Much has changed since Slayer released “World Painted Blood” in 2009. The unfortunate passing of Jeff Hanneman has brought in Gary Holt (Exodus) on guitars, and Paul Bostaph has returned on drums. This means that Slayer is largely the Kerry King show featuring Tom Araya on vocals, but I have no issue with that. King has been the driving force of the band for the last two decades, and though I’d prefer to see some tracks written by Holt, "Repentless" is the album that will show whether or not King can truly write an entire album.
The record begins with “Delusions of Saviour”, which is an ominous intro that builds a ton of atmosphere before the unrelenting title track. This dark aura is something Slayer should have done long ago, and gets things off to a good start. “Repentless” is the most stereotypical Slayer track on this record. It’s fast, heavy, has tons of tremolo picking, and features a surprisingly impressive vocal performance from Tom Araya (who sounds much more energetic on this record than he does live). This song displays the biggest flaw with the album: the lyrics are bad. It’s a common theme on many tracks (and really, most songs written by Kerry King in recent years), but if you can ignore the lyrics on this album, you’ll enjoy it much more.
The thrashing continues with “Take Control”, another song driven by tremolo picking (though these riffs are quite a bit higher-pitched than those in “Repentless”). Despite getting off to a fast start, most of this album doesn’t quite move at warp speed. Many tracks are mid-paced, and feature plenty of chugging. This sounds like it would be a bad thing, and while it does accent the fact that Slayer needs to move to playing in E flat tuning rather than their current one, the chugging is incredibly heavy and conducive to headbanging. Sometimes these riffs are more straight forward, like the one that opens “Piano Wire”, while at other times, they show some homage to old-school Slayer with their choice of notes (“Vices“ has one great example before and after the guitar solos).
The performances of the two newcomers are relatively strong. Gary Holt doesn’t actually have too many opportunities to shred, but he takes advantage of the ones he is given, occasionally using his wah-pedal. Bostaph’s playing is obviously featured much more prominently and fits the music well. He can’t match Dave Lombardo when it comes to double bass, but he’s a monster with his fills and uses them often enough to keep things interesting.
In terms of highlights, “Repentless” has many. “Cast The First Stone” is a song that is not particularly fast, but has a very catchy chorus where Bostaph’s drumming takes over. “Implode” starts off quite middling, but eventually picks up the pace and ends up being one of the more brutal tracks on the record. The 1-2 punch of “Atrocity Vendor” and “You Against You” provides the final jolt of adrenaline, as both of these songs are classic old-school sounding Slayer.
Unlike many listeners of modern Slayer, I don’t have many complaints about this record. A major one would be that “When The Stillness Comes” is very underdeveloped; it spends about 3 minutes being relatively slow before busting out one of the most incredible riffs on the record at the end, and then it just abruptly stops. If the song were lengthened a couple of minutes, it would have a much greater impact. Aside from that, the lack of speed on this record may bother some, but Slayer has actually written some interesting songs that can carry the record despite absence of speed. All things considered, “Repentless” turned out a lot better than it could have, and the possibility of Holt contributing to Slayer’s next album means that the best for modern Slayer may be yet to come!
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"Cast The First Stone"
4.3/5 or 86%.
Written by Scott