Well, here we are. The review of the new Slayer album. As we all know, Slayer were one of the 'Big Four' of 80's thrash and - IMO - the heaviest of the four. Mind, it does seem that the only band to fare well out of that whole scene were Metallica who, of course, went on to conquer the universe despite releasing albums that constantly seemed to divide their fan-base. Anthrax were next, fairly consistent, releasing solid, competent albums until they became a media circus due the lead vocalist position becoming more like the hokey-cokey. This left our heroes in Slayer in third place due to their post-classic output being extremely inconsistent quality-wise. 'Divine Intervention' was quality, 'Diabolous In Musica' was not. 'God Hates Us All' was quality, 'World Painted Blood' was not. 'Christ Illusion' and the covers album 'Undisputed Attitude' were entertaining but not really essential. Megadeth just went to shit and didn't know if they wanted to be thrash or radio-friendly. Or radio-friendly thrash.
After my review of 'World Painted Blood' (linked here), I didn't think I'd do another Slayer album. In retrospect, maybe I was a bit harsh on that album as you cannot expect a bunch of men who are now older and wiser - and more well off - to retain the aggression of youth. But then again, Napalm Death are round about the same age and have been going (in one form or another) for the same amount of time yet still sound as pissed off as ever. It takes all sorts, I guess.
'Repentless' (Shit title, it's not even a proper word! Closest thing to it would be 'Unrepentant') is the eleventh studio album by Slayer and as we all know, the first without longtime guitarist Jeff Hanneman who sadly passed away in 2013 due to cirrhosis of the liver. In his place is Exodus (Now there is a band who should've achieved great things but could never get their act together long enough to do so) Gary Holt. He's great in the day-job, which lead him to filling in for Jeff during live performances while he recovered from a spider-bite which screwed his arm up. On drums we have the returning Paul Bostaph who makes his first Slayer appearance since 2001 album 'God Hates Us All'. He's a good drummer so we're in good company. The ingredients are there for an album that should be at least decent enough. In fact, this year has seen both Fear Factory and Cradle Of Filth release albums that can truly be described as a return to form - but also Bon Jovi and Soulfly release albums that are basically the final nail in the coffin. Which is 'Repentless' to be? As Bill Cosby would say in 'Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids' - stick around, you might learn something...
1) Delusions Of Saviour. Gentle opening that leads to a thumping rhythm. At least it isn't keyboard wankery as that boat has long sailed.
2) Repentless - And we're off! Typical Slayer fare, if I'm honest. A classic opener in the style of the likes of 'War Ensemble' and 'Angel Of Death', it flies at you with unrepentant savagery. Maybe it's early days but I cannot tell if Gary Holt has brought anything new to the table. The playing is competent, however.
3) Take Control - Again, more Slayer thrash. Pretty much the same as the previous track, it's Slayer doing what they do best. Abandon all hopes of experimentation! Mind, it is good to hear this sort of thing again.
4) Vices - A ballad. Fuck off...rolling over you like the Condor Legion over Guernica, It sounds fuckin' great! Sounds like it could have been something from 'God Hates Us All' as it has a similar vibe in that it's not all-out thrash but not as slow as, say, 'South Of Heaven'.
5) Cast The First Stone - Starting off as slow as 'South Of Heaven', it has an atmospheric build-up before turning off into a bit of mid-paced brutality. Quite the rumble behind this one. Very good.
6) When The Stillness Comes - Clean intro to build up a bit of atmosphere. Then slipping into something that sounds quite similar to the opening to 'Jesus Saves' before going a bit slow and sinister. Tom Arya sounds like a demented person during this one, almost like one of those fuckers who hangs out at Grey's Monument in Newcastle and predicts the end of the world to the passers by. Things start coming to a head round about the three minute fifty mark as it speeds up to a fast end. So far, it's the most varied song on here.
7) Chasing Death - Apparently about alcoholism, it's another one of those rumble songs that Slayer have got a few of on here."No easy way out!" It's not too bad and - like the other songs thus far - has some competent musicianship.
8) Implode - We're in a mid-paced vibe again which has a slight sound of modern-day Exodus to it before it kicks into Slayer thrash. Looks like Gary has earned that paycheck after all. Tom Arya hollers like a bison with it's nuts on fire during the chorus. "I'm pretty sure that God still hates us all". Heh. Something about 'extermination of mankind' at the end. If they make a start in Essex, I'll be happy.
9) Piano Wire - Composed from music written by Jeff Hanneman - and you can tell. Not that this is a bad thing as - and I'm not an ambulance chaser by any means - I feel he was the best guitarist in Slayer. Kerry King is great too but his stuff, whilst technically proficient, isn't as short, sharp or as direct as Jeff's. This song is about as close as we will get to the classic Slayer sound, although that's probably over-egging the pudding a bit.
10) Atrocity Vendor - A song about torture, this is another example of Slayer-by-numbers. It's alright, nothing overtly spectacular though.
11) You Against You - Erm...more Slayer thrash. Sorry about this, boys and girls but there really isn't much else to say about this song other than it's a competent slice of thrash. Some good solos though.
12) Pride In Prejudice - Is that Mr D'Arcy stage-diving while Jane Austen gets the beers in? I doubt it but it's a good song to close the album with.
And that's that. Despite the fact we've got the old drummer back on board and quite a few riffs which sound familiar and hark back to various points in the past, the general vibe is that this is pretty much a transitional record, given the changes in personnel. If this is an example of what Slayer are going to release constantly until they decide to call it a day, then that's up to them, but I wouldn't entirely be on board with that idea. It's not a bad record, it's just that it's everything you'd expect from a Slayer record - just a slightly average one. One thing I would like for the next album is to have a lot more contributions from Gary Holt, especially seeing as the last Exodus album was fucking storming! It may also be worth trying to convince Tom Arya that this is indeed a worthy cause as I did get the feeling that on occasion, he sounded bored, like his heart wasn't in it. Maybe it's because of this being the first album without Jeff, I dunno. Still, it's miles better than it's predecessor so at least they've cleared that hump!
7/10 - This is good and well worth a check.
Top Track: Piano Wire.
This album is available on iTunes.
Tom Arya now looks a bit like Killer Bob from 'Twin Peaks'. I WILL KILL AGAIN!!!