When I first heard “Repentless,” I was thrilled. In the aftermath of Jeff Hanneman’s death, Slayer had a lot to sort out. Hiring Gary Holt to take Hanneman’s role followed, as did firing Dave Lombardo and bringing Paul Bostaph back onboard. Kerry King and Tom Araya could have called it a day and shut Slayer down, or become a nostalgia act and toured off a greatest hits package, like some Top 40 schmuck from Long Island. Some fans had already turned on them because of the reconfigured lineup, so not putting out a new album would have been an easy call. Instead, Slayer forged ahead and put together another great album. And “Repentless” is the cornerstone track, on which Araya and King in so many words scream out, “We’re still here, Slayer is Still Reigning, and fuck you if you think anything else!”
I don’t want to retread the thoughts I wrote in the Piece by Piece for the “Repentless” video, but Slayer’s reaction to the backlash was to say fuck the haters, and plow on with speed, anger and intensity as always. I can relate to that. As a guy who’s had a lot of people tell me there are things I could never do, I’ve always spit back in their face and done what I wanted. My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Robinson wanted to put me in Special Ed classes because I couldn’t tie the strings on my jacket’s hood. I never went to those classes,; instead, years later I went on to get two degrees in English, the second one a Master’s in literature and language from a reputable state University. I achieved a 4.0 GPA. If Mrs. Robinson weren’t long rotting in a cold grave—I think she was 110 when she had me in class in the late 70s—I’d love to show that decrepit crone my diplomas. “You think I couldn’t do this? Oh wait, I already did.” This train of thought is all over “Repentless,” and I applaud King for the lyrics. “No looking back, no regrets, no apologies/ What you get is what you see.” I can get behind that. If you plan to waste my time with your doubts about me, you’d better move out of my way or prepare to be run over.
Those lyrics are even better in the Hellfire of some smoking hot instruments. “Repentless” prove Araya and King can bring the speed and chaos with the same sweet perfection they did back in 1983 on Show No Mercy. This is classic thrash at an insane BPM rate, and it gets my blood pumping every time I listen. King’s solo work is on fire, and Holt’s thrashing balances it out nicely with his solos. Araya’s bass work is lower in the mix, but he’s pounding it out as always. And Bostaph’s drum track drives the fury, in a nice return after a long absence following God Hates Us All. Slayer isn’t capable of half-assing anything, and they went all-out on this track. Satan bless them for it.
Full disclosure, when I heard the title, my first thought as I cringed was, “Oh no. Kerry’s making up words again.” King is the guy who’s created “consfearacy,” “ cleansation,” “Americon” and now “repentless” over the last few albums, and as that guy with the 4.0 blah blah blah, I was screaming, “It’s ‘UNREPENTANT,’ Kerry!” But in the vein of being a Slayer diehard, I eventually got to the point where I can take pride in being Repentless myself.
I’ve seen Slayer open with “Repentless” the last two shows, and it’s a hot way to start. Here’s a live clip from Toronto. The boys are in full form, and this is a great performance of a great fucking song.
Three days ago, Slayer announced they’re going on a final tour. I have no idea if this means they’re no longer recording albums, or what song they’ll open with. All I know is that “Repentless” speaks to me—no, SCREAMS AT me, and if it’s the last opening track on the final Slayer album, King and Araya did right by 35 years of the band. There’s nothing to have to repent there.