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Video killed the radio star - 76%

Felix 1666, October 7th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast

To introduce Slayer would be carrying coals to Newcastle. Let us therefore rush headfirst into "Repentless". It was a very questionable dissemination policy to release four single songs before the full-length was placed on the market. And, of course, the best tune (the title track) was released just eight weeks before the publication date of the album in order to herald a new masterpiece of Slayer. The industry seems to believe that we are all stupid children who do not know its thinking and the consequential mechanisms. Be that as it may, it comes as no surprise that the title track stands out. It represents exactly that kind of Slayer which I enjoy. The song is neither innovative nor surprising, but the band is in its element. The neckbreaking old school riffing is driven by the precisely whipping drums and Tom Araya's voice transmits this diabolic vibration which shaped so many classics of the band. "Repentless" goes its way straightforwardly, simply irresistibly and without suffering from modern influences. Give me this song and I give you the entire "World Painted Blood" album - this would be really a good deal (albeit only for me).

But Slayer quickly relapse. A lot of rather slow parts take their toll with the effect that Araya, King and their prominent sidekicks are not able to maintain the fury of the title track. I freely admit that their best album ("Hell Awaits") also did not lack of mid-tempo sections. Anyway, this was something completely different. Each and every song of their unparalleled second full-length had a distinctive character. The homicidal intro of the title track, the "Running and hunting and slashing" bridge of "Praise of Death" or the insane drum break of "Necrophiliac"- I guess you know what I mean. Yet who is able to distinguish "Vices" from "Cast the First Stone"? Probably nobody. But apart from the fact that I would be a little bit too late (roughly 25 years), I do not want to bash them for relativising the dogma of high velocity. The band is at liberty to shape its type of thrash the way it wants. It is just regrettable that the formerly divine formation does not show a higher degree of determination. Or to put it in martial terms, the band has lost its will to kill in the most efficient way. Apart from that, it is slightly embarrassing that they adopt a riff fragment from Destruction, just compare the beginning of "Atrocity Vendor" with that of "Death Trap" from "Infernal Overkill". I do not think that they had the intention to "cover" the Germans. It is just an ironic twist of fate that they share a riff with a band which was once heavily influenced by, of course, Slayer.

As expected, the production is flawless. The songs are put in the right light by a clean, powerful and sharp mix. Anything else than this crystal clear sound would have been a nasty surprise, because I doubt that they had to keep an eye on the money during the recordings. Thankfully, there exist more positive things than the title track and the production. Kerry King has written some very strong pieces that are worthy of bearing the bloodcurdling name Slayer. For example, "You Against You" marks a late highlight. It follows roughly the path of the title track, but it is a little bit more complex. "Take Control" also bows down to the concept of velocity while scoring with the flickering guitars during the verses. "Implode" connects a sinister beginning with a high speed continuation and its only minor flaw is caused by Araya's vocals. Whenever he screams the word "Implode", his voice sounds somewhat limited. And, by the way, Araya should shave off his ugly beard. He looks like his own grandpa.

I know that I am at risk to be blamed for my oversized nostalgia, but I want Slayer to be fast and furious. Thus, the major defect of the album is constituted by its aforementioned overdose of mid-tempo sections and songs. The running order of the tracks is also counterproductive in this context, because "Vices" starts a series of fairly lame songs. Admittedly, the band builds a more or less viable bridge to its approach of "South of Heaven" and does not appear as a toothless caricature of itself. Nevertheless, these tunes do not show the real essence of Slayer. The mediocre "When the Stillness Comes" marks the low point. It represents a kind of unsuccessful self-quotation, because it draws heavily on their own classics such as "Mandatory Suicide" or "Dead Skin Mask". Unfortunately, the here presented number is not able to create a comparably intense atmosphere. All that remains is a band that paralyses itself.

Approximately 30 years ago, an unknown pop combo sang a song called "Video Killed the Radio Star". In terms of Slayer, we have to notice that "Mid-tempo Killed the Thrash Metal Star". Despite some rays of hope, the band has ruined its apparently immovable status during the last 17 years (remember the incredibly trendy "Diabolus in Musica") and "Repentless" cannot turn back time. But it offers at least four great songs that have the potential to stand the test of time and to join the ranks of their sonic legends. This and the absence of complete flops lead me to the statement that "Repentless" is a good record, no more, no less. My only regret is that Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.) could not participate.