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Better than the last 20-years, but who cares? - 40%

Pratl1971, October 29th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD + DVD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, Limited Edition)

After hearing the initial single "Repentless" I heard the obligatory "F-word" being yelled about and immediately figured that Slayer, once again, had forgone clear and intelligent lyrical thought in favor of the nu-metal Slipknot plasticity that has permeated the band's sound for the last 14-years since God Hates Us All. That said, as a fan since 1983 I figured I had to at least give the album a shot for posterity's sake.

After social media exploded with an incredible torrent of "Slayer's back!" posts I sat down and took in Repentless and honestly went in with an indelibly open mindset. Despite abandoning the sinking ship many years ago, the ghosts of my youth and the driving need to hang on to those apparitions compelled me to at least give it another go. What I hear is an aging group that sounds the "best" they've sounded since the aforementioned 2001 monstrosity, but whether that actually means anything is another story.

Okay, let's take this slowly. Does this album have "moments?" Sure, it has spotty aspects of older-school Slayer (the slippery-slope 1990 school era, that is) where your head invariably bobs to the incessant thumping of the now typical Slayer beat. You might also feel that rush when Tom Araya starts yelling during "Repentless" because his commanding scolding tone is one of Slayer's defining traits. All of these little familiarities aside, one of the elements that has destroyed Slayer for me in the past two decades is the seemingly biblical overuse of the coveted "F" word...like every sixth word. For me, that showcased a total lack of ideas and an even greater lack of respect for the audience. Yes, I fully understand we metal fans are purported to be a segmented, aggressive lot that can appreciate such volatile words to serve as verbal exclamation points in even casual conversation. However, I choose to believe that the greater populous of our movement is intelligent folks looking for some real mental entanglements to keep the interest fresh and the cerebral copulation memorable. Slayer lets the overt aggression dictate the blueprint, and that made for some very basic and formulaic music. This album is happily devoid of such expletive-laced plasticity, but it does suffer from some very watered-down lyrics. During "Vices" I'm treated to Araya imploring me to get high off the ultimate drug (violence), and for a brief moment I thought my eyes would actually flip Vegas odds with all of the freewheel rolling they did. Still and all, it's better than that horrid 2001 album where I thought Slipknot might have commandeered the studio for a few days, but I digress.

Much of this album simply fails to interest me enough to call anything on here a classic; those days are long gone after 1986's "Reign in Blood," the long-revered staple for the band. Let's face it: Slayer is older, yes, and their fan base is almost stupidly loyal to a fault, but when ideas run stale, they're simply past accepted expiration. This album is not horrible by any means, and it's a definitive 'step up' considering that I feel the last 14-years to be a severely unfunny joke, but there's a definite air of spoiled milk in the room. I think the music, punchy in areas, albeit mundane, simply falls short in the natural aggression area, saying nothing for the aforementioned trite lyrical prowess that is years past any prime. I can fondly recall being a tremulous wreck awaiting a new Slayer album; now I'm merely an old fart that, according to the social media milieu, simply doesn't get it or is simply "being a hater." I didn't know a lifelong dedication to this band ending with a sincere disappointment in their obvious lack of concerted effort qualified me as something horribly opaque as a "hater," but that's neither here nor there.

Some of the bright spots herein are "Repentless," "Atrocity Vendor," "You Against You" and "Pride in Prejudice" simply due to their closest possible relation to any semblance of old Slayer. I was convinced that sound was long gone along with Metallica's roots and Megadeth's godless edge, and by and large it is, but there were, as I said, moments of stubborn nostalgia. Sadly, those trips down crumbled walkways of memory lane are too lurid and wayward to impose on the recesses of my brain and heart for very long. I consider this a long-lost friend still criminally missing. Forget the fact that drummer Dave Lombardo is now persona non grata and founding guitarist Jeff Hannemann is, in Kerry King's eloquent words, "worm food." The truth is, they were slipping long before these two men left for other pastures, and truths so hard and fast are tough to deny. They're even tougher to flee.

As I said, what we have here is an older band holding on to an apologetic fanbase too stubborn or blinded by mock dedication to call out mediocrity where it defiantly sits, currently raking in the Nuclear Blast bucks with lots of pretty colored vinyl on the way and a nifty metal box set shaped like an eagle that will set you back nearly $200USD. Often uninspired and overly forced in spots, Repentless is an unassuming dribble down the chin and into the bib of old age as opposed to the mid-80's loogie-splattering phlegm expectorated into the shocked faces of the established order. It's easily wiped away into the abyss of a soiled tissue. This is the tragedy of getting old; we all do it and some of us know when to give up the ghosts of our youth.

I grow fatigued hearing the same rallying cries from uninformed newbies and dedicated band logo fans of how Slayer is "...at least better than Megadeth and Metallica." When you have three piles of excrement at your feet, one a month old, one a week old, and the last freshly expelled, you can turn blue in the face fighting for the bragging rights as to which pile smells the least offensive - shit is still shit, despite rare spots of fragrant familiarity in a strong wind.

(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)