirty, homicidal Slayer vibe.
I don't think that the band knew going in that Repentless would be their final studio album (if memory serves, they came to that decision while they were out on tour). Maybe that's why Repentless doesn't feel like a "farewell" disc. It's simply another solid slab of old school murderous thrash metal that carries on the band's proud, blood-drenched tradition.
Or, to put it another way: it's "F**kin' SLAAAAAYYYYY-ERRRRRR, maaaan!"
"You Against You"
Repentless debuted at #4 on the U.S. Billboard Album Charts upon its release in September 2015 - Slayer's highest position ever. They supported the album with yet another marathon concert tour, which was later captured on the live DVD The Repentless Killogy. The Killogy DVD also featured three ultra-violent music videos for the tracks "Repentless," "You Against You," and "Pride in Prejudice," which combined to tell a narrative story about the events surrounding a brutal prison riot.
Slayer embarked on their "Final Campaign" farewell tour in May of 2018 and performed a total of 147 shows around the globe before the final show in November 2019 at the Forum in Los Angeles.
Slayer is the first of the so-called "Big Four" thrash metal bands to retire, and with Repentless as their final sonic testament, they can hold their heads high and say that they left the scene the same way they came in: fast, brutal, and totally uncompromising. Hail Slayer!
© 2020 Keith Abt
GwennyOh on December 23, 2020:
I haven't yet heard it, but it's now on my list. As I've aged I've sidestepped listening to many of the more modern hard rock groups, but still just love hard rock, generally speaking.