(Oops, they did it again.)
For the record…I don't like that this review is a thing. Because I don't like that a Slayer album sans the direct presence and influence of Jeff Hanneman is a thing. Tom Araya's reticence versus Kerry King's stubbornness, never was there a possibility that the greatest metal band ever would actually hang up the horns.
Despite misgivings, again, Slayer are the best their genre has yet boasted. How could I not root for 'em? Remember that other album they released on 9/11, and how it treated your scalp like the lid of a tennis ball can?
After years of filling in for Hanneman on stage, former Exodus mastermind Gary Holt finally takes his place in studio. Alleged bad business once more sent Dave Lombardo towards the exits…enter Paul Bostaph, after fourteen years of not sitting around waiting for Slayer to ring him.
So that's a Slayer album without two of the original members.
"Delusions of Saviour"--A nearly two minute intro Kerry wrote after listening to the conclusion of Pearl Jam's "Black" while giving baths to his pet snakes or whatever the hell. As a mood-setter, it beats the odd-smelling pee out of candles named "Essence of Twilight" or "Guest on the Third Day".
Short, enjoyable, goes nowhere, oh shit life metaphor.
"Repentless"--Is not a word. Did Kerry the King not know of the perfectly extant word "unrepentant" (inconceivable!)?
Flame-tosser, still. Kerry writing about the world through the eyes of his late great P.I.C., although honestly it could be about King just as well (the lyrics are just that aggressively angst-soaked). The Seasons-esque intro devolves into a stand-around riff hardly worthy of the legend, but then woo, the fellas start decimating faulty appliances on a timer and all is all right. (Until you realize they left nine washing machines and refrigerators virtually untouched.)
Amidst a riot-ready spray of bad language, King manages to flip a cliche ("What you get is what you see") and I tend to nod appreciatively at such gymnastics, but still…"repentless" is so not a word that my poor autocorrect is audibly weeping.
(Imagine King penning a tune through the eyes of his old drummer. "Pay me what you owe me, motherfuckers!" ad nauseum.)
The solos make me wanna flip off some stupid kids.
"Take Control"--Darkening skies, brightening gazes. Maniacs will incite mania if need be, sending up plumes of smoke and flame into the sky while blades clash and blur below.
Wow, no profanity? Oh wait, spoke too soon--this one's a wedding night.
"Vices"--Outta the way is what I'm gonna get this thing.
"A little violence is the ultimate drug/Let's get high!"
"Vices" is at best unfinished; at worst, undecided. No, actually, at worst, it's that fucking lyric up there. Does Araya come through to salvage it somewhat? Look at those words again. Tell me what you think could make them palatable when spoken aloud. Then tell me how long you've been a syrup-sipper.
When Araya shuts up and the tune can lumber 'long on a trio of wheels, finally I can dig into "Vices."
"Cast the First Stone"--War ships, eh? War with Lego, is that what the situation's deteriorated into? I got two big feet for all the Lego in the world. The imprints and the pains are barely worth the receipt.
"When Stillness Comes"--"Spill the Blood" another 'gain. Slayer do "storytime with a sociopath" so well, but they have also done it better in the not-too distant past. 'Bout as spooky as snakes in a can, but I have to give it up for producer Terry Date, even if many of the bands he's worked with have been the aural/moral opposite of James Baxter rollin' on a beach ball, he cuts 'em from sternum to navel with an expert touch.
"Chasing Death"--Men tend not to do the emotion stuff well, meaning the extent of the helplessness the other guys felt at watching Jeff's losing battle with the bottle will never be fully expressed. (I'm sure there was at least one night that ended with bloody fingers.) The "slave of discontent" earns a screaming heap of disgust and disbelief. The tough love approach is a risky one--try it on me and one of us won't live to regret it.
"Oblivious to the end"--well shit, how would they tell the difference?
"Implode"--I choose to believe the song begins at 0:48.
The apocalypse is thunderously overrated, the supposed imminent zombie apocalypse especially. Extremely picky eaters are supposed to bring about the "extermination of the swine"? Eff zombies, pigs are coming! For thirty minutes, apparently!
Bostaph's best is far from Lombardo's best, but that's not as far as some fanboys might claim.
"Piano Wire"--Inarguably the most-anticipated song on Repentless, "Piano Wire" was rejected from inclusion on World Painted Blood thanks to an underwhelming Araya performance. After the death of its composer, however, Tom gave it another, apparently vastly improved go.
How fitting Jeff's last song concerns Nazi atrocities. While not fit for the pantheon, "Piano Wire" shows why his presence will be missed: doesn't fuck about, values the insidious over the straightforward, doesn't demand that Tom scream like the world's angriest teenager trapped in a middle-aged man's creaking body.
"Atrocity Vendor"--Tom and Kerry time! Dunno which man brought the Elmer's glue and which one brought the soft-batch scissors, but the best thing about Slayer's art projects is this: frequently, they depict horrors I would hate either I or my loved ones to suffer through, but would totally love to see my hated ones endure.
"You Against You"--Solo less than a minute in. Dunno what makes me more nauseous, the sight of the impotent hard-on or the smell of the fumes.
"Pride In Prejudice"--"Finality to the fuss," indeed.
A single gunshot signals the beginning of the scene. The anti-hero emerges, his definitive stance in an amorphous world nearly as inspiring as his unwavering belief in the self. What followed I totally missed, too concerned that I don't qualify as a real American since I've yet to be shot at. (I've had a gun pointed at me in a non-playful manner once; maybe I can be Russian?
Once carcass kickers nonpareil, once apple pie shit-inners with no equal, Slayer have fallen a few rungs on the ladder whose primary material escapes me at the moment. Repentless is better than Diabolus in Musica and Divine Intervention, but is the whitest shade of pale alongside God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion. (Compared to the classics? No, let's not be cruel.) Forget virgin sacrifices, the worst sin Slayer commit here is that of indistinction.