Legacy bands such as Slayer or Metallica continue to release new music when all their fans only want them to continue playing the classics when they see them live. So, why bother writing about a new album? Well, because there is still the possibility that these same bands surprise us by releasing a good album, or at least some solid tunes. As far as relevancy goes, it’s pretty much out of the question, but no matter what Slayer does or releases, they will remain one of the most influential act in metal because of the way they pushed the boundaries of what was considered extreme in music when they released Reign in blood.
Every album that comes after will always be compared to it because it changed the musical landscape of its time. Reign in blood sounded like a group of demons fighting each other. It was extreme for metal fans’ ears and for their parent’s ear. A perfect combination made to please, but also to stand the test of time. Therefore, no matter how good the songs on Repentless are, they won’t push the boundaries in the same way.
No matter how good the songs on Repentless are, they won’t push the boundaries in the same way
And good tunes, this album has some. Vices stand out very easily thanks it’s chorus of « Let’s get high ». After all, the members of Slayer, and Gary Holt of Exodus, know everything about drug abuse from their early days as dangerous alcoholic, (Tom Araya not remembering being set on fire at a party is a perfect example of how far they were gone) and adventurous druggies (see the chapters about Thrash in The definitive oral history of Metal). Last song Pride in prejudice is also a very well thought out thrash tune and should become a crowd favorite in their catalog. With it’s song title alone, it’s also, sadly, one of the most relevant song on the album (from Trump to every day racim, homophobia or sexism). However, what also stands out about these songs is how slow they are.
Paul Bostaph (Testament) return after the exit of Dave Lombardo should have warned everyone that the album would not be as fast as what Slayer could be, even as late in their carrier as now. Listening to Repentless, it’s hard not to think of how the album would have sounded with Lombardo’s more frantic style but considering his interest in more progressive song structure in his own band, Philm, it’s also quite possible that his performance would have been very different than what fans except from him in Slayer. Bostaph is a competent drummer and his style fits well with Holt and King’s riffs but it’s just very standard and lacks personality.
Part of the appeal of Slayer in their early days was the conflict between every instrument, each musician trying to be more extreme than the other, hence the impression of demons fighting each other. On Repentless everything stands in it’s place. The vocal lines are catchy enough, the riffs sound exactly like those you could expect from Slayer, the drumming fits the stylistic mold of a more mid tempo thrash album, making Repentless an ok album.
Slayer has changed the world but now they cannot compare with who they were as musicians
Ultimately, Repentless is not a bad album. It’s a Slayer album with enough good songs and no terrible ones. The biggest negative comment to make is that the length of most of the songs could be diminished to have less repetition. Nonetheless, for an album clocking at 41 minutes, it is still entertaining enough. Slayer has changed the world but now they cannot compare with who they were as musicians. Their album is still competent enough to spark the interest of fans and to act as stop gag between other classics during their show, but this one will not join the pantheon of metal release. A good album, a Slayer album, just not a great album.