Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 10 September, 2015
Link: Official Website

It pains me to say this about the last album that Jeff Hanneman wrote and recorded with Slayer, but how shitty was 2009’s World Painted Blood? Apart from the title track, I feel the same about the album now as I did when I reviewed it. Ugh. So much potential just dialled in without feel and slapped together with absolutely no interest in quality songs, production or mixing whatsoever. Fuck. It still pisses me off that Slayer put out something so subpar by their standards. No doubt most will agree that the quality of Slayer releases has been very hit and miss since 1994’s Divine Intervention. I’m not deluded enough to think that Slayer will redefine metal in 2015 with something as impactful as Reign in Blood or Hell Awaits. But I’m optimistic enough that each time Slayer does release something, that it will impress me in some way.

Given the significance of Hanneman’s contribution to Slayer over the years, it was always going to be equal parts interesting and concerning to see what an almost entirely Kerry King written Slayer album sound like. The results have been hit and miss in the past but in saying that, it’s also fair to say that Hanneman’s biggest contribution since 1997’s divisive Diabolus in Musica - World Painted Blood - wasn’t exactly what it should have or could have been. Here’s the kicker though. Repentless, Slayer’s eleventh studio long player and first since the passing of Hanneman, is pretty bloody good! To put that into perspective, it’s not Reign in Blood good or anything like that. But in the context of anything they’ve done since Divine Intervention, there’s no doubt that Repentless is their strongest release in over two decades.

The most striking improvement this time around is the sound. Sonically, Repentless is a monster. Up against its predecessor, it’s chalk and cheese. Partnering up with renowned producer Terry Date (Pantera, Overkill, Dark Angel, Havok), the end result sounds killer. Everything is in your face – Araya’s vocals, the riffs and leads from King and Exodus main man Gary Holt, as well as the outstanding work behind the kit from Paul Bostaph. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Bostaph’s work ever since I first heard Forbidden’s Forbidden Evil waaaaaaaay back in the day when it came out. His previous work with Slayer has been dependable and was inevitably compared to that of Dave Lombardo. However, this time around, I think it’s clear that Bostaph has nailed it. The feel he brings to this album is undeniable.

The same can be said of guitarist Kerry King as well. Taking over in a complete capacity for this album was always going to be a tough gig - pardon the pun. Whilst Repentless isn’t going to be the new Reign in Blood et cetera, it is a better album than anything Slayer has churned out in quite some time. The title track alone is classic Slayer, reminiscent of Dittohead (from Divine Intervention). There are sinister, dark tracks in typical Slayer style in “Cast the First Stone” and “When the Stillness Comes” as well as plenty of other signature Slayer tracks such as “You Against You”, “Piano Wire” as well as the punk fuelled “Atrocity Vendor” which also sits nicely within the realms of anything you should expect from Slayer.

Running at just shy of 42 minutes, Repentless works because it doesn’t feel long. World Painted Blood was shorter by two minutes but was painful to listen to. The dozen tracks that make up this album flow effortlessly and at no time do they bog the album down. Possibly the only track that could be culled from Repentless is the finale, “Pride in Prejudice”. It doesn’t seem to have the focus of other tracks and feels lost like most of the material from the album’s predecessor or half of any of the handful of albums before that.

So, have Slayer redeemed themselves from the sonic abortion that was World Painted Blood? Yes, and in spades. Repentless won’t rewrite history. It won’t replace Reign in Blood as the band’s quintessential release, nor will it be the band’s most divisive release either. Repentless is undeniably their best album since Divine Intervention. It’s Slayer doing what they’ve always done. But this time around, it’s clear they are doing it better than they have for quite a while.

Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia

More from Slayer