Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986)
<strong>”If you released Reign In Blood today, no one would give a shit.” – Kerry King</strong>
I remember the first time I heard the tenth and final track on this album, on the Grand Theft Auto Vice City soundtrack. Just the title alone was so violent and intense that I wondered if I really “should” be listening to this: “Raining Blood.”
There were the eerie tom-toms, the sound of war over the sheets of rain pelting an empty wasteland.
There was a mighty, evil riff. And there was 3 minutes of the fastest, most insane music my teenage ears had ever processed. The squealies. The tremolo picking, the double-bass drumming–it all sounded as if it was just running away from your efforts to keep up with it, faster and faster, as if it might careen off the rails at any second. And just when it seemed as if Slayer couldn’t hold it all together for one more beat, there’s a titanic thunderclap and a deafening silence of red rain.
I was exhausted.
1. Angel of Death
2. Piece By Piece
4. Altar of Sacrifice
5. Jesus Saves
6. Criminally Insane
10. Raining Blood
Stories like mine are very common among first-time listeners. “Reign In Blood” is one of those records that’s been so highly regarded by so many fans for so long that there’s been a mild backlash: “It’s not THAT heavy. It’s not THAT fast.”
To someone who’s thoroughly absorbed the death metal and other extreme metal that came afterward (95% of which were inspired by Slayer in one way or another), that could be the case. But for the time (1986), Slayer’s achievement here was unparalleled. Then, as now, it was best known for the songs that book-ended it.
“Angel of Death” is one of heavy metal’s most controversial songs, evoking charges of Nazism due to its subject matter: Dr. Josef Mengele and the terror of Auschwitz. When film-maker Sam Dunn visited Israel for his movie Global Metal, he asked about the song. No one objected; one person even described it as a learning experience “as a monument to horrors that should never be repeated.”
There’s the monumental title track, of course. And in between those two tracks are 8 other 2-3 minute songs, all consisting of the rapid-fire intensity and powerful riffs of the hardcore bands Slayer had enjoyed growing up.
“If we do a verse 2 or 3 times, we’re already bored with it. So we weren’t TRYING to make the songs shorter; that’s just what we were into.” – Jeff Hanneman
All 10 songs proved to be a strong influence on death metal for this reason, even though Slayer is mostly considered a thrash metal band. Tom Araya doesn’t really growl; he has a loud military bark-sing instead. There’s very little let-up on “Reign In Blood,” as it simply flies by. “Jesus Saves” and “Criminally Insane” provide brief periods that are slower, but no less intense.
One of heavy metal’s most celebrated all-time records, Reign In Blood is deserving of its many inclusions in Top 5 lists worldwide for some of the best 29 continuous minutes you will ever spend as a headbanger.
Jeff Hanneman (RIP)
Written by Matt P