One of the scariest moments I ever had at a concert(besides that Petra concert at the Notre Dame ACC when I was 17…long story) was the Clash of the Titans tour in July of 1991. My older brother and I headed down to Noblesville, Indiana and for $7 we were granted access to the lawn at Deer Creek Outdoor Amphitheater and witnessed Alice In Chains, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer pummel a crowd into submission. The last band to play was Slayer, going on when the sun was blood-red on the horizon. They were touring for Seasons In The Abyss and they made all three other bands look like the opening act at some dumpy bar in downtown Seymour, Indiana. Their set was loud, anxiety-ridden, and terrifying. They never let up, ripping through nearly ten years of Satanic incantations put to speed metal riffs and whiplash-inducing double kick drumming thanks to the drum God called Dave Lombardo. My brother and I witnessed a 50 foot mosh pit form in the middle of the lawn at Deer Creek. We saw bodies, shoes, wallets, and countless clothing items fly into the air. We’re not sure anyone emerged the same from that storm of whipping hair and devil horns.
That show left an indelible mark on me. I’d liked Slayer enough. Their videos for “War Ensemble” and “Seasons In The Abyss” made them semi-popular equally with music nerds and jocks alike at my high school. But beyond the musical prowess and raw vitriol that got even the quarterback giddy with headbanging excitement, there was the myth of Slayer. These blood-thirsty Californians that emerged from the late-70s and early 80s punk scene and combined that with this newfound love for NWOBHM. These guys were those greasy punks in River’s Edge, but for real. Scary as hell, singing about Satan, Hell, the gnashing of teeth, serial killers, child murderers, and guys wearing dead skin masks. They wore t-shirts and torn jeans. They could be that guy sitting in that 1977 El Camino that’s idling next to you at the stop light. Is that a body in the back?
What I’m saying is that you took Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, and Dave Lombardo at their words, and their words were disturbing.
Through the years Slayer have kept a pretty solid discography. Some records worked(World Painted Blood), while others didn’t(Christ Illusion, God Hates Us All), but regardless it was always a Slayer record. With the unfortunate passing of guitarist, founding member, and major songwriting contributor Jeff Hanneman it was unclear whether the band would continue. With ex-Exodus guitarist Gary Holt Slayer did indeed continue(along with Dave Lombardo replacement Paul Bostaph) and they have given us Repentless. Repentless isn’t chartering new territory here, but that’s not necessary with a Slayer record. What’s needed is aggression, break neck riffs, pummeling drums, and Tom Araya’s blood-curdling howl. We have all of those here in spades.
The songs? “Repentless”, “Take Control” and “Atrocity Vendor” are like stepping back in time to 1985s Hell Awaits, still very much steeped in that hardcore punk scene they emerged from. “Vices”, “Cast The First Stone”, and “Chasing Death” venture more into their progressive metal tendencies that were very present on their breakthrough Seasons In The Abyss. Pretty much any era of Slayer you want is here. They may be older, but they haven’t lost their vigor for this stuff. They’re still scary at all the right places.
This could very well be the last Slayer album. Tom Araya was ready to call it quits back in 2008, but decided to keep on keeping on with his pals. If this is indeed their death knell, at least Repentless is seeing that they go out bloody, kicking, and screaming.