On 22nd January 2018, there was an immense explosion of grief in the heavy metal underground. Fans shed tears and social media ignited with anguish as Slayer – the perennial thrash metal antagonists – announced that they would be retiring after one last, grandiose world tour.
This self-professed ‘Final Campaign’ marks the end of a near-four-decade-long career, during which time the quartet have consistently been purveyors of unrepentant brutality.
All of this makes Slayer’s 12th album, 2015’s Repentless, their appropriately-titled swan song. Despite being released during their twilight years – after the respective death and departure of founding members Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo – the disc is one that celebrated Slayer in a flurry of riff-laden excess.
Every song was unrelentingly loud, fast and angry, and Repentless’s three supremely gory music videos only accentuated that. Now, as Slayer’s touring for the album – and their lives as a whole – wraps up, they’ve marked the occasion by extending those video clips into a narrative-driven short film: The Repentless Killogy.
Fundamentally, The Repentless Killogy is Slayer’s answer to Metallica’s own fiction cinematic venture, Through the Never: both films integrate the band’s music and live performance into an otherwise unrelated made-up story. And while this fusion made Through the Never an awkward and confusing experience, The Repentless Killogy is awkward, confusing and offensive!
The film is a revenge tale as generic as they come, derivative of the B-movie splatter you’d find in I Spit on Your Grave and Kill Bill. It follows protagonist Wyatt as he hunts down his old Nazi gang as payback for them killing his nameless wife/girlfriend/lover/baby-mama and, by extension, his unborn child. Why did he leave the gang? Who knows! Does he still believe in those Nazi values? Who cares! The film sure doesn't…
What follows this stupidly archaic woman-in-the-refrigerator setup is a bloodbath of unintentionally comedic proportions, loosely connected by clumsy edits. Rather than live up to its mission statement and expand the three Repentless music videos into one cohesive story, The Repentless Killogy simply plays the trio back-to-back, separated only by lazy “One week later…” intertitles.
It then indulges in a lengthy, tagged-on epilogue devoid of any Slayer music whatsoever, bar 30 seconds of Angel of Death. There’s no sense of progression, with each scene focussing solely on providing one grisly gang member kill, to the point where they could be screened out of order and nobody would notice.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the gore was well-executed. After all, this is clearly what the film is emphasising – murder is even more heavily featured than Slayer themselves! But, despite The Repentless Killogy portraying itself in a deadly serious light, most of its on-screen kills are either pedestrian (a simple, well-placed axe to the head) or so out-of-the-box they become hilarious (cleanly decapitating someone with an inches-thick tow-rope).
As a story, as a blood-soaked showcase and as a platform for Slayer themselves, The Repentless Killogy flops harder than the multitude of corpses it features falling to the cold, viscera-covered floor. However, once its end credits wrap, there is a gigantic saving grace: a complete, 90-minute Slayer live show. All pretenses are dropped as cinemagoers are suddenly whisked into the band’s 2017 headlining performance at Los Angeles’ The Forum arena.
This is the point where The Repentless Killogy ascends from a zero to a 10. Slayer have spent their entire, 40-year tenure being adored by metal fans for unapologetically just being Slayer: fast and heavy, no frills, and no ifs, ands or buts. So it’s almost symbolic that their film’s post-credits fallout, which is nothing but Slayer playing their music on their terms with no interruption, is easily its best part.
Among a visual onslaught of hellfire and inverted crosses, these unholy antiheroes arrive, flaunting their to-the-point appeal as they barrel through Repentless, The Antichrist and Disciple with lethal precision. This sets the tone for an hour-and-a-half that never loses momentum, captured by intimate camerawork and perfect sound mixing.
The video editing is overly erratic in these opening moments, initially failing to capture the grandeur of Slayer’s immense backdrop and pyrotechnics, but it mercifully mellows as the concert continues.
War Ensemble remains an ever-reliable highlight, appearing early in the evening to provide a jolt of sheer adrenaline. This is only accentuated by its introduction, in which frontman Tom Araya cuts through an ominous blackness with a cathartic, powerful roar. From there, it’s one volleying thrash classic after the next, with the odd newer deep cut emerging but still able to hold its own in terms of moshpit-aggravating energy.
Overall, The Repentless Killogy is an incredibly mixed bag. On the one hand, you have the film itself, which singlehandedly embodies every single stereotype held against heavy metal. It's unsympathetic, mindlessly violent, sloppily executed, male-orientated melodrama that spits in the face of the more open and diverse subculture that recent workhorses such as Venom Prison and Ithaca are ceaselessly grinding to cultivate.
On the other hand is the Slayer concert: a worthy tribute to a legendary band and to the power our genre can wield when standing on its own two feet without any interference.
The live portion of this release is worth the price of admission alone, but if you're looking for an amazing, violent revenge thriller with a decent soundtrack, stick John Wick on.