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What can you say about a band going through the evolutionary loop these last few years; dealing with personnel changes and the loss of a founding member? It can’t be easy to swallow that pill of solidification, whereby you continue marching forward and keep your fanbase happy as pigs in shit at the same time. In this case though, you pick up all the shattered pieces and reconvene with a new plan of attack, slamming back with a pummeling assault to prove your thrash worthiness.

Obviously, I’m talking about Slayer – forging ahead with their 11th studio offering amidst all the turmoil surrounding the departure of Dave Lombardo and the passing of Jeff Hanneman. It’s a miracle they can even function with only two founding members at the helm and yet - Repentless reaches out to grab you by the throat.

What can you Say about this lumbering mess of seemingly lack-lustre metal missing that killer instinct from previous albums? Well for one thing, Jeff Hanneman can never be fully replaced, although I do appreciate Gary Holt’s (Exodus founder) musical contributions, filling in on leads. The poor guy has to deal with Kerry King’s ever expanding ego, but I give Holt all the props in the world for attempting to fit into the equation. He does an admirable job here and that’s one of the big pluses to this release.

As for the actual songs though, Repentless is a mixed bag for my tastes. At least the strongest track “Repentless” was placed at the beginning, setting things up appropriately for thrash fans, but then it goes downhill from there. I was expecting rabid speed and that relentless guitar attack (found on World Painted Blood), but everything remains mid-paced and never really gets going full throttle. Tracks like “Take Control”, “Vices” and “Cast the First Stone” are serviceable numbers at best, but nothing really stands out for me.

I’ve come to realize how important Hanneman’s distinctive viewpoint and writing style meant so much to the formative years of the band. There’s no “Beauty through Order” or “Psychopathy Red” infiltrating the tracklist, nor is there a lyrical infused bastard like “Playing with Dolls” (from the previous release) assaulting your eardrums on this album. So take heed if you are a longtime fan expecting to get relentless assaults found on South of Heaven or Seasons in the Abyss. The closest you might get is in a track like “Pride in Prejudice” which attempts to pound you into submission, but it doesn’t quite have that killer instinct found in older material.

(Nuclear Blast)
Written by: Kenneth Gallant
7 out of 10

Aside from the tracks I have mentioned, Vocalist Tom Ayara continues to sound as pissed off as ever – in particular “When the Stillness Comes” and again you can hear his rabid screams on “Atrocity Vendor”. Tom isn’t the problem though, despite mediocre tracks like “Implode” and “Piano Wire” pulling down the weight of this release. Ultimately the missing ingredients of Hanneman and Lombardo really affect the overall quality of what a Slayer record should sound like and I am sure there are some purists who won’t agree with me on this assessment.

If I am to really leave some imparting words for Slayer fans, then perhaps this is how you should approach this release. A strong outing if you enjoy Gary Holt’s playing, fortifying the line-up somewhat, but never really shining here as he does on Exodus releases. He brings some credibility to the band for sure, but definitely not displaying that manic penchant Jeff Hanneman brought to the table. On the other hand, if you like slower mid-paced thrash metal lacking Hanneman’s unique voice in the mix, then take heed of these thoughts.

Repentless has some descent songs overall, but it never really finds the bark of previous outings. I’ve decided to rate this as a 7 out of 10 just for the fact that Gary Holt is involved, but other than that, this one is not even close to the brilliance of past Slayer albums.

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

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