Sound — 7
Slayer formed in 1981, as Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King met each other and realized they enjoyed jamming and writing together, and formed the band. Shortly thereafter, Tom Araya joined on bass and vocals and Dave Lombardo joined on drums. It's been a few years since then, however, and we've seen some lineup changes. Jeff Hanneman, historically a large part of the creative force behind the band, died in 2013 related to liver failure. Dave Lombardo was fired from the band in 2013, as well, and has been replaced by his sometime-replacement from previous times he has left the band, Paul Bostaph. Gary Holt (Exodus) has joined the band to fill the spot previously held by Jeff Hanneman, on guitar. "Repentless" is the band's twelfth studio album, and will be the first featuring Gary Holt on guitars. The band has released 5 singles from the album prior to the release - "Implode" was released as the lead single in April 2014, "When the Stillness Comes" was released in April 2015, the title track, "Repentless" was released in June 2015, "Cast the First Stone" was released in late August, and "You Against You" was released on September 4th. There are 12 tracks on the complete album, with a runtime of approximately 41 minutes.
"Delusions of Saviour" is a little instrumental intro, just short of two minutes, some quick audio foreplay before the album begins in earnest. "Repentless," like a lot of the tracks on the album, has a strong hardcore punk vibe in a way that the other "Big 4" didn't really keep over time. The song is essentially Kerry King's proclamation that he doesn't care what people think, he's gonna do what he does until he dies. "Take Control" is largely tremolo picking on guitar, with some repetitive drumming - the solo breaks it up a little bit. "Vices" is a pummeling track, with lyrics typical to Slayer's catalog, and essentially talking about beliefs being used as a vice, just like drug addicts use drugs as vices. "Cast the First Stone" is one of my favorite tracks, with a truly aggressive feeling to it, but maintaining a strong groove, as well. "When the Stillness Comes" has a wicked intro, and is musically epic - easily my favorite track on the album, but the lyrics are just so-so (though the actual vocal performance is possibly one of the better on the album). "Chasing Death" has a pretty strong early thrash vibe going on, and it has Paul Bostaph showing off with his double bass pedal blast beats. "Implode" is essentially a hardcore punk song with thrash tendencies - originally released over a year ago, the version on the album is a new, re-recorded version of the song. "Piano Wire" is a song that originally was being written by Jeff Hanneman while he was still alive, though it was never finished. Tom Araya had previously spoke in interviews about working with Jeff Hanneman before his death, on lyrics and vocals for this track. Kerry King has stated in interviews, that though Jeff had some rhythm guitar recorded for this song before his death, he recorded his own rhythm part instead, and so Jeff Hanneman is not featured on the album at all. This definitely has some of the craziest soloing on the album, however - very possibly this is one of the tracks where Gary Holt provided lead guitar. "Atrocity Vendor" was originally released as a B-side to a single from the last album's title track, "World Painted Blood," but was re-recorded with new vocals and a longer guitar solo for "Repentless." "You Against You" is another track where it really goes to show that Slayer is the only band in "The Big 4" that really kept the hardcore punk thrash influences in their sound. "Pride in Prejudice" was described by Kerry King in interviews as "super-Black Sabbath heavy." It definitely has some of that slower heavy riffing that I associate with stoner metal and Black Sabbath. It is a nice track to close out the album as it brings the energy back down a little bit, like it lets you relax as the album is ending.
Lyrics — 6
Tom Araya just sounds a certain type of way with his vocals. I don't love it, and I don't hate it - usually. There are times, occasionally, where I do each of those things. With tracks like "When the Stillness Comes," it has Araya really showing what he can do from a vocal standpoint, and shows him to be a solid metal vocalist. On the other hand, on many other tracks it sounds like he's just screaming out words written down on paper without putting a lot of thought or emotion into it. I've had two main roadblocks into being a huge Slayer fan, and one of the biggest is Araya's inconsistent vocals, and the other being Kerry's belligerent and vocal personality. That brings me to the lyrics portion, here, and as far as it goes, the lyrics are pretty much standard fare for Slayer - they are "outsider" lyrics with a healthy dose of rage - I'm not against that, I actually identify pretty strongly with that type of lyric, but often times it isn't carried off very well. As a sample of the lyrics, here is an excerpt from the track, "When the Stillness Comes": "Blood looks like paste on the wall/ Bodies lay lifeless like dolls/ A moment that felt like days/ Lives extinct with inner rage/ Incessantly making up lies/ In a moment of visceral hate/ The last thing you see on my grave/ Eyes/ The last thing you'll see are my eyes."
Overall Impression — 7
First, let me say that this album absolutely sounds like a Slayer album. This won't be a "standout" album in their catalog, but there are a few tracks worth keeping around. I do notice that only one of the tracks I liked is actually a single - which is interesting since nearly half the album has been released as a single. My favorite tracks from the album would be "When the Stillness Comes," "Delusions of Saviour," and "Cast the First Stone." Now, I just have to see if I'm going to be able to continue to overlook Kerry's belligerent statements to the media or anyone else who'll listen, and just sit back and enjoy the album.