FILM REVIEW: Slayer – The Repentless Killogy
The Repentless Killogy is a curious package indeed. You can’t help but find yourself thinking about Through The Never, Metallica’s bank-account depleting concert film/narrative hybrid, a film nobody really asked for and even less people cared about upon release. This visual document of the Repentless tour is genuinely awesome. Awesome, of course, in both a positive and deeply negative context.
Let’s get this out of the way: the narrative section of this film is entirely pointless, almost without merit and will become as forgotten as Through The Never has been. We follow a former Neo-Nazi called Wyatt who goes on a revenge quest against his former chums. As this is an expanded narrative now, rather than just some connected music videos, the problems are glaring and immediate. Why did Wyatt leave the gang? Why did he join? When did he meet his girlfriend? None of these questions are answered. There is a deeply gruesome scene where a pregnant black woman, given no lines to speak, is murdered at the hands of a white man, arguably in incredibly poor taste in the current social climate. It’s difficult to think of any other reason this occurs in this manner other than to provoke incredibly cheap shocked reactions from the audience. It’s a demonstration of the phrase “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
As it goes on and Wyatt hunts down different crew members, you may find yourself justifiably questioning the point of all this, and that the Neo-Nazis are being killed in increasingly Mortal Kombat aping ways. On that note, someone gets their heart ripped out and you are expecting to hear “fatality” boom out of the speakers at you the whole time. When you go so extreme with the violence, you cross into absurd comedy and utterly dilute the shock value. Its also impossible to care about the characters, to cheer at their demise, when you have no context for them, no hint as to anything resembling an inner life or even “how did we get here”. It’s like watching a series but starting from season four. The fact that the film literally has to put the names of the bad Nazis on screen during their swift appearance and equally swift maiming is astonishingly lazy, and draws attention to this problem. Danny Trejo is in it as well, and if you were wondering if his character has any name or background, you already know the answer. What a waste.
When the end credits roll after a denouement that attempts to link this story to the concert that has to be seen to be believed, you’d be forgiven for asking for a refund from Kerry King himself. Thankfully, after the stale, mouldy bread of the previous forty minutes, a delicious three course meal of Slayer blasting their way through a show at the Forum in Inglewood is there to cleanse your palate and make you headbang, air guitar and air drum yourself into a rabid, mouth-frothing mess. If your not doing all of these at the same time, your sound system isn’t plugged in, especially when they throw The Antichrist at you two songs in.
After Hate Worldwide, there’s this beautifully serene moment where Araya just takes a couple of seconds to compose himself before addressing the crowd, surveying his metallic kingdom that he worked so hard for whilst looking like he’d happily offer you a Werthers Original and regale you with stories of his life. He looks like he must have known (this show was recorded before the announcement of their farewell tour) that there isn’t going to be too many chances left for him to do this and it’s really lovely to watch, and then he taps into the frontman we all know and love bringing in War Ensemble.
The set-list is monstrous, covering almost every album and only the biggest picker of nits could quibble when you get to hear Postmortem live. From a production standpoint, the brief appears to have been fire, fire and more fire. Even when you might think there’s been enough fire, Slayer plays Born Of Fire. By the way, when it comes to Slayer, there’s never enough fire. Well placed slower, creepier songs like Dead Skin Mask and the thumping mid-paced Bloodline are deployed in crucial moments to stop the audience becoming desensitised to the assault of the faster classics, showing off the nous needed to put together a great set-list that you only get from playing decades of live shows. The way Dead Skin Mask is introduced is also low-key hilarious.
Araya still cuts an imperious presence despite his well-publicised neck issues denying him the ability to headbang safely. Kerry King’s endless barrage of chaotic soloing sounds as wonderful now as it did in 1983. Gary Holt continues to do an impeccable job filling the void left by the passing of Jeff Hahneman, and Paul Bostaph assaults the kit like it owes him minimum six month’s rent.
A closing run of South Of Heaven, Raining Blood, Chemical Warfare and Angel Of Death is a devilish, evil statement of utterly uncompromising dominance. Slayer were and are one of the greatest musical forces metal has ever seen. That scream at the start of Angel will never not be a top five moment in metal, ever. Even though the sound mix isn’t quite as good as it could be, lacking a little in the bottom end, the energy of the performance is captured completely by Wayne Isham and his talented crew. The editing manages to not linger on anything for too long, but avoids the trap lots of concert videos fall into of being hyper frenetic.
Skip the first forty minutes of this, and what you have is a great, late career Slayer show capturing the final configuration of a legendary act, one who arguably outright perfected the genre in 1986 with Reign In Blood. It’s still not quite sunk in that they are really going to cease touring, and it’s important that we get out and see these bands, because Slayer and their contemporaries will all be winding down sooner than we think. It’s hard to argue that the band are going out on a high, still delivering a high quality, intense show stacked with pace and power like a rampaging, murderous horde of barbarians. We may never see their like again.
Written by: Louis Tsangarides