Thrash metal legends Slayer are back with Repentless, their first album in six years. It’s the first since the untimely passing of founding member, Jeff Hanneman, in 2013. I must confess to being intrigued as to how it would sound. Throughout their career, the dueling guitar solos and Hanneman and counterpart Kerry King have become their signature as much as any other part of their sound.
I needn’t have worried. With Gary Holt of Exodus helping on guitar on five of the twelve tracks on view here, the Slayer sound remains very much undiluted. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say this is the band’s best work for some time. Straight from the off with ‘Delusions of Saviour’, a brooding instrumental setting the tone, the band are pulling no punches. Title track ‘Repentless’ is fast, heavy and with Paul Bostaph taking the drum stool for his third stint, must be the fittest man in metal.
Other than the instantly recognisable guitar solos – where Hanneman had the potential to be missed more than anywhere else – there is also the songwriting. As someone who wrote ‘Raining Blood’, ‘Angel of Death’, Dead Skin Mask’ and ‘South of Heaven’ among others, he was a vital cog in the band’s golden years through the 80’s and into the 90’s. On Replentless King has stepped up to the mark with more hits than misses. ‘Cast the First Stone’ and ‘When the Stillness Comes’ – which sounds almost like it could’ve come from Seasons in the Abyss – are excellent.
Harking back to bygone times is what this album does extremely well. I would say it’s the band’s most pure thrash album for a long time; the sound of King and frontman Tom Araya getting back to their roots. This is no bad thing at all. To top it all off, they save the best ’til last with ‘Pride and Prejudice’, an absolute beast of a tune.
Leaving aside the rather clunky album title, this album goes down as a very welcome return. It doesn’t have the instant stand-out tracks that past albums have and, yes, despite my earlier assertion that the sound remains undiluted, any long-term Slayer fan will always yearn for a Hanneman solo. Despite these misses this is an album absolutely worth your time and money.
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