Slayer - Repentless

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After the death of guitarist and founder Jeff Hanneman in 2013, it's fair to say most people expected nothing from a new Slayer album. Widely believed to be the best songwriter in the band, and responsible for the majority of their most popular songs, opinion generally ranged from the band should break up, to any new music will be poor and they probably shouldn't bother. But the band forged on anyway, drafting in Exodus main-man Gary Holt on a permanent basis (he had been filling in for Jeff at live shows since 2011), and former drummer Paul Bostaph to replace Dave Lombardo following a contractual dispute. For the album though, guitarist Kerry King remained stubborn, insisting that without Hanneman he would be handling all songwriting, rhythm guitar, and most of the leads himself, and that Holt would only play some solos on the recordings. This gave all but the most ardent fans of the band even less confidence in the resulting material. And so it has transpired that all but one song on the final album were written exclusively by King, with one Jeff Hanneman song (Piano Wire) making the cut and even front-man/bassist Tom Araya excluded from the writing process. It's surprising therefore that the album has actually turned out to be the band's best since 2001's God Hates Us All (whose presence can be felt all over Vices). Lyrics aside, at which King remains pretty poor, the album contains some of his best riffs in at least those 14 years, and Terry Date's mix is absolutely incredible. Date's involvement is a very significant factor. Producer of the previous album, Greg Fidelman, was unavailable (due to commitments with Metallica), but with Date on board Repentless has turned out to be the best-sounding Slayer record of their entire career. With every instrument being clear, prominent, and full, even fairly straight-forward songs like Chasing Death, You Against You, and Take Control, which are a little by-the-numbers and could come from any Slayer album, come across as more urgent and vital than they might have with the same weak mix Fidelman gave World Painted Blood, particularly the drums. Along with massively improved versions of previously released songs Implode and Atrocity Vendor, there's very typical Slayer stuff, some sinister, heavy stuff like When The Stillness Comes (which has been tightened up since the first version was released as a single), Pride In Prejudice, and Cast The First Stone, and the relentless brutality of the title track. It's a Slayer album that has it all, and simply sounds too good for any fan to ignore it.

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2015, Albums, Quickplay Reviews, Thrash Metal,

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