For metal icons Slayer, their 11th album (recently announced under the title Repentless) was always going to be a journey into the unknown.
"When Jeff got hurt, I thought, ‘I have to be prepared’" - Kerry King
After dismissing drummer Dave Lombardo in February 2013 and with guitarist Jeff Hanneman passing away just months later, the band has been forced to rebuild - recalling Paul Bostaph on drums and Exodus’ Gary Holt on guitar.
“It’s been an entirely weird recording session for us, going back four years,” King tells us.
“When Jeff got hurt, I thought, ‘I have to be prepared, in case Jeff comes to the party with nothing.’ Jeff was popping into rehearsals, but he was never really ready.
“We just used one of Jeff’s, [Piano Wire], which was left over from the last record: Tom re-sung it, Paul replayed the drums - and it’s in the mix with the rest of my music.”
Into the unknown
After a two-song dalliance with producer Greg Fidelman was disregarded, the band recorded with Terry Date at Henson Studios in LA, but even then, studio time was punctuated by tours.
For a band famed for its consistency - earning them the ’AC/DC of metal’ tag - the sporadic sessions could have spelled disaster.
"Surprisingly, it was far easier than it could have been. That just tells me that we had good stuff"
“Surprisingly, it was far easier than it could have been,” says King. “It’s cool, because you get to live with it, but I might have changed five per cent - and that just tells me that we had good stuff.”
Tones were conjured via King’s signature BC Rich Custom Vs and Warlocks through a signature Marshall 2203KK JCM800 head and two Mode Four cabs, while Holt (who contributed leads but didn’t write) used a Kemper Profiling Amp and an ESP Eclipse.
New classic Slayer
The gear might have been the only simple thing about this record, but the thrash legend is adamant it’s been worth the effort.
"I expect some people saying, ‘It’s not Slayer...’ But I think the die-hard fans are gonna love it."
“Some of these songs are classics already,” he reckons. “One of my favourite’s is Take Control. That song is Riff City. Just when you think you’ve heard them all, another one pops up!”
Now all they’ve got to do is silence any haters with righteous, relentless riffing. “I expect some backlash,” admits King.
“I expect some people saying, ‘It’s not Slayer, Jeff’s not in it. Dave’s not in it.’ But you can’t say it’s not AC/DC because Bon Scott isn’t in the band! I think the die-hard fans are gonna love it.”
Slayer’s new album Repentless is due 11 September on Nuclear Blast