“Repentless” is the 12th studio album from thrash metal pioneers Slayer, but most significantly their first album since the death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman who penned most of the band’s most famous songs over the years. With the brunt of the songwriting falling on guitarist Kerry King (who wrote the entire album apart from one leftover track from Hanneman and a co-write with bassist/vocalist Tom Araya), and Exodus axe-slinger Gary Holt filling in on guitar, fans were left wondering if the band could sustain its creative output. The album also sees the return of Paul Bostaph on drums following the departure of Dave Lombardo.
Slayer isn’t a band to experiment (despite their one album flirt with nu metal), and “Repentless” delivers exactly what you’d expect from a Slayer album: relentless riffs (fast and slow), angry vocals and lyrics that hold a mirror to the darkest corners of human existence. Which is to say that “Repentless” sounds like Slayer. And that’s a good thing.
The album is setup with a short instrumental track “Delusions of Saviour” (which King says will open their show) and then straight into the title track, a classic Slayer anthemic song that is the highlight of the album. “I wrote it from my perspective about how Jeff looked at the world,” says King. “And there’s some very Jeff lines in that song – I hate the life, hate the fame, hate the fuckin’ scene! – He’d love that. He didn’t want to be famous. Being Jeff was a derogatory part of playing guitar! That’s exactly who Jeff was.”
“Take Control” has some killer guitar riffs and angry, political lyrics that Araya spits out with rage. After such a great start, the album doesn’t really sustain the level of quality over the next few songs, but at least they’re never boring or bad. “Chasing Death”, inspired by Hennman’s alcohol problems, brings things back on track. The lyrics and music for “Piano Wire” are undoubtedly Jeff Henneman’s, with a heavy headbanging riff that’s classic Slayer and lyrics stemming from his obsession with World War II. The album closes brilliantly on “Pride in Prejudice”, probably the heaviest track on the album.
As a casual Slayer fan, I was pleased with this album. Die hard fans might find more to criticize than I did, but to me “Repentless”is a great Slayer album. Can’t wait for the tour.
Jean Frederic Vachon runs the music blog Diary of a Music Addict.