Album Review – Slayer – Reign In Blood

April 18, 2014 — 1 Comment

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

3. Necrophobic

4. Altar of Sacrifice

5. Jesus Saves

6. Criminally Insane

7. Reborn

8. Epidemic

9. Postmortem

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.

Tom Araya
Kerry King
Jeff Hanneman (RIP)
Dave Lombardo

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One response to Album Review – Slayer – Reign In Blood

  1. I disagree with Kerry’s comments. I do understand what he means, in that metal music appears to follow a linear scale of intensity and in contrast to the music that has come since it was released it may appear less intense. But to me that’s nonsense. The album is great because of great songwriting.

    Good songs are all that matters, not the tempo, not the tuning, not how much distortion is on the guitars and certainly not how loud the thing is mastered, just the music itself. Slayer wrote great songs, riffs, lyrics and they kept them short and to the point.

    One proof of that is in the covers that other people make. Whether it’s the cello quartet with Metallica or the guy playing Slayer on a ukelele, it’s still heavy and ‘evil’ sounding. There’s songs in genres far outside of heavy metal that are heavier and more badass sounding than some of the songs squarely inside the metal genre. It’s more about the structure of the writing and less so the presentation of it.

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