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  SLAYER
'Repentless'
(Nuclear Blast)
Out Now


Johnny Main

johnny main



slayer

American thrash Metal titans Slayer have been around since 1981 when they were formed in Huntington Park, California by Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. Since then, the band have released eleven studio albums.

Hanneman and King maintained the core of the band along with bass player and front man Tom Araya for thirty years whilst various other more fluid members have occupied the drum stool. The band are known as one of the "Big Four" of Thrash Metal along with Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth and became well known for their aggressive and unrelenting style of music that has continued throughout their career.

'Repentless' is album number twelve, and it sees ex-drummer Paul Bostaph return the drum stool for his third stint with the band (Bostaph first occupied the drum stool when original sticksman, Dave Lombardo, left in 1992) however, the biggest change in the studio during the recording of the album, was the absence of Hanneman.

It's been well documented that Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis (a rare infection of the deeper layers of skin and tissue) in early 2011. The illness excluded Hanneman from all Slayer activities from that point (bar a brief appearance onstage with the band in April 2011), and his position on stage has since been filled by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt. Hanneman's death from liver failure in May 2013 was completely unexpected but Slayer continued as a live act, primarily to complete the already booked tour dates, with Holt continuing as stand in guitarist.

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The question of whether the band would, or indeed should, continue to record without one of its most prolific songwriters was discussed time and again by fans and the press with no real answers forthcoming from the band. With two (original) members gone, could they still call themselves Slayer, should they disband or should they continue under another name?

People wanted to know, but the band always remained guarded over their future. In 2014 the answer came that the band would continue as Slayer with Holt and Bostaph in the line up when they unveiled the track 'Implode' at an award ceremony in the US (with the studio version being made available as a free download a day later) and this was followed by 'When The Stillness Comes' in October 2014 with the promise of a new album in 2015.

The end product, 'Repentless', is a highly anticipated album but the band are at pains to point out that Holt (and indeed Bostaph) had no part in the writing process. Holt was brought in to play some of the guitar solos on this album, at the request of King, so he's not been totally been excluded from the albums recording, but this is very much a King/Araya affair and closes the book on one chapter of the band. Hanneman's final contribution to the band is the track track 'Piano Wire, on which he doesn't actually appear but as one chapter closes, another opens with their first album on their new record label (Nuclear Blast to whom they signed a deal with in April 2014) whilst Holt continues to cement his place in the line up.

slayer

So, how does the album fare compared to the bands previous releases? I guess "well" is the easiest way to describe it, to be honest. Don't get me wrong, this isn't any 'Diabolus In Musica' (arguably a technically low point in the band's career) but then again, it's no 'Reign In Blood' (the bands 1986 masterpiece) either, but that was never really going to be the case, was it.

The thing about 'Repentless' is that it's very much a King affair, with him writing almost every track alone and the ghost (for use of a better phrase) of Hanneman seems to haunt the release. 'Chasing Death' deals with alcoholism, which could be a direct comment on Hanneman's death of which the band rarely speak, whilst 'Piano Wire' was Hanneman's last contribution to the band and their legacy sits uneasily without (arguably), it's main writer there to add his input during the recording process.

For those who already have the official 'Implode' and 'When The Stillness Comes' releases from last year, these two tracks have both been re-recorded for the album, and they are much better for it. Holt has worked hard with the band learning the lead guitar parts for their live shows and his soloing style brings something fresh to both tracks, and both tracks sound fresher than their previous incarnations.

'Delusions Of Saviour' kicks the album off with a chunky guitar riff and Bostaph's drums building up but it's really nothing more than as a glorified intro building up the tension before 'Repentless' itself. The title track is classic Slayer from the relentless beat set by Bostaph to the fast and short lyrics spat out with menace by Araya. King takes the first solo in relaxed fashion compared to Holts solo later on, but both are well executed.

'Atrocity Vendor', a co-write with Araya, sets a cracking pace at the beginning but your thirty seconds in before the track really kicks into gear. It's a great song that's let down by a less than stellar drum sound (something which is a recurring issue on the whole album), and the guitars in the mid-section are substantially louder than anything else in the track and end up almost drowning everything else out. Having said that, the guitar solos from King and Holt are amongst the best on the album.

'You Against You' is a more mid-paced number (still a fast number for some bands though) and Bostaph gives it his all with a heavy metronomic beat. You're barely a minute into the track before King delivers his guitar solo, which can only be described as "short but technical". Araya gives a full on trademark vocal performance here, and the track quickly supplanted itself as one of my favourites. It's a real high point for me and it shows that Slayer are still capable of playing the relentless and heavy music they are famed for.

Slayer have never compromised with their music, lyrics or indeed lifestyle and they're a bit long in the tooth to start now, so this album is all you can expect it to be – fast, heavy and very, very enjoyable.

Oh, and if you're going to pick up a physical copy of 'Repentless', do yourself a favour and buy the CD/DVD version that adds on a forty five minute documentary on the making of the album as well as the bands full live performance from Wacken Open Air 2014 – it's a bonus that you absolutely do not want to miss out on. Look out too for the bands six date UK tour in November along with Nuclear Blast label mates, Anthrax.

You can see the official video for the title track here:



You can see Slayer (supported by Anthrax and Kvelertak) live here:
Saturday 21st November – Newport Centre, Newport
Sunday 22nd November – Plymouth Pavilions, Plymouth
Tuesday 24th November – O2 Apollo, Manchester
Wednesday 25th November – O2 Academy, Glasgow
Friday 27th November – O2 Academy, Birmingham
Saturday 28th November – O2 Academy, Leeds
Monday 30th November – O2 Academy, London

'Repentless' Tracklist:
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

Slayer are:
Tom Araya – Vocals/Bass Guitar
Kerry King – Guitars
Gary Holt – Guitars
Paul Bostaph – Drums


For the album

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For the DVD – would have been five if 'Chemical Warfare' had been included...

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14.9.2015










 


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