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I'd Expect More than Meek Capitulation from You... - 55%

doomknocker, December 13th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast

How could they recover? With neither glibness nor morbid curiosity in my tone, I ask that question again: how could they recover? The loss of Mr. Hanneman seemed like one that would be so damning as to cause the foundation of Slayer's structure to collapse (due in no small part to his being a better guitarist and songwriter than his shaven-head colleague), but through sheer will or a refusal to bow out (dis)gracefully the group continued to soldier on. Yet an aura of uncertainty surrounded the group in the years that followed, even with Gary Holt stepping in to lend a hand (which, in itself, added another uncertain layer to the band's future, one that is still in effect; "will he leave Exodus to play in Slayer full time?" "No??" "Yes??" "Maybe???"), and though we knew a new album was coming, it's still not clear whether or not this is one last bow before the breakup that really should happen if you ask me, or a sign of further existence down the line...

And speaking of this new work, I will say this; it's clear that Hanneman was the superior songwriter of the main guitarist duo given how "Repentless" came out. That said, however, it's still a decently performed, halfway good (at best) album that maintains the same solid foundation the band has had lo these many generations and trends, yet sadly falls short of what we really hoped it to be as it starts out with energy to spare and dies out as everything progresses. If nothing else, it showcases the limitations of King's "shoot first, ask questions later" method of dynamicless songwriting; think of it as a marathon runner who has the wrong idea on how to run said marathon. He thinks of it as a race and attempts to be the hare when the tortoise is what keeps you on your feet throughout the run, and after his sprint-a-thon he collapses well short of the finish line. That's "Repentless" in and of itself. But that first initial burst of energy is still quite entertaining and far more enjoyable than plenty of you out there have made it out to be. The first few times the album lets you have it are almost as intense as the band we knew and loved, with much of that genuine grace coming from the energetic performance, the sharp and crystalline production, and even Mr. Araya's vocal work, which sounds more wild and angry than they have in a long time. He may no longer be the Antichrist stalking the shadows, but if all you can be a guy you don't want being in your face shouting the way he does, then things can be much worse. The rhythm section is taught and plenty focused, the drumming simply good for the most part (which is a shame, seeing as Mr. Bostoph always came off as a more dynamic and intense drummer than Lombardo...come at me, Blood Reigners!!) and Gary Holt's contributions breathe some fine, new life into the lead work, giving unto us the first album in which some of the solos are good and fully actualized! It only took 'em 30+ years. Ah well, better late than never, I suppose.

All that said, this is by no means a perfect album, and as I'd spoken of earlier there's only so much you can take in when all you get is bashing speed and the parts within aren't as realized as they need to be. One can get tired of being repeatedly struck with several blindlingly fast objects (by the time you get to "Implode" you may begin to gaze more and more at your watch), and even when things slow into a crawl with hopes of providing some dark and demented atmosphere it almost feels like it doesn't belong; not coerced or pigeon-holed so much as originally unwelcome yet begrudgingly accepted, if that makes any kind of sense, Were tracks like "When the Stillness Comes" to percolate a bit more on the fire and flesh out into a more accessible degree we'd be reminded the true evil that Slayer used to possess back when they had something to say that didn't involve "fuck" every few verses. In that regard, I can't stay silent despite how poor form it is for a reviewer to attack the lyrical work; I can't say I've been the biggest fan of Slayer's attempts at bro-style antagonism, especially given how ghastly and wicked this artwork and booklet shape come off as, but in this day and era, with the ages the creative forces are, it feels all the more sad to the point where it's almost pathetic. There comes a time in your life when you have to put down the angst, stop flipping off the camera and unleash your rage in the most "act your age!" way possible. But maybe they can't do that? Maybe Kerry is still a bitchy teen at heart? Sometimes it seems that way given his many brushes with journalists and his general view on things s a whole. it must be so tiring being in a world so pissy. But I digress...

In the end, "Repentless" was a bit of a disappointment but not quite the crater in the ground many fans claim it to be. Trust me, Slayer's done much worse in their career ("Diabolos...", anyone?), but if this proves to be their final offering which, in a perfect world, this would be, they could have done better. Average at best, middling at worst. So it goes.