Slayer has only written one song in their career; it just happens to be a great fucking song.
I listened to Repentless as generic a Slayer fan as one can be: in my bedroom, playing air guitar, wearing a faded Led Zeppelin t-shirt from Target, and headbanging myself into a massive three-Advil headache; the sky was just miserably rainy enough to be metal.
This record is hard. It’s fast. It’s violent. It’s visceral. It is a behemoth of sound. Thankfully not Rick Rubin-loud, where the album is mixed so loud that everything sounds like white noise bullshit. When I listen to this record – any Slayer record really – there’s always this profound sense of POWER. The distorted guitars could demolish buildings and lay nuclear waste in a cataclysm; double bass machine drum death. They’ve honed their style so that happens, and I appreciate the ever loving shit out of that.
One could argue that Repentless, and much of latter-era Slayer’s output, is perfunctory, a world painted by numbers with blood, and I can’t necessarily disagree with the assessment, insofar as it sounds the same as any other Slayer record you’ve listened to. I, however, don’t give a shit or think that’s bad. If you’ve liked any of Slayer’s output post-2001, then you’ll like this record. For their entire career, they’ve only ever stuck to one song, or to the same parts arranged differently. If you’re looking for growth, introspection, or evolution, listen to South of Heaven. That’s their only record approaching something different, and that did nothing for them, and is their best or worst record, depending on whom you ask.
I think evolution in itself is not necessary for a good record, and this record is demonstrative of that. Slayer’s music hasn’t evolved; Gary Holt adds nothing new to their sound. He’s functionally replaced what he was there to replace. He’s a cog in Slayer’s particular brand of ass kicking, and I’m OK with that. I’ve noted that in the land of music criticism, there is a desire for evolution, change, development of sound – a lack of stagnation, perhaps. A need for something new, for drama, or if not drama, at least difference.
But not every group needs to change, and not every group needs to evolve.
What I hear on this record are a band – if not at their peak – refined to their purest essence. Refinement is a subtle type of change, but it is change, denoted by the absence of fat. This record shows a group that is not sloppy or weighed down by age. This record is lean, mean, and ready to corrupt. It is repentless-ly and aggressively Slayer as they are. Honestly, for this group that’s more important than any explorations of self.
All I know for damn sure is that when I wasn’t writing down my thoughts on the homogeneity of Slayer’s sound, I was dancing around my room like an animated corpse on ecstasy – legs and arms flailing spasmodically, head contorting and twisting to the violent double bass drum blasts, feeling a furious apotheosis flow through my body and meld with the shrieking (and generally more tolerable) guitar solos. The rhythms were stuttering and angry and perfect for what Slayer is: a loud metal band from the ‘80s whose sound signature has been a ton of bricks and unfailingly consistent (except for that one time with South of Heaven).
And you know what? If a record can do that to me, it’s a good fucking record. R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman.
6,666 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars