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A celebration of everything Slayer stand for. - 60%

bkuettel, January 22nd, 2016

Without question, Jeff Hanneman was a force to be reckoned with within Slayer, writing a fair amount of their best and most popular material. Overall, his contributions helped propel the band to their legendary status within an entire sub-genre, as well as releasing a streak of game-changing metal albums that are among the best the genre has to offer. Slayer faced much adversity after Hanneman spent years battling necrotizing fasciitis, eventually passing away from cirrhosis of the liver in 2013. Adding to further stress, Lombarado’s messy departure over contractual disputes threw remaining members Araya and King into further disarray. The question of Slayer's relevance is now answered by the celebration of their legacy in Repentless. Given the tumultuous events behind its’ creation, this latest release serves as a reassuring reminder that the metal legends are still thrashing in full force.

Drummer Paul Bostaph and Slayer touring guitarist Gary Holt from Exodus swoop in to fill the void left by Lombardo and Hanneman (Bostaph played with the group from 1991-2002 during Lombardo's first absence), a welcome return for the seasoned metallers. Overall, the drastic line-up changes and major setbacks have done little to change the established Slayer sound. Both thrash legends sound fully integrated into the band alongside the maze of tempo changes and Kerry King’s vicious guitar licks. Holt in particular shreds through Repentless with a multitude of tasty guitar solos, particularly in speed demons “Implode” and “You Against You.” Kerry King had stated that Slayer fans weren’t ready for any outside musicians writing Slayer material just yet. His sentiments are understandable, though it would have been interesting to hear what Holt and Bostaph could have contributed to the Slayer sound beyond strictly solos and fills.

While World Painted Blood was a fun listen, it suffered from inconsistencies, such as curiously placing Lombardo’s drums front and center in the mix. The most noticeable improvement of Repentless is the thick, effectively heavy guitar tone. The riffs are back in sharp focus, even if the mixing itself suffers from typical modern production downfalls of the Loudness War. The guitar work itself is standard Slayer fare, which could have been more interesting or varied if Holt and Bostaph brought in their own experiences and knowledge to the songwriting table. The title track has been described by guitarist Kerry King as a “Hannemananthem,” a tribute to their late fellow band member. It tears through at a breakneck tempo, hearkening back to the Hanneman penned hit “War Ensemble” from Seasons in the Abyss with lyrics celebrating his life and legacy.

Hanneman’s signature melodic and undistorted guitar passages are taken over by Kerry King’s songwriting duties. Album highlights “Cast The First Stone” and “When The Stillness Comes” are welcome variations among the unrelenting speed, both featuring quiet, ominous intros, bringing to mind Slayer’s more atmospheric material. For the most part though, Repentless is a relentless metal attack that celebrates the life and musical achievements of their fallen brother in thrash. If Slayer believe that they should continue onward, Holt and Bostaph might just be able to continue supporting the band and even evolve it beyond treading the same waters. While Repentless may not offer much of anything new to the Slayer sound, it is more than worthy of a listen for fans who want to help Slayer celebrate a musical legend who’s influence reaches far and wide across the heavy metal landscape.