With the mixed signals of a farewell tour in 2018-19 and reunion shows later this year, Slayer fans aren’t sure what’s on the horizon for the heavy metal juggernauts. Against that backdrop, guitarist Kerry King has released his first solo album, the first collection of new music to emerge from the two original members in the current/final lineup of the band.

With longtime Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph behind the kit, “From Hell I Rise” is a de facto Slayer album, making it the unofficial follow-up to 2015’s “Repentless,” which could turn out to be the band’s swan song. But there are a few details that make this album stand apart from the Slayer catalog. The most obvious is that lead vocals are sung by Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda, not Tom Araya. And while Slayer lyrics would revolve from King’s takes on religion to Araya’s serial killer songs to the late Jeff Hanneman’s war stories, that contrast isn’t there on “From Hell I Rise.”

The band also includes Phil Demmel (formerty of Machine Head) on guitar and Kyle Sanders (Hellyeah) on bass.

King sets the table with the ominous instrumental “Diablo,” built on a repetitive guitar riff. “Where I Reign” is classic King, with lyrics like “Religion crucified/Dead and rotting from inside.” “Residue” has a sinister intro of rumbling bass, lead, then rhythm guitar and an Osegueda scream. The grinding groove of “Idle Hands” makes it a strong track, with nifty stop-start patterns and a ripping King solo, while “Trophies of the Tyrant” creates some contrast with a midtempo (by thrash standards) speed. Bostaph’s drumming here is particularly tasty, with an intricate ride cymbal and double pass pattern on the chorus.

“Two Fists” is like nothing Slayer has ever done. It opens with a guitar riff that is more classic rock than thrash metal before settling into a deep groove, making it somewhat different than the typical Slayer tune, but the most interesting departure from the Slayer blueprint are the lyrics: a deeply personal and vulnerable expression of the struggles of sobriety. While the title might sound like a description of violence, it’s actually a reference to double-fisting drinks: “It all comes down to this, my will and these two fists,” Osegueda sings. With Death Angel and the all-star group Metal Allegiance, Osegueda has balanced power and range, and his vocals on the King album are equally well-executed and work well with the lyrics. His singing also brings out a subtle sense of melody that the songs might not have had if they were recorded with Slayer.

“Shrapnel” is a fun song with a Tony Iommi-inspired guitar riff and some spoken word vocals that set up a rapid-fire delivery. The title track closes the album, and it’s a ferocious song that would’ve fit on “Repentless,” with inspired yells that take down religion over crushing guitars and rumbling double-bass drums. “I watch religion die,” Osegueda sings before King plays a typically short and brutal solo.

If King released “From Hell I Rise” under the Slayer name, the songs, performances and production would be good enough to clear the bar the thrash metal titans have set, and mostly achieved, over the course of their career — in fact, it’s better than some Slayer albums. If Slayer is indeed no longer a recording entity, and King, Bostaph and Osegueda stick together, it will be worth keeping an ear open to see what they contribute to a thrash subgenre that can do with some new blood, even if it’s coming from an old source.

Rating: 75/81

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