Slayer – Repentless (2015)

Slayer - Repentless (2015)

It probably bears mentioning that I consider Hell Awaits to be Slayer’s peak. While it could’ve used a larger recording budget, it showcased some of the band’s most elaborate and well-written compositions. The band didn’t generally follow up on this approach on later albums, but you can hear the lessons applied on the rest of Slayer’s classic ’80s material, and therein lies a lesson. At their peak, Slayer had obvious songwriting formulas, but were able to go build more elaborate and memorable works due to their solid understanding of song structure.

Repentless is Slayer’s 3rd attempt to recapture something else of that era. The production standards are admittedly better (although Slayer generally had good producers working for them in the past as well), but everything else is the stereotypical speed/death assault that the band helped pioneer. Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt serve as adequate substitutes for the departed Dave Lombardo and the deceased Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P), carrying on general stylistic trends without rocking the boat too much. That this is a commercially viable endgame for popular metal bands is something I expect to be one of the major themes of my tenure here at DMU. Even now, though, cracks are showing in the war ensemble – Tom Araya’s vocals are a major stylistic weak point on Repentless. His shouts have become more “extreme” and insistent in recent years, but his ability to vary his vocal techniques has all but collapsed. This album’s prosody is the worst casualty yet, as he delivers these monotonous shouts in unvarying rhythms; the effect is essentially the same as shouting nursery rhymes into a megaphone from your neighborhood rooftops.

Araya’s weaknesses are particularly damning on an album that relies so heavily on vocals to retain the listener’s attention, especially when everyone else on the recording is so competently unremarkable. We live in the age of self-referential Slayer, a long darkness that our learned scholars perhaps debate the duration of in their moments of distraction. Repentless is essentially a more formulaic version of previous Slayer albums that themselves were a simplification of their own predecessors. It’s very likely that the songs here sound marginally more like classic Slayer than those on Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood, but their unwillingness (or inability) to expand on basics renders them ultimately pointless. I can’t fault the band for continuing, though; previous recordings, while underwhelming, more than satiate an omnivorous fanbase who will probably go back to Reign in Blood after a while.

18 thoughts on “Slayer – Repentless (2015)”

  1. TC says:

    i haven’t listened yet, but really, this review might as well be a motörhead review, right? band achieves success, hits cruise control, wash/rinse/repeat.

    1. Gabe Kagan says:

      The difference between the two in this case, is that Motörhead is executing their signature style more effectively on Bad Magic than Slayer is on Repentless. I might be approaching each with different expectations, but Slayer’s recent work feels more like an unnecessary simplification than Motörhead’s, who does a better job of releasing the same album over and over again.

      Speaking of recent cruise controls, you should also consider Iron Maiden’s latest, which has the opposite problem of trying to be more complex and developed and not pulling it off too well.

      1. Daniel Maarat says:

        Motorhead and Suffocation recycle riffs and licks into new songs but don’t completely pander to their lowest common denominator fans like Slayer and Immolation; its just way less offensive.

  2. TC says:

    that one is on deck for this weekend.

    i don’t know if i’d classify slayer’s simplification as “unnecessary”. i mean, tom’s voice and spine are clearly not the same as they used to be, and jeff & dave’s absence necessitates certain changes. i think i’d classify it as “expected”. the only two people left in the band who haven’t proven themselves able to do anything else are the two remaining original members. they are married to this and are trying to make it as good as they are able, but minus the other two, weaknesses are even more apparent.

    again, haven’t listened, but these are my expectations for it.

    1. TC says:

      ugh, meant to reply to previous thread. move as you see fit.

      1. Gabe Kagan says:

        The best I can do with the WordPress CMS is edit people’s comments; if you put a dummy response in the thread you want, I could modify that and remove all evidence of a mistake.

        Control of the present is control of the past, and control of the past is control of the future.

    2. TC says:

      i mean, the guy is completely out of touch with reality. just look at this: http://www.spin.com/2015/09/slayer-kerry-king-repentless-interview/

      1. Poser Patrol says:

        We’re still recording great albums, sure we are, but nobody’s buying ‘em. But we’re very lucky to have a fanbase that has to have every shirt we’ve ever made.

        At least his view of the modern state of metal is about right.

  3. LordKrumb says:

    “Even now, though, cracks are showing in the war ensemble – Tom Araya’s vocals are a major stylistic weak point ”

    Araya’s weak, one-dimensional vocals have been one of Slayer’s weak points for a long time.

    “I can’t fault the band for continuing, though;”

    Why not?

    Slayer are probably unique in metal for releasing FOUR albums (‘Show no Mercy’ through to ‘South of Heaven’) that are widely considered to be pioneering metal masterpieces. That unprecedented achievement sets a very high expectation for any music released by the band thereafter — yet their song-writing has become progressively weaker with every release after ‘SoH’.

    As a major influence, directly or indirectly, for every other metal band that followed, it’s been painful to hear Slayer, album after album, become increasingly influenced by the commercially-sanitised mainstream metal bands which they influenced.

    I don’t know if Slayer have earned the level of money that, for example, Metallica have made by selling out to commercial whims, but it’s reasonable to assume that they’ve sold enough albums to live the rest of their lives pretty comfortably, at least materially — even if they never sold another copy of their albums.

    So why is it that, as supposed artists with nothing to lose (materially), they continue to make safe, bland music that’s so painfully underwhelming?

    Consider Slayer as a business: surely the band has sufficient financial security to take a risk with their music, for the sake of art, rather than continuing to play it safe? Why not try to create fresh music from the heart, to lead from the front once more, rather than try to appease the fuckwit masses again and again by dishing out lowest common denominator ‘tough guy’ music or vainly attempting to mimic their own former glory?

    In the late 80s, Slayer crystallised the essence of metal: modern civilisation is fucked up, so let’s take a long, hard, painful look at ourselves and where we’re heading:

    “The song ‘South of Heaven’ is basically about hell on earth, and how I envision the world… There’s chaos everywhere, everyone’s fighting.”
    – Tom Araya, 1989 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpKT50icyOU)

    The world is still as fucked today as it was in 1989, probably more so. Are Slayer now so detached from reality that they are incapable of composing heartfelt music that delivers a meaningful portrayal of “hell on earth” in the year 20XX, and to take the time and effort to compose music that builds on the strengths of what we know (and they surely know) was some of the most powerful metal ever written?

    It’s a lot to expect, but who better to expect it from than Slayer?

    1. Phil says:

      Remember that bit of Breaking Bad where Walter finishes up by yelling to Skyler that he is the danger? He said that if he stopped producing meth, a company large enough to be listed on the stock exchange would go under instantly. He had a job that a lot of people were dependent on for survival. That is what gave him power – and remember that he had nothing else to occupy his life with.

      Same goes for Slayer most likely.

  4. Doug Killjoy says:

    Sounds like it should’ve been called Jeffless

  5. arbie says:

    Slayer have been lame for what, two decades? There’s no recovering from that. They miss their own point now. Where’s the incredibly deep bizarre mysticism of the 80s stuff? Even the more “urban” hardcore punk approach of Reign in Blood veered on some twisted Bosch hellscape. What’s with the banal juggalo lyrics? (Fuck this, fuck that, fuck you dad…) They’re getting old and they sound old. Stupid monster truck metal.

    1. TC says:

      “monster truck metal” HAHA. hilarious.

      1. Daniel Maarat says:

        Well Kerry King is a monster truck, WWF motherfucker who likes tribal tats, snakes, fake tits.

  6. canadaspaceman says:

    On the very first listen, was thinking “meh”.

    With repeated listens, some is similar to the great moments from Divine Intervention, and overall it seems equal to the World Painted Blood album at least, or equal to any second/third tier thrash metal band influenced by them.

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      I was wrong… I can not listen to the album all the way through now, I get bored, same boring song for many of them,I have to skip tracks

  7. 1349 says:

    Wow! Not a single good song! 8)
    Not a single interesting riff or riff pair.
    Very poorly arranged vocals (seems like Araya or whoever arranges them had only 10-15 minutes for each song).
    Crappy fluffy guitar sound.
    Stupid title song lyrics & concept that probably make Hanneman vomit.
    I pity them when i listen to this all.

    Am i dreaming? 8))

  8. Raab says:

    I like it, Araya still has it, good good release

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