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More than quite a few times, we see that a particular song off an artist’s discography is so commercially and/or critically acclaimed, that it pretty much becomes representative of their sound. Peace Sells for Megadeth, Master of Puppets for Metallica, Crazy Train for Ozzy; there are a number of such examples. Slayer’s Angel of Death is another one of such tracks. It may not be their best but you ask anyone new to them about Slayer and you are sure to hear of ‘Angel of Death’ from that person. It also helps that this track is the best one off Reign in Blood which is one of Slayer’s most commercially successful albums.
Starting off with an instantly recognizable riff which is followed by Lombardo’s insane drumming; this track is a winner right away. A mad scream and this crazy ride is on its way. The vocals are an interesting part of this song. Fans of their earlier work will remember Araya’s uncontrolled shouting which though technically far from great, packed a lot of venom. The venom is still present but the aggression is relatively restrained. But the vocals are still good enough to ignore this. King and Hanneman together form one of thrash metal’s greatest guitar teams and together they are packing brilliant riff after riff here. The chaotic solo starting in at around the 3:35 mark is another example of the brilliant guitar work present on this song. The drumming here is again top notch which is something that was expected of Lombardo in the 80s.
The lyrics are an important facet of music and this song is no different. The lyrics are the reason that this song is so controversial. Lyrically, this single is the music incarnation of an exploitation movie. We may have become desensitized to torture and exploitation lyrics now, but back in 1986 a song describing in graphic detail, the heinous surgical experiments on Jews in the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp was more than enough to raise a number of eyebrows. Sample this
Pumped with fluid, inside your brain
Pressure in your skull begins pushing
through your eyes
Burning flesh, drips away
Test of heat burns your skin, your mind
starts to boil
These lines are more than enough to convey my point.
The only grouse that I may have had against this single is the fact that there is only one track present here. With no rarity to offer, spending money on just one track that we already have in the album doesn’t seem very intelligent now. But considering the fact that this single was released before the album to give a taste of what is to be expected, it may not have been a bad decision back then.