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A return to form, but not the good one. - 35%

hells_unicorn, October 6th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Nuclear Blast

Contrary to an ever-growing party's opinion that Slayer should have thrown in the towel after the death of Jeff Hanneman, there was definitely a path forward for these longtime extreme thrash metal stalwarts even without their most crucial member. Granted, it might not have been one that brought them back to the glory of their formative years, but the fairly strong and appealing character of World Painted Blood didn't itself terminate on the masterful songwriting of Hanneman the way that Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven did. It should be noted up front that the road taken with the nonsensically named Repentless, Slayer's 11th studio LP, did not go the road that ought to have been taken, but it did indeed culminate to a return to form of sorts. That return is to the creative nadir that they were stuck in following the turn of the millennium and the really bad experimental flop that preceded it.

Comparisons have already been made by some to this sad, tired affair and the infamous crapshoot God Hates Us All, and while there is some degree of truth to that in terms of quality, stylistically this is not exactly the same. There are several noteworthy attempts at moving towards the rapid paced slaughter-fest of Reign In Blood and also a few more moderated efforts that attempt the atmospheric creepiness of South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss, and overall this is a bit more organized, methodical, and less chaotically executed than the 2001 album that shall not be named, but most of it just falls utterly flat. This album is actually a very good demonstration in what a band sounds like when they've actually run out of fresh ideas, as most of these songs are very indistinct, despite being so bare bones and stripped down that they are almost punishingly easy to follow.

The over-promotion of this album probably didn't help matter much, but the string of inconsistent single releases that preceded this album were a good indication of the few strengths and many weaknesses at work. One of the high points is the final preceding single "You Against You" which manages to kick off on a fairly solid mid-paced groove before launching into faster territory, though the result is something more along the lines of a faster offering on Seasons In The Abyss rather than the truly chaotic fervor of Reign In Blood. Similar stories are to be found in "Atrocity Vendor", the best song on here and the last composition offering of Hanneman, and also the reasonably fast but fairly restrained title song "Repentless". To be clear, by the standards of this band's past greatness, these songs are more passable than outright brilliant, despite the fact that Gary Holt does provide some pretty sweet guest guitar solos.

The dregs that rounds out the remaining majority of this album vary in degrees of musical poverty, but they all share an overly contrived and tired demeanor that just doesn't become a band with Slayer's legacy. Whether it's on the faster end of things with the overly simplified speeder "Implode" or the plodding and lifeless attempt at revisiting Hanneman's creepy atmospheric ventures on "When The Stillness Comes", or the oversupply of moderately fast filler, it's all extremely sub-par, despite being reasonably well produced, and featuring fairly competent lead guitar work and a respectably solid vocal performance out of Tom Araya, who is nevertheless showing his age as he barely manages to keep his voice above a mid-ranged shout. It might be a tad hyperbolic to say, but the hippie caricature of Jesus that Kerry King and company love to depict negatively could probably kick this album's ass.