Slayer: Repentless – [Record 202]

Repentless is the twelfth studio album by American thrash metal band Slayer. It was released on September 11, 2015, and is the first Slayer album to feature guitarist Gary Holt of Exodus and the first to feature drummer Paul Bostaph since 2001’s God Hates Us All. Repentless is also Slayer’s first album following the death of Jeff Hanneman in 2013, and the band’s first album to be released on Nuclear Blast.

Side One.
1. Delusions of Saviour.
2. Repentless.
3. Take Control.
4. Vices.
5. Cast the First Stone.
6. When the Stillness Comes.

Side Two.
7. Chasing Death.
8. Implode.
9. Piano Wire.
10. Atrocity Vendor.
11. You Against You.
12. Pride in Prejudice.

Background: When asked in May 2011 if Slayer was going to make a follow-up to World Painted Blood, then-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo replied that although nothing had been written yet, there were “definitely plans”. In early 2011, guitarist Jeff Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis. Reports linked this illness with a spider bite he claimed to have received while in a friend’s hot tub. When asked about a new record, bassist Tom Araya stated that any work would have to wait until Hanneman had recovered.

On February 20, 2013, it was announced that Lombardo would not take part in Slayer’s Australia tour due to contractual disputes, and his place would be taken by former drummer Jon Dette. Being interviewed in late February by Soundwave TV, guitarist Kerry King elaborated more on the personnel status for the album. He expressed doubt as to who might produce the album, saying that Metallica had producer Greg Fidelman “monopolized”. Additionally, the continued absence of Hanneman and a contract dispute with Lombardo (which resulted in his being replaced on the Australian tour by Dette) further contributed to the uncertainty. Lombardo’s permanent replacement was later announced to be Paul Bostaph, who was previously the band’s drummer from 1992-2001, appearing on several albums.

On May 2, 2013, Jeff Hanneman died of liver failure in a Los Angeles hospital. A week later, the official cause of death was announced as alcohol-related cirrhosis. Hanneman and his family had apparently been unaware of the extent of condition until shortly before his death. King has announced his desire for the band to continue, but Araya was more uncertain, stating, “After 30 years, it would literally be like starting over,” and expressing doubts that Slayer’s fanbase would approve of such a change. In March 2015, Araya revealed that the band had recorded one song prior to Hanneman’s passing, and that the song will appear on the album.

Writing and production: The album’s writing process started in November 2011, announced by Lombardo through Twitter. King later said that he and Lombardo had been working on music prior to the holidays and that they had completed three songs, in addition to three outtakes from the previous record. It was initially hoped that the album would be ready for release by summer of 2012, but this did not come to fruition. Frontman Tom Araya later said that the album would be pushed back to a 2013 release, but this idea fell through.

In addition, King had noted that two of the new songs had been fully recorded and that there was a possibility that they might be released as an EP, but the idea was later dismissed. King announced the songs’ titles as “Chasing Death” and “Implode.” Araya announced that the band would start writing the new album upon completion of the 2012 Mayhem Festival, which ended in August of that year. Since their recorded songs still needed to be mixed, King announced in a late August 2012 interview that there had been a twelve day window where the band had been able to “hijack Greg Fidelman from Metallica” for further production on the album. By then, the band had two songs that were missing lead guitar parts and vocals and had recorded six demos. In addition, King said that the band had yet to record three more demos.

In February 2013 during an interview with Eddie Trunk, King declared that, while Hanneman still had not been involved with the album, the band was waiting for label issues to be resolved before recording. King stated that he and Lombardo had eight songs that they were working on, as well. When asked about whether or not Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, who had been filling in for Hanneman during live shows, would play on the record, King denied it, saying that he would handle all guitars except for Hanneman’s lead parts. King also said that Hanneman had yet to offer up any material for the album. Araya later contradicted King’s statement about Hanneman and stated that Hanneman had been working on material for the album. Shortly after Hanneman’s death, Araya revealed that Hanneman had gone so far as to send Araya music that he had been working on, and Araya later said that some of this material—including an outtake from World Painted Blood—may make it onto the album.

Even prior to Hanneman’s death, King had expressed doubt as to who would even play on the album. He stated that if work on the album could be done in June 2013, then it was hoped that the album could be out by the following September or October.[6] After Hanneman’s passing, Holt was asked if he will be featured on the album, to which he replied that he would probably be playing some solos on the album, but that the rest of the guitar work would all be King. King later confirmed this sentiment, but explained that Holt would not be participating in any of the writing, noting: “fans aren’t ready for it.”

According to Holt, recording for the album was expected to commence at the end of 2013. King later stated that there were plans to begin recording in January 2014. King further revealed that he and drummer Paul Bostaph have recorded 11 songs on a demo, while also working on some additional tracks, seven of which had complete lyrics. On April 24, 2014, Slayer offered a free download of “Implode”, their first song in five years as well as their first recording to feature Holt on guitar. Additionally, it is the first recording to feature Bostaph on drums since 2001’s God Hates Us All. On the same day, it was announced that Slayer had signed to Nuclear Blast, and would release their eleventh studio album in early 2015.

Music and lyric: In an interview, King described “Chasing Death” as being about alcoholism: “it’s like people who drink too much. They don’t help themselves out so they’re chasing death.” He explained “Implode” as being about the end of the world.

The album could feature material written by Hanneman prior to his passing. Araya has explained that Hanneman had two songs that he submitted to the rest of the band. One song was an outtake from World Painted Blood, which Araya said that he and Hanneman had been working on melody and lyrics for. Additionally, Araya has said that he plans to go through Hanneman’s personal audio files, and that some of that material could also find its way onto the new album in one form or another. One song, mentioned by King in an interview, is “Piano Wire”, an unfinished track that Hanneman had been working on for the previous album. King also mentioned that there were two other songs that Hanneman had been holding onto for the last 15 to 20 years that will be released.

In October 2014, the band revealed plans to release a new song, entitled “When the Stillness Comes”, via Scion AV, an “in-house record label and lifestyle marketing division” of Toyota’s Scion brand. The song was released for Record Store Day on April 18, 2015. On June 19, 2015, Slayer made the title track available for streaming on YouTube. On September 2, 2015, Slayer released “Cast the First Stone”, another track on the album, via the Adult Swim singles program. The next day, a behind the scenes look at the making of the music video for the album’s title track was released.

Reception: In April 2014, the band released “Implode” for free. Rolling Stone said the song “plays out like classic Slayer”, although the lyrics were described as “expect[ed]” subject matter. Alex Young of Consequences of Sound called the song a “pummeling assault of metal music”. In January 2015, the album, yet to be titled at the time, was mentioned by Loudwire as one of the “30 Most Anticipated Rock + Metal Albums of 2015”, alongside expected albums by bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament, Metallica, and Tool.

Repentless has received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Writing for Exclaim!, Greg Pratt said that Repentless “isn’t going to be one of the classic Slayer albums, but there’s still plenty of good thrash to be found.” AllMusic writer Thom Jurek gave the album three out of five stars, calling Repentless “a retro, workmanlike effort from a band determined to soldier on, and that’s fine. There are hardcore devotees who never want their favorite bands to change; this is for them. But again, given all that’s transpired since 2009, Slayer get points for even pulling this off.” The Guardian gave the album four stars, stating that “Slayer have always been a model of consistency and a band that fans of vicious, vein-bursting heavy metal can rely on.”

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