Any new album by the likes of Slayer is going to carry with it an understandable weight of expectation. With ‘Repentless’, it is inevitably going to be even more so. Not only is it the band’s first album in six long years but it is also the first since the death of Jeff Hanneman – for many the cornerstone of the Slayer sound. Equally, therefore, that weight of expectation – quite understandably – was for that of disappointment. And, to be brutally honest, I was among those prepared to reject, almost out of hand, the first album of the post-Hanneman era.
Things did not bode well initially, either. The band’s limited edition single release for Record Store Day, ‘When The Stillness Comes’, was met with almost universal derision. WTF were they up to? It went nowhere… and, just when it seemed to do so, it ended… But, was it all a ploy? Because, slowly but surely, over the next weeks and months, more and more snippets started to surface.. but, still, opinion was divided. Talking to fellow diehard fans down the pub the week before ‘Repentless’ finally surfaced the general consensus of opinion seemed to be “yes, it’s Slayer, Jim, but not as we know them…” (sic).
‘Repentless’ is most definitely a Slayer album. Through and through. It’s not vintage Slayer – but, it does contain an anger and a fire which the band have been missing on their last few albums, and takes them back to the fire and ferocity of the likes of ‘Reign In Blood’ and ‘South Of Heaven’. Yes, the darkness and evil intent of Hanneman’s riffs are gone, and Holt’s more clipped style is perhaps a little too clean, but the late guitarist’s shadow nevertheless looms large – and there is a lot of respect to his memory in the retention of the basic Slayer sound. Yes, it would have been easy for Slayer to undertake a complete change of direction, in terms of the underlying feel and lustre of their trademark sound, following the circumstances of recent years – but, they have resisted that temptation and instead turned the clock both backwards and forwards to produce an album which both pays homage to where Slayer have come from and also looks forward to what the future may hold for them.
‘Repentless’ will divide opinion. As any oeuvre of music should. Hopefully, the discussions it provokes will be positive and constructive, as Slayer have sought to do with this thought-provoking discourse of their artform. As I said above, it’s not a vintage Slayer album. But, it’s sure as fuck as close as you’re going to get to one these days.
Delusions Of Saviour / Repentless / Take Control / Vices / Cast The First Stone / When The Stillness Comes / Chasing Death / Implode / Piano Wire / Atrocity Vendor / You Against You / Pride In Prejudice
Recommended listening: You Against You
‘Replentless’ is out now.
Slayer play the following dates in November:
Saturday 21 – Newport, Centre
Sunday 22 – Plymouth, Pavilions
Tuesday 24 – Manchester, O2 Apollo
Wednesday 25 – Glasgow, O2 Academy
Friday 27 – Birmingham, O2 Academy
Saturday 28 – Leeds O2 Academy
Monday 30 – London, Brixton O2 Academy
Support comes from Anthrax and Kvelertak.