It’s been long contested that Diabolus in Musica was the last great Slayer album and, to an extent, the argument is valid. While the band itself didn’t exactly change outright, the music slowly did. Personally, I’m a fan of God Hates Us All, which a number of fans can’t seem to stand. In fact, that was the introductory album for me following the first time saw them live, which was the Tattoo the Earth festival tour opening for Slipknot, so perhaps that appreciation is a bit biased. But, listening to the music from those two albums, it becomes obvious there was some kind of shift happening, especially in the hostility, the latter of which could be due to aging or modern recording dynamics, if not both. So, of course, heading into Repentless, I was a bit skeptical given their last effort, World Painted Blood. It was good for what it was, but far from a truly memorable experience. In fact, I never even bothered adding it to my collection due to how much every on-line and off-line store was charging. I only just ordered it along with my copy of this new studio release.
But, as Repentless started, I immediately felt the familiarity, infectiousness, and raw hostility of their classic material right away with the introductory piece “Delusions of Saviour”. That instant prediction wasn’t wrong, either, as what followed was a mixture of classic Slayer with the occassional modern piece thrown in, as well as what I hesitate to call a fair amount of excusable riff recycling. The burdening “Vices” sounds like something torn from Diabolus in Musica, “When the Stillness Comes” is just a downright creepy performance, “You Against You” is like a toned down version of “War Ensemble”, even “Chasing Death” has a little more two-step present along South of Heaven terms. Even “Implode”, a song fans absolutely loathed at first, fits right at home and aesthetically makes sense better than it does by itself.
But, as mentioned, it seems like there’s a decent amount of recycling going on. When I say “familiar territory”, I mean you’ll be able to pick out similarities between some of these new songs with those fans consider classics. Long time fans will hear plenty of “Hey, remember this? Well listen to this” here and, well, that’s actually not a good thing in the long run. Yes, for this “return to glory” effort it works as a reminder of what the band’s strengths truly are, all the while paying respect to the late Jeff Hanneman, so for that it’s forgivable. However, it also speaks towards the band’s abilities at this point as far as future recordings go. Sadly, it leaves one to worry if future new albums would follow the same idea of reminiscing about previously successful structures, atmospheres, hooks and rhythms, which it very well just might do, if not immediately go back to the days of Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood.
Repentless is the band’s quintessential release, the swansong to their career as of late that fans have been waiting impatiently for. And, well, if ever there was a time to bow out gracefully, this is that very high note the group should walk away with. Repentless is not only a release full of hatred toward mankind that was amplified by many of the recent events, but it’s also one hell of a farewell to Jeff Hanneman, clearly showing the band’s respect and coping through an effort that takes from some of the band’s most influential periods to say goodbye. We’ve come full circle with Slayer. We’ve been given closure. As much as we, the fans, would love the band to keep going, we’d also rather they go out memorable, and Repentless is that very release.