Slayer: Repentless (Nuclear Blast)
In recent years, for reasons which I cannot fathom, it appears to have become fashionable on many social media outlets to criticise one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time. Too old, past it, disrespectful to Jeff Hanneman’s memory; you name it, it’s been posted. Whilst it is just trolling and the proof of the pudding will be in album sales and the attendances during the forthcoming UK tour, it seems to me to be quite astonishing. With the departure of Dave Lombardo and the death of Hanneman, the focus of continuing the band forward sits with Tom Araya and driving force Kerry King. However, the band has had Exodus main man Gary Holt playing with them for a long time now, and the return of Paul Bostaph, a former incumbent of the Slayer drum stool and no stranger to the Slayer sound completes what in essence is as good a line up as you can get.
Opening with the atmospheric Delusions Of Saviour, which creates the requisite build up for the band to crash into the mosh pit inducing title track, the album immediately fires the blood. Repentless contains the essence of Slayer; full throttle drums, visceral riffs and Tom Araya's busy and distinctive vocals. Kerry King’s slicing guitar work combines with Holt to provide the usual two pronged attack that is such a trademark of this legendary outfit. If you are expecting a change from the standard Slayer approach then you’ll be sadly mistaken. It is a classic tour de force of thrash from the absolute godfathers of the genre. Yes, there remains the odd weaker track, Vices for example struggles in comparison to the tracks either side of it, Take Control and the evil eerie Cast The First Stone which provides a slower pace and a monster riff which grabs you right in the guts. Meanwhile Bostaph's playing is off the chart, massive double bass drums with machine gun snare and cymbal attack, you can tell the man is happy to be back in the fold.
Much criticism was levelled at the quality of King’s song writing in comparison to the classics penned by Hanneman, and sure, there aren't the Angel Of Death epics through the majority of the album but don’t let that fool you. Just as World Painted Blood and Christ Illusion had some real stompers, so Repentless continues the work. When The Stillness Comes is as creepy and frightening as it was when it was released on Record Store Day, jangling guitar work and Araya’s haunting screams combine with some massive chugging riffs before it explodes into a runaway beast. Similarly Implode, released several months ago retains the old school Slayer feel even if there is a slight Slipknot sounding guitar work (so where did Slipknot get their riffs from then?). If you expected Slayer to release something massively different from their work in the last ten years, then I pity you: what the fuck is wrong with you? Slayer, like most classic metal bands have a tried and trusted song structure which rarely changes. However, that structure remains fresh and Repentless, with the fresh input of Holt and the excellent drumming of Bostaph There is also the bonus of a Hanneman compostion in Piano Wire. Apart from that, King has shouldered all of the writing (sans one assist from Araya) and I think he’s done a damn fine job. To the haters, maybe it is time to get out of the basement of your mom's house and see some sunlight. Repentless demonstrates that there is still much life left in the machine, and come November the metal community in the UK will no doubt show that Slayer remain an important and vital element of the thrash metal genre. Welcome back boys! 9/10
Soilwork: The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast)
I have to admit that Soilwork have never really floated my boat. One of the few genres that I struggle with, the melodic death approach similar to fellow Swedes In Flames and the raucous Arch Enemy really does little for me. The Ride Majestic is the 10th release and does not feature Ola Flink on bass (new man Markus Wilbom is credited but did not perform). There is no shortage of power on this long player with the title track and the frantic Alight In The Aftermath really setting the pace; Bjorn Strid’s combination of both clean and growling vocals both enjoyable and slightly irritating. The aggressive machine gunning of drummer Dirk Verbeuren anchors a riff fest from guitarists David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret whilst the key work of Sven Karlsson links and underpins the overall sound of the band. It’s a confusing mix of all out thrash, elements of power metal with harmony backing vocals, for example during Death In General as well as some chunks of nu-metal style at times. And I suppose that is my problem; yes, there is not one defined style or genre in Soilwork's approach and sound but it just comes across as a little bit similar. That’s not to say that this is a bad album by any stretch, with David Castillo’s production pretty slick. However, having given it a couple of spins, I found my attention wandering as every track merges into the previous one. I never got In Flames either mind you, so maybe it’s just me. 6/10
Karhu: Genericist (Self Released)
UK metal band Karhu's second full length release is an interesting listen. Mixing elements of thrash and progressive metal, riffs that vary from Pantera to Opeth, wild time changes and a mix of vocal styles (from Chris Cornell to Randy Blythe to Max Cavalera), this is one intricate album created by just two men. Powerful from start to finish, Genericist has a massive groove flowing throughout and current members Joseph Parry (Nearly everything) and Juani Cummings (Guitars) demonstrate some excellent musicianship. Bone crushing in parts, melodic and more mainstream in others, this album really does give you plenty to think about. Karhu means Bear in Finnish and they certainly contain the power of a massive grizzly motherfucker. Opener Acceptance sets the bar high, full-out assault, with some blistering drumming and riffs so sharp you could cut your hand on them. At times reminiscent of UK progressive techno-metallers Xerath, Karhu mix the tempo to keep the interest high, with Solemn a much calmer, measured piece, full of atmosphere and delicious guitar work before it erupts into a groove laden stomp which hammers away and kicks you in the shins. In Genericist Karhu has delivered a really excellent and interesting album, one that will get a lot of plays for the foreseeable future. 8/10