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1986 was a fantastic year for heavy metal. Thrash metal was at an all time high, with iconic releases coming out left and right. Thrash heroes Slayer were three albums in at this point. Also had one EP and a live album. They were starting to master their songwriting skills, and began to mesh as a cohesive group of musicians. "Hell Awaits" is Slayer's shining moment, but to devalue the monolithic importance of "Reign In Blood" would be asinine. This is their most popular work, and their most respected amongst fans and non fans alike. Is it their best? No. But it's damn good.
Whereas "Hell Awaits" was longer and more developed, "Reign In Blood" is shorter and more chaotic. The hardcore influence is clear here, as the songs are short, to the point, and move along quickly. It has been said numerous times that producer Rick Rubin told them to "cut the fat", and indeed they did that. No song here is over four minutes, and after the opener "Angel of Death", they rarely go past the two minute mark. This is a huge departure from their previous work, and overall leaves a bloody taste of quick paced assault left in the mouth of the listener. It works, but the crafting and cohesiveness seen on "Hell Awaits" is gone, and replaced with ferocity and intensity rather than musicianship.
Lyrically, "Reign In Blood" subdues a bit of the Satanic themes and ideas seen on previous albums, and replaces them with more street level ideas of murder, war, and other assorted topics. "Angel of Death" is infamously written about Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed experiments on prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp. "Piece by Piece" is a twisted tale of a murderous deviant, and this theme in particular would be explored in more detail in later releases. There are still obvious odes to The Fallen One, but it's not as inclusive as their previous work. The cover of a throned demon and hanging imps and ghouls would tell you differently, but the lyrics on this album are slowly shifted from their Satanic themes, and this would be continue on into later releases.
Overall, "Reign In Blood" is widely and almost wholly accepted as a landmark metal album, one that has surpassed the idles of time and become a must listen to anyone who ever applied the term headbanger to themselves. Sure, "Raining Blood" and "Angel of Death", or even lesser lauded tracks such as "Reborn" or "Epidemic" are hugely influential and all around incredible songs. But pound for pound, the lack of crafting and replacement of sheer speed for songwriting makes this album ever so slightly less incredible as "Show No Mercy" or "Hell Awaits".
To many, Slayer ended their reign in blood of the metal world in 1990, but "Reign In Blood" itself is a testament to the band at their seething prime. "Reign In Blood" is as fast, abrasive, and destructive as an album can be, and wholly deserves the acclaim it. So put on track one and get head banging. You have some blood to reign in.
----This review was also submitted to sputnikmusic.com---
There are thousands of good albums. There are thousands of great albums, and there are loads of genuinely excellent albums. An album that’s truly 100% perfect though is quite a rare thing, an album that when listened to lacks nothing, something that makes everything else seem almost redundant. That’s the kind of album that Slayer delivered in 1986 with Reign In Blood.
Metal might be home to some very arty and progressive stuff at times, but at its core it remains musicians kicking you in the teeth with the sheer power and intensity of their music. It’s not the most extreme album ever made, but arguably Reign In Blood showcases this more than any other album. This is a record that literally never lets up, and holy fuck this is a terrifying thing to behold. It begins with arguably the most savage metal riff ever written, and then the fabled Angel of Death scream is unleashed. In nearly 30 years since its release, metal has never quite managed to reach the same level of bloodcurdling mayhem that this moment does. The album could stop there and it’d warrant multiple listens, but there’s certainly more where that came from.
The cornerstone of all heavy metal music is surely the riff, and Reign has more life-affirming riffs per square foot than possibly any other album, whether it be the electrifying speed of Necrophobic or Angel’s slow breakdown or Raining Blood’s infamous opening riff. Jesus Saves has about four incredible riffs before the singing even starts, in a song that lasts under three minutes. That sums up the chaotic nature of the album; each song is an absolute frenzy through a series of riffs that are torn apart as soon as they appear, and before you know it the next song’s playing.
Solos are less so melodic or even constructed as they are a series of seemingly random abrasive squeals, determined to make the listener feel as on edge as possible. Tom Araya’s definitive thrash bark, spitting out lyrics ranging from Satanic worship to the Holocaust, only adds to the total sense of alarm that this album brings to the table. Dave Lombardo meanwhile seals the deal with his genre-defining performance, his sense of urgency on the staple thrash beat that propels so many of these songs making it sound more visceral than any extreme metal blast beat ever could, and his creativity also has to be applauded, such as the odd time signature pattern on Jesus Saves or that monstrous double bass fill on Angel of Death. By the time the timeless closer Raining Blood has reached its dramatic and bloody conclusion, a mere 28 minutes have passed. Those 28 minutes seem to go by in seconds, but leave a toll on your body that’s more akin to hours.
This is an album, however, that’s influence far outlasted its run time. Thrash metal, the height of extremity at the time, never bettered it, and the rising extreme metal scene took Slayer’s lesson in brutality to heart. Nowadays, you can find a little piece of Slayer in everyone from Cannibal Corpse to Bullet for My Valentine. Ultimately, this is what metal is all about, an adrenaline-rush that can only be replicated by bungee-jumping, or perhaps fighting a tiger. Basically, Reign In Blood remains the definitive metal classic.
Originally written for Sound and Motion Magazine: http://soundandmotionmag.com/2014/01/20/classic-album-review-slayer-reign-in-blood/
No, the title of this review isn't gibberish, but rather a means of summarizing the album as a whole. Had they added an extra 30-60 seconds of music to the 2 minute flashes of songs, this album would be the perfect album just about every Slayer fan builds it up as. Unfortunately, these riff demos calling themselves songs pretty much drag the album as a whole down because it seems a tad lazy.
As usual, Dave Lombardo shows his expertise as a phenominal drummer. In my opinion, he's the glue that keeps the early Slayer stuff from turning into a ball of slop. That's not to say King, Hanneman, or Araya are sloppy, but considering that early Slayer was some of the fastest, most aggressive thrash metal around with the only exception being early Sepultura, a drummer any less than Dave Lombardo wouldn't have worked at all. His fills, amazing sense of rhythm, and skills in general are definitely inspirational as well as making you want to air drum, or hell, pick up the sticks and drum for real. How he manages to throw in fills without missing a beat on the snare is a definite example of his prowess as an amazing drummer.
Kerry King, from what I've read, does most of the loud shrieking and screaming solos that are on the bridge pickup and in the left speaker (at least on my system) and are more about whammy bar effects and harmonics and less about melody. Hanneman's leads, on the other hand, seem to be more about melody and shredding on the neck pickup. It seems to me, and I could very well be wrong, that Kerry's leads are utilized more, which is understandable considering it fits the hectic, spastic style of the songs' short structures, but Hanneman's, for me, are more enjoyable. This isn't totally cut and dry as Kerry doesn't always go for the noise and Hanneman does his own whammy noise and harmonic bits as well, so at least they switch things up a tad. The rhythm guitars are fast, frantic, thrashy as fuck, and chaotic as all hell, and are pretty much everything Slayer have become known for up to this point, but perhaps dialed up to 11.
Tom Araya's vocals are his typical shouting and often uses a fast "get as many syllables out as possible" method, such as this piece from Criminally Insane:
"Quarters for the criminally insane
The sentence read for life I must remain
The path I chose has led me to my grave
To try again I'd have no other way
Quarters for the criminally insane
Escape for me has fast become a game
Soon to be, I'll leave without a trace
Endangered species end the human race"
His bass playing and vocals are very good and fit quite well with Slayer's music. While it'd be nice to hear his bass a little better, it's certainly not entirely absent like Jason Newsted's on ...And Justice for All, and Araya sorta reminds me of Gene Simmons when Gene was the demon singing about being the God of Thunder. His shrieks are quite nice and while I don't entirely care whether he does them or not, I am a tad curious why he doesn't shriek anymore.
The songwriting is where this album really falls down a dark hole. Like I mentioned earlier, the songs could've used an extra 30-60 seconds of music at least. Having 7 songs in a row that barely break 2 minutes, let alone 2:30, seems a tad lazy and almost seem like riff/lyric demos and less like actual songs. Some argue that this kept the intensity on the album up, but I don't see how repeating a riff or verse another time or two would've brought the intensity down any. Thankfully for us, the production is decent (at least on the reissue I have, anyways) and doesn't do anything annoying like make the drums sound murky or the guitars sound muddy.
Overall, this album would be more than deserving of all the praise and worship it gets as well as a 100% rating if they had taken a little more time to flesh out the songs that come off as riff/lyric demos rather than actual songs. The songs that break 3 minutes certainly save this album, though they make you wonder why more songs don't break the 3 minute mark. Had Slayer done that while writing and arranging this album, they would've made a classic album that was loved by all. While it is a classic album, the songs that don't break the 3 minute mark give some fans like myself a reason to complain, and I really wish there was a properly arranged version of this album because it'd be a gut-churning, head-stomping, ass-kicking album that'd be equal to and perhaps even better than Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?, Metallica's ...And Justice for All, and Anthrax's Spreading the Disease. Despite it's most obvious flaw, it's still a recommended album and, in fact, is a required album of all Slayer, thrash, and metal fans in general.
Angel of Death
Slayer, as we all know, is one of the most influential bands in all of metal and are my personal favorite band. In 1983 and 1985, they released two instant thrash classics, Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits. I still listen to those albums quite a bit, but this album is a benchmark in speed and brutality. This album alone was a major cause for the upbringing of most death metal, lyrically (singing about Satan and violence even though Possessed was doing that before as well) and instrumentally (as far as speed goes). There were other albums that had influence as well like Dark Angel's Darkness Descends, but many death metal bands name this album as an influence, and rightfully so. Now let's get on reviewing this masterpiece, shall we?
The production is rather sharp, not much low-end production that we've all come to appreciate, but this showcases the rawness of the album, and consequently, you can barely hear the bass, but let's be honest, who in the fuck listens to Slayer to hear the bass anyways? The guitars sound more trebled than anything and I don't know how high they had the gain on their amps, but it's rather high and it's clearly heard. The drums sound absolutely flawless on this album, everything is just right in the mix, it's not choking the guitars making them inaudible, and it's not overbearing. The snare is just right, it doesn't pop and make your ears explode every time you hear it, but it's not so muddy that it sounds like Bill Andrews on Death's Leprosy album. The bass drum is extremely powerful on this album, and ironically it pounds in your ears when you hear it despite the high-end based production.
The instruments on this album are the tightest in their entire discography, right next to Divine Intervention. Dave Lombardo is a fucking machine on this record, he is spot-on in every single song despite the intense speed, "Necrophobic" is a great example, it's the fastest song on the album clocking in somewhere close to 250 BPM. The two instant classics "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood" showcase why he's called the 'godfather of double bass'. The bass work doesn't seem to deter too much from following the guitar work, but that in itself is a feat because the guitar wok is extremely complex and well executed. The random note solos actually work on this record because it puts you where it's supposed to, in the middle of chaos and pandemonium.
The vocals are very memorable, snarling and screaming at you the sick ideas and lyrics that were written for this album, taking every paranoid mother by the throat and tackling every taboo there was to sing about. We all know that powerful high-pitched scream on "Angel of Death" and on "Postmortem". How he's able to do such screams I will never know, and probably don't want to attempt because my throat would get torn "Piece By Piece" (see what I did there?). The lyrics are a step up from Hell Awaits and they fit the vocal patterns a lot better. Songs like "Jesus Saves" and "Criminally Insane" have extremely catchy and instantly recognizable vocal patterns and they have a natural flow to them.
This is a seminal album in not only thrash metal, but in all of metal. It was a major influence, it sparked many sub-genres such as death metal and it raised the bar for speed, brutality and evil thrashing goodness. It should be in every single metalhead's collection. If you don't have it, go online, go to your nearest record store and buy it whenever you see it. I recommend this to anyone who calls him/herself a metalhead and if you have the slightest interest in the genre.
R.I.P Jeff Hanneman m/ 1964 - 2013
My first Slayer review on this site was of "Show No Mercy", which still currently reigns as my favorite album of theirs. In that review I mentioned that I wasn't exactly the biggest Slayer fan in the world. Well, after a few months of actually listening to what they boys offer, I've grown far more admiring of their work...for the most part. My original opinion of Slayer was based solely of this legendary affair. I used to think of it as a loud, incoherent mess of an album. And for the most part I still do, only now I like it even less because after the greatness and progression of Slayer's last two albums and one EP, this one stands as a spastic, sloppy little earsore. "Reign In Blood", while definitely bringing home the bacon in terms of genre-bending brutality and musical performance, is a choppy, too-short misstep in the band's 80's discography.
As I just said, the band is on fire here, which is partly why I gave the album something higher than 60-69%. Tom Araya really lets it go with his patented yells and and gravelly shouting, not to mention some of the finest screams in the group's history. His bass, however, is another story. This is probably the first of many, many Slayer albums where the bass is practically nonexistent, and it does hurt the layers of the sound a bit. King and Hanneman very viciously tearing out riffs up and down their axes, making their efforts on "Hell Awaits" ALMOST tame in comparison. Admittedly they rely on tremolo picking a bit much, but hey, they still fucking kick! The highlight of the four of them is easily Dave Lombardo. This is probably the guy's best career performance. He is absolutely relentless on pounding those skins, never once letting up with double bass and leaving nary a quiet moment alone with a solid fill.
Even though the guys are great at what they do, it's how they do it that's a different matter. "Reign in Blood" may have pushed the envelope in total brutality and helped birth death metal, but that doesn't stop it from being a choppy experiment with half-songs, mumbled riffs, repetitive lyrics and a miserably short running time. There's only about 2 songs total on here that aren't a waste of space. First off, of course, "Angel of Death". One of the best Slayer songs ever; totally and completely ferocious riffing, probably the only good solo on the album, brutal lyrics and one of my all-time favorite heavy metal screams opening up the song. The first half of my second pick is "Piece By Piece", a first half because "Piece By Piece" is still basically a half song. It does have more structure than most other numbers on here, and you can actually make out what the hell Araya is shouting about. The second half of my second pick id the legendary title track; I call this one a half song in of itself because like 30-40 seconds of this thing is made up of damn sound effects! Regardless, the song itself is great; lots of wicked mosh riffing and one of the best breakdowns of all time at 2:11.
The rest of this album of half songs need not apply. Some are okay, like the more mid-paced moments of "Jesus Saves" or the solid soloing of "Criminally Insane", but the rest of these tracks just come and go really in a chaotic, messy rush of jumbled vocals and riffs buried under relentless adrenaline.
Overall, this album is a big step down from the group's last 3 main efforts. While I do appreciate their performances and the fact that the viciousness helped give birth to death metal, it's that viciousness that kills the record. Only about (I guess technically) song great songs, while otherwise riffs and variety get thrown out the window in favor of aimless numbskull brutality. It's too bad, I would have love to have seen what Slayer could have evolved into RIGHT after "Hell Awaits".
If there's one thing I hate in thrash metal, it's laziness. It can really lead to some dangerous misconceptions depending on one being affected by or immune to such a horrible condition. Today's thrash metal (if one can still call it that) is really fucking lazy. I blame it in equal parts on the bands and on their audiences because, let's face it, nowadays a band will most likely play what they think we want to hear, not what they want to play. That's why the standards have fallen, and that's why, unfortunately, we won't get another "Reign In Blood" again, not from Slayer nor from any other band.
There's a conspicuous amount of bashing of Reign In Blood going on throughout the net, mostly based on the supposed "lack of good songwriting" going on here. While everyone seems to agree that "Angel Of Death", "Postmortem" and "Raining Blood" are masterpieces (which they are), the common perception is that almost everything in between is not even worth a listen. Reading such nonsense makes my insides hurt as it proves how lazy metalheads have become.
"Reign In Blood" came out after the promising (if flawed) "Hell Awaits", which suffered very much from a weak production and an especially bad mixing job by Metal Blade boss Brian Slagel, and this is solely responsible for the album's status as a "contender" and not a full-on masterpiece. The two albums share most of the lyrical themes, the buzzsaw riffing, and the concept of "evil" that, at the time, Slayer were so deeply in love with. What sets "Reign In Blood" apart is an urgency and hunger that its predecessor only hinted at, like the guys in the band were possessed by a malevolent higher power they had no control over. This results in the most credible of Slayer's performances ever committed to tape.
As far as the songs are structured, every track on the record is your typical rock song. You get an opening riff, two verse/chorus repetitions, a middle section/bridge, solo, and a closing verse/chorus-outro. That's exactly how the three songs globally hailed as masterpieces are also structured. The difference lays in the amount of time the listener is being left to understand what hit him, and in the case of the 7 tracks that the core of this album consists of, there just isn't enough time for the average metal fan's dozy ear to realize what's been happening in those 16+ minutes. I have my own opinion about what goes on on this album: Hell. Hell in music form, conjured up by four certifiable individuals who just didn't give a good goddamn about what genre they fit or what other people might think of their music. They just wanted to blast, and they did so in the most awesome way possible, and that's by literally blowing away the boundaries of the genre they invented and carving their name in stone for eternity with the most violent and vibrant thrash metal album ever made. Sure, there's heavier thrash records out there, but more intense? No. Fucking. Way.
The terrifying cover is an appropriate introduction to the music behind it and can be summarized in two words: TOTAL-CHAOS. The thrashing fury of every single track on this record is unmatched today. The opening riff to "Angel Of Death" is the musical equivalent of a kick in the teeth by a 300-lb Maori wearing army boots. And you know what the best part is? That kick lasts 28 minutes. A half hour of ultra-intense emotions, from the ultra-violent "Piece By Piece" through the demonic triptych "Necrophobic/Altar Of Sacrifice/Jesus Saves" (the fastest and more relentless portion of the album, that's where the most heads will fall off) to the bewildering madness of "Criminally Insane", "Reborn" and especially "Epidemic" (an overlooked gem). It all leads to the "Postmortem/Raining Blood" double attack, the crushing, devastating, and inevitable conclusion.
The intensity never falls under danger-level. The band members all play at 300 mph, creating an infernal vortex that, combined with the over-the-top sound of the recording and the incessant, brutal screaming of Tom Araya, makes this wild Satanic ride of an album a physical and psychological experience rather than a mere listen. 26 years on, Reign In Blood still sounds like it wants to rip through the speakers and smash your face, and we're talking about an album that was recorded just the way we hear it, without digital fixing. Especially Dave Lombardo's performance deserves praise as many of the faster and more technical metal drummers out there today mention him as one of their biggest influences, sometimes solely based on this performance.
Finally, I doubt there's much thinking from the band behind the making of this masterpiece, and that's the beauty of it. The music engraved on this record comes straight from Slayer's gut; there are no filters at play here, no manipulation, just the real shit. It's too damn fast to leave any time for thinking. It's a wild ride and should be enjoyed for what it is, so just put the record on, wear your headphones, turn off the lights, and lock your room's door. Now listen to "Reign In Blood" the way you're supposed to and let it take you to that stinking ugly place.
Is this album really what many consider to be the epitome of awesome thrash? Really? I don't think I'd be able to find a more overrated record anywhere. This is Slayer's legacy? This is the album everyone knows Slayer best for? What the fuck? I feel bad for Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits (both masterpieces) constantly being in this album's shadow. This album is the very definition of regression. Hell Awaits was very evil and unconventional, and at times even quite progressive (for 80s thrash standards). One would think following that they'd make another epic with more lengthy songs and awesome riffs, but no. They shat it all away in favour of making the fastest thrash they could and forgetting all about something called songwriting.
The album starts promising with Angel of Death. A truly awesome and evil piece with a hurricane of riffs, a ripping solo and some brutal catchy lyrics about The Angel of Death, Josef Mengele. Now if all of the songs on here sounded like this then this would be worthy of the pedestal almost every thrasher puts it on, but alas, it is not. The next 7 songs are so unremarkable, forgettable and mediocre. Most of them are just to show how obsessed Slayer were with making stupidly fast songs with no substance. I honestly can't remember anything between the last scream of "ANGEL OF DEEEEEEAAAAAAAATH!" and that crushing intro riff to Postmortem.
And that's when the album picks up to at least go out with a bang. Postmortem first starts quite mid-paced, while still thrashy, before picking up into a frantic thrashfest and fading out to form the intro to Raining Blood, which is another classic. Starting with a very memorable riff that will be stuck in your head for days after with dual guitars and awesome solos, complete with a slow paced mosh part conducive to headbanging like a motherfucker.
Maybe if they'd released Angel of Death, Postmortem and Raining Blood as an EP, like Haunting The Chapel, it would've been a perfect release. Alas, they stuck some generic thrash songs inbetween and somehow made it "legendary". The 3 songs I like are all perfect. 3 out of 10 awesome songs = 30%. Now I'll just listen to Hell Awaits and cry about how underrated it is.
I remember in grade school hearing some of my friends go on and on about this band called Slayer and how awesome they were and how they liked to push the envelope with songs about anti-Christianity, death, and gore. Not being a fan of metal yet, I never gave them a listen. But as I became more introduced to metal, I did research on the band and learned of their importance as one of the cornerstones of thrash metal and that their album Reign in Blood was one of the best metal albums of all time with the classic song Raining Blood. I eventually decided to give Raining Blood and the rest of the album a listen and find out what all the fuss was about. I certainly had something to fuss about, but not that it was one of the greatest metal albums of all time, but why everyone thought it was.
The problem this album comes down to overall song structure. They are all incredibly short, with Raining Blood clocking in at only four minutes and seventeen seconds, with a good minute of it consisting of sound effects, and Angel of Death times in just shy of five minutes. All the others range from two to two-and-a-half minutes long. The album is only about twenty-nine minutes long total, meaning it could qualify as an EP. Short songs aren't necessarily bad, but often times they leave me wanting more. However, with the songs as crazy and chaotic as they are, often times the shorter the better. But had the songs been longer with more attention paid to melody rather primarily on sound and speed, there would be an increased possibility for catchiness and memorability. But because the songs begin and end so quickly, it is nearly impossible to remember how any of the previous songs went because they begin and end so abruptly. having what seems to eb the same chord progression played over and over again doesn't help either.
Sound is the biggest issue when it comes to this album. None of the guys are bad musicians: Dave Lombardo can double bass pedal the hell of out of a drum kit and guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are incredibly fast and no doubt skilled and capable of cool solos. Now being a fan of power and speed metal, I have no problem with fast music. But it's the fact they try so hard to be fast and aggressive that everything just breaks down into a chaotic mess of sound. Their skill in instrumentation shows up in flashes throughout the album, but as they seemingly have no desire to slow down and build a solid, coherent melody, everything just seems forced. The end product is an album where every track sounds almost exactly the same as the one that preceeded it. This is the most recurring issue when it comes to thrash metal. There is nothing wrong with the genre of thrash metal and I am personally a fan of Metallica and Megadeth. However, bands like Metallica and Megadeth have been known for a willingness to slow things down and put emphasis on melody and emotions other than just anger and aggression as well as on instrumentation from time to time. Not to compare and contrast Slayer from either band too much, but while other thrash bands take the time to create a defined and solid melody to base their speed on, this is something Slayer completely leaves out. Although nearly every thrash band, including Megadeth and Metallica, runs the risk of repetition, this pitfall is most notable on Reign in Blood in that such a heavy reliance on blistering fast, hardcore punk-inspired power chord riffage closes the door on variety and creativity.
The vocals are another issue to take note of. Lead singer Tom Araya does not have a bad voice carries a strong aggressive feel. After all, thrash metal is a rough, aggressive genre which often calls for angry and shouted vocals. But because the songs are so fast it sounds like Tom just tries to scream as many words as he can in a single breath, often changing tempo when he needs to just to keep up. Once again, the problem here is a complete lack of melody, relying entirely on speed and aggression. And his shouts and singing are usually so fast and aggressive it's extremely difficult to understand a single stanza or identify a rational thought, only picking up on words such as "blood", "Satan", "hell", or "death."
The one song that really had potential but just falls short of being great is the famous Raining Blood. After an extended sound of rainfall, it breaks out into a really cool and dark riff that inspires feelings of doom and dread. But then the verses once again break down into an unorganized mixture of chaotic riffing and double bass pedalling (why this is regarded as one of the best drum songs in metal I'll never know) while only alternately returning to that awesome riff. Kerry King provides a very impressive solo that is worthy of its recognition, but before long the song ends with another extended section of storm and rainfall sounds. While the song had potential, only about a minute of Raining Blood, with its awesome opening riff and impressive solo, is of redeemable value. Close to two minutes of it are sound effects and another minute is dedicated to the same old formula of nonsensical chaos. Getting past the sound, the lyrics are violent, macabre-inspired, and deal with the occult. These have often offended the mainstream masses (including yours truly for a time), but songs dealing with the occult and gross-out lyrics have made entire genres of metal, so Slayer are in a way pioneers here. But overall, the lyrics just seem over-the-top and just somewhat ridiculous.
Regardless of my criticisms, Reign in Blood is not a horrible album. Like I said, the musicians and singer are clearly talented and I acknowledge their influence and recognition in the thrash metal scene. But the album just suffers from too much repetition and follows the same formula over and over again, making Raining Blood the only track that has any memorable qualities. If the songs were just a tad bit slower, longer, and more restrained in their delivery, it could have been quite a bit better. But overall, everything just seems so abrupt and forced. It was almost as if the album was written and recorded on a rushed deadline without much time to reevaluate. I understand that this album is supposed to be about chaos and anger, which is demonstrated quite well. But even in thrash metal, where aggression and speed is in the norm, you cannot simply close the door on melody and a defined song structure for every single song. Had Slayer just been slightly open to the idea of experimentation, Reign in Blood could have truly achieved the status of what many fans already designate it as: a classic.
So this is what all the fuss is about? The be-all/end-all of metal? This would make a damn fine EP if it were just Angel Of Death, Epidemic, Criminally Insane and Postmortem/Raining Blood. The other 5 tracks come off as good ideas for a basis of a thrash song, but apparently Jeff Hanneman thought it would be a good idea to stop writing halfway through.
That's what really kills this album. Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits both showed that Slayer were fully capable of writing fully developed and, dare I say, progressive songs, and that comes through on Angel Of Death and...umm...Angel Of Death. The other 4 good songs are still pretty simple, relatively speaking (Postmortem and Raining Blood both have a few changes; Postmortem with the awesome speedup at the end and Raining Blood with the mosh part to end all mosh parts [none of that metalcore chug-chuggachug shit]), but are still full songs, not something you'd expect from a hardcore punk band.
So why is this the flagship of Slayer's catalog? I don't fucking know. Show No Mercy and South Of Heaven both have far better songs (although both are significantly slower than this and Hell Awaits), and Hell Awaits is far more evil, menacing, riffy, and fast. Angel Of Death is amazing, but not amazing enough to balance out crap like Necrophobic and Jesus Saves. Crionics and Die By The Sword from SNM and Hell Awaits and At Dawn They Sleep from Hell Awaits all crush Angel Of Death with their awesomeness, and that's just Slayer's body of work (get some Dark Angel, Kreator, Exodus, or even Megadeth and this album just falls flat).
It's certainly not a bad album, and one every metalhead should own, but it's far from worthy of all the praise it gets. Yup, it's fast, but it's fast for the sake of being fast. Just because you can (and they really can't; this is one of the sloppiest albums I've ever heard) doesn't mean you should. Besides, Dark Angel and Kruiz are faster.
1986 was a pretty sweet year for thrash metal. “Pleasure to Kill”, “Game Over”, “Peace Sells”, “Master of Puppets”, to name a few. And of course, “Reign in Blood”.
Well as soon as is starts, you know you’re listening to Slayer. “Angel of Death” has one of the most recognizable screams in metal history and is just a great song from beginning to end. Several things have improved from “Hell Awaits”, the production has improved. The guitars are much thicker and heavier but are still not up the same production level as Megadeth or Metallica; but for how fast this album is the guitar works pretty well. The drums sound awesome. The bass is meh…you almost never hear it. Tom’s vocals sound pretty much the same as he did on “Hell Awaits” which is not a bad thing at all.
Song writing has not improved though. Hell Awaits just flat out had better riffs. Some of the songs on here deliver at the same level as “Hell Awaits” but some of the others just serve as fillers. “Altars of Sacrifice” is a song that doesn’t get enough praise in my opinion, I think it’s amazing. “Jesus Saves” starts out with an awesome riff but then just falls flat. Yes, it’s fast and chaotic but it just doesn’t stick in my head. “Necrophobic” is one of those songs that Slayer had to make just to show how fast they could play and oh my god do they play it fast. “Postmortem” is another song that is memorable and one of my favorites. It has an awesome riff but also has the speed that I love. “Reborn” is completely forgettable along with, “Jesus Saves” and “Piece by Piece”. Pretty much all the other songs are pretty memorable and are just awesome. Dave Lombardo is one crazy drummer. His fills are unbelievable at some points and his double bass is amazing. I just wish Kerry Kind and Jeff would step it up a little like they have on the later albums.
Now I have to discuss something that I always read about when I read Slayer reviews. The solos. These solos could be taken two different ways. Terrible solos that contribute nothing to the song or terrible solos that actually help the song because of how fast the songs are. I look at them as terrible for the most part but they do fit the song. Pretty much random solos that can get old very fast especially when there are multiple solos in a song (most of the songs).
This is a very good album but I crave more variety. For 1986, you couldn’t get much faster though and for that I really enjoy this album. The songs are good but some fall flat. Still one of Slayer’s best though, I would definitely recommend this.
Best tracks – “Altar of Sacrifice”, “Postmortem”, and “Angel of Death”
Alright seriously, some people need to relax with this album! This album is far from perfect and I can mention a handful of other bands that have the magnum opus thrash album in their discography. This album is 30 minutes long and has the same thing in every song: fast palm mutes and soloing that has a wah pedal and is unorganized with no bounds to any guitar scales. I love Slayer and this is an album that sparks interest in the speed/thrash metal genre, but it is not their best. Sure, it is their fastest and most brutal album, but it doesn’t compete with some of their albums that I will mention at the conclusion of my review.
The first track, “Angel of Death”, with the opening scream by the banshee Tom Araya is the best song on the album. The band is playing fast and is not just palm muting guitar riffs, but instead are playing power chords and sliding up and down the guitar neck. The bridge of the song is catchy, especially when they slow it down and regain their speed through the vocal lines. Then we get to the solos and the song just falls apart. The solo is terrible, like most Slayer solos are, but the riffs under the guitar solo are fast and Teutonic. The lyrics in this song are violent and malicious, making it the best song on the album.
"Piece by Piece” and “Necrophobic” are very short songs, but are fast and have no dry segments except the soloing. I like the bridge in “Piece by Piece” at 1:29 where the vocals are rapid fire and the guitar notes are rung out to give it a doom-like aura. This song does not have a guitar solo, which is why it is one of the better songs on the album. The opening riff and transitional riff in “Necrophobic” is killer and the song is one of Slayer’s fastest songs, especially after the guitar solo.
"Altar of Sacrifice” is, in my opinion, the weakest song on the album. The intro is spectacular with quick strikes of the individual notes. I like the vocal lines with the underlying guitar riff. However, this song has far too many uninspiring guitar solos that rely on the wah-pedal with no nexus to guitar scales. By the end of the song you have lost all interest in the song. Like “Altar of Sacrifice”, “Jesus Saves” is, in contrast, very similar. So what you will get in this song is an excellent mid-paced intro until 1:05 when the band goes on a blitz with speed. We get 3 different solos in this under 3 minute song and, yes, they all suck and do you want to guess what is under the guitar solos? If you guessed fast palm mutes, you are correct!
"Criminally Insane” has some cool guitar riffs that have sliding power chords during the verses and the bridge is appealing. “Reborn” is a fast and “in your face” song. “Epidemic” has excellent fast slide guitar riffs with fast hammer-ons and pull-offs between the verses and a vintage Tom Araya scream. These songs are all around 2 minutes and are above average, but feature the awful Slayer guitar solos: fast guitar picking with the wah pedal.
"Postmortem” is my favorite song on this album and is underrated Slayer song. The song is mid-paced for the first two verses, we are able to comprehend what Tom is saying during his vocal line and the scream at 1:45 is one of best screams in the Tom Araya archives. At 2:15 the band picks the speed up and at 2:47 the band goes on a frenzy with fast guitar riffs and a memorable last verse that will make you want to split your neck. Oh by the way, no solos in this song (thank God).
What more can I say about the last song “Raining Blood?” This is one of the most jaw-dropping songs in heavy metal. With a storm in the intro and the dual guitars harmonizing that later go berserk with speed into the verses, what is there not to like? The verses are power chords with coherent vocal lines. The bridge is reminiscent of the beginning with the harmonies produced by the guitar. At 2:49 all hell is let loose and the band produces the sickest sound in heavy metal with fast palm mutes and screaming guitars that sound like you are getting your teeth drilled. A little strange and bizarre that a thrash album would exit with ambiance of rainfall; but I guess the album is called “Reign in Blood.”
In conclusion, this album is spectacular, but not perfect. This is not Slayer’s best album. I would recommend “Show No Mercy” or “Hell Awaits” because they actually seem like real official albums. “Hell Awaits” has an aura of being an epic album with an enigmatic and sanguine vibe. “Show No Mercy” is my favorite because each song has a different structure and the guitar riffs are a grab bag. “South of Heaven” and “Seasons of the Abyss” are also damn good albums. “Reign in Blood” has good characteristics of a thrash/speed metal and I won’t get into that because anyone who listens to metal has this album. The one thing that makes this far from a perfect album is the terrible guitar soloing as they all sound the same after a while. It’s not even music after awhile, just noise. Also, the fast palm mutes underlying the solos are abysmal throughout most of the album. This album is a colossal inspiration to thrash/speed metal and to me as well. I am not degrading Slayer, but this album is not as inspiring as their aforementioned albums and the killer EP “Haunting the Chapel.” Here is the break own of each song on the album:
Angel of Death: 9/10
Piece by Piece: 9/10
Altar of Sacrifice: 6/10
Jesus Saves: 7/10
Criminally Insane: 7/10
Raining Blood 9/10
Total = 80%
Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” has an infamous legacy in metal, and was pretty groundbreaking at its time in terms of its almost constant barrage of brutality and speed. It’s fast and aggressive, sure, but does the fact this album is considered so influential necessarily make it a great album?
Most of the songs on this album are ridiculously short. Only three clock in over two minutes, and only two break four. This leaves us with a ten song album that clocks in at under half an hour. Due to all of the songs being so short, this album feels less written than its predecessor, “Hell Awaits,” and feels like a jam than a completed album. Furthermore, almost all of the songs are ridiculously fast paced. Almost as though the band said, “Let’s see how fast we can play,” and topped it off with Tom Araya screaming evil sounding shit over it.
We kick things off with Angel of Death, an amazing opener, beginning with fast heavy riffing, and being, to my knowledge, one of the last songs featuring Tom Araya’s high pitched shrieking wail, which becomes a barbaric yell. The song continues on brutally as Tom informs us that the holocaust was bad or something. His voice sounds all out evil, the tone of the guitars and drums are brutal, and this song features something that’s pretty rare on this album: A breakdown, which becomes a misplaced head banging piece where Tom describes graphic details of the holocaust and Josef Mengele’s victims. Then we get to the solo. Often times on this album the solos feel like they’re just fretting random shit on the high strings and seeing what happens. In some cases it works. In some it doesn’t. For the most part, I probably won’t even bring up the solos again, since “random fretting” seems to cover most of them. Tom Araya screams “Angel of Death” a few more times, and so ends the longest song you’ll be hearing in a while.
“Piece by Piece” and “Criminally Insane” have a rather mid-paced intro, which break out into a relentless thrash fest. “Piece by Piece” holds water mostly because of its placement on the album. Being the second track, the idea of relentless thrashing has yet to grow stale. “Criminally Insane,” on the other hand has always been what I considered to be a highlight of the albums middle part. Not as good as either the opener or the closer, but good compared to most of the middle. Neither “Necrophobic” nor “Altar of Sacrifice” fuck around before punching you in the face with speed, although right after Toms scream at the end of “Necrophobic” there is about… one second of a slow riff, while “Altar” slows down just a little while Tom discusses how awesome Satan is. “Reborn” and “Epidemic” thrash almost all the way through, and do absolutely nothing noteworthy.
“Jesus Saves” sounds like two songs that they didn’t feel like working on anymore, so rather than finish either, they combined both. Almost half the song is a somewhat slow chug, with some riffing over it, and then half way through, out of nowhere, it just stops and becomes another fucking thrasher. And then it just kind of stops and you wonder what the fuck just happened.
“Postmortem” is interesting, seeing as it does the exact same thing “Jesus Saves” does, but on some copies, it actually is split, so that the second half of the song is actually the intro to Raining Blood. This song actually makes it work much better than “Jesus Saves” though, and it becomes another highlight of the album’s middle section.
And then begins “Raining Blood.” The eerie guitar feedback. The rain. The almost tribal drumming. The well known riff. After the minute of build up, there is a part that sounds like every other song on the album, but as it goes on, it really stops relying on speed and pays off that intense build up for a while, as that famous riff plays, until Tom Araya finally screams “RAINING BLOOD!!” The solo sounds like a chaotic mess, but somehow the nature of it works well for the build up to that final clap of thunder, as Slayer leaves you with echoing rain.
At the end of the day, “Reign in Blood” is an album you can only enjoy if you’re the type who just wants to thrash to really fast paced noise. Despite how highly regarded this album is, Slayer had already done this type of music on Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits, and much better I might add, and would continue to do it, and again, better, for a few more albums. I can’t even honestly say this is a good starting place for people getting into Slayer. “Seasons in the Abyss” would be better suited, since it offers a taste of both brutal thrashing Slayer as well as the darker more ambient stuff they did. Unless you want a half an hour of senseless brutality, bookended by two good songs, then forget this album, forget all its praise, and forget its legacy. Slayer can, and have, done better, and it’s a little sad that no matter what they accomplish or have accomplished, this album will always be what the band is most remembered for.
Slayer’s Reign in Blood is one of thrash metals best selling records, which goes to show that popularity isn’t everything. Back in 1986 this album was one of the fastest and heaviest thrash albums around, and helped define the genre, in a bad way. Slayer’s Reign in Blood makes thrash metal look like it is played by a bunch of no talent losers who only care about how brutal the music is and not how it sounds.
The album starts out promising with Angel Of Death. The song has a lot of great moments, until the solo which is the typical Slayer picking really fast on a bunch of notes in no particular scale guitar solo. Other than, a terrible solo and some very average vocals by Tom Araya the song is pretty good and a cut above what is to come for eight more songs. The next eight songs aren’t memorable at all, there is barely a riffs in the entire group of these eight songs that isn’t either extremely mundane or just really fast palm mutes. Every solo, almost every riff, and every line of lyrics yelled monotone by Tom Araya gives someone who isn’t very into metal the wrong idea of what its all about. Metal is in fact usually very sophisticated and takes a lot of talent to play but albums like this make it seem like all you need to be a famous thrash metal musician is a fast right hand. The album sort of makes up for this streak of below average songs with Raining Blood, which still sounds like a bunch of speed with almost no actual riffs but it’s still pretty cool.
One good thing about the album is that it is short. If you decide to torture yourself with this album it will at least be a short torture. Most of the songs are under three minutes, which proves once again that Slayer are not good song writers and rely completely on how fast they can move their picking hands.
Another thing about Slayer’s song writing is they do not like melody. The whole album sound extremely chaotic and to people who aren’t used to metal music probably sounds like a bunch of random notes played with a lot of distortion, which is kind of what it actually is. You won’t find a touch of melody on the entire album.
Although I don’t like this album at all I can’t deny its influence. With this album Slayer inspired hundreds of other thrash bands to follow in their footsteps and write really fast and heavy thrash metal records, but is that really a good thing? This album may have inspired a lot of people to play thrash metal but all it really did was water the genre down from great riffing songs and fantastic shredding solos, to speed speed and more speed. This album made it ok to be a below average musician and song writer and play thrash metal.
Slayers Reign in Blood is a great record if you are looking for speed, but other than speed it has absolutely nothing. The riffs are boring, the solos are terrible, Tom Araya is an awful vocalist, I use the word vocalist because while he does the vocals he is not at all a singer, and the album as a whole is unmemorable. On this album, Slayer manages to write two decent songs and eight terrible filler songs that can barely be called songs at all. This album is a below average thrash album that almost every mediocre high school garage band is capable of writing. Other than some fast palm muting and a good drummer, the band has zero talent, or if they do have talent they sure don’t show it on this album or any other they’ve released.
As I re-import both of my Reign In Blood CD's (original and remaster) to my itunes for what seems like the 10th time, I decide to check out the Archives to see if anyone commented on the remastered version's bonus tracks, or maybe the remastered vs. original sound. To my utter fucking amazement, I see that the overall rating for this record is a pathetic 81%! Now that type of rating is appropriate for an overrated, mediocre but still classic work like British Steel, or a solid thrash comeback like Endgame, but come on! This is REIGN... IN... BLOOD!
It was enough to cause me to register for an MA account and write this review, my first on this site. Now, I don't think it's going to do any good to analyze the songs or rave about how it's only 28 minutes, or any of the normal shit people deservedly praise this record for on a regular basis. That said, yes, it IS my intention to help raise the score of this crucial record by giving it a 100. BUT, that also happens to be the score that I actually feel it deserves. This record and no others.
Here's the thing: I don't believe that any two records can be exactly the same and hence deserve the same score. Now since there are obviously more than 100 metal records in existence, it's impossible to give every record a different score. But what IS possible is to assign a top rating. a 100 is THE highest rating. This score necessarily needs to be reserved for that ONE record in your collection that you believe is the BEST RECORD OF ALL TIME. A record that no others can top. To give out more than one 100 score means that you really aren't sure what you like best, and more than that, aren't really putting new records in context, because scores can change over time. I probably wouldn't have put Reign In Blood at #1 on release day in 1986. But over time, it's proven itself worthy...
Point being, acceptable candidates for the 100 slot would surely include the first 3 Sabbath records, Sad Wings, Painkiller, Puppets, Rust in Peace, Ace of Spades, Bonded By Blood, etc. And I wouldn't fault anyone for placing any of these records at 100. But in this reviewer's eyes, it is metal sacrilege to have Reign In Blood sitting on this glorious website at a paltry 81, and here's why:
For all the cries about the major label sellout, the big time producer and all that shit, has any band ever conformed LESS to what we typify as major label influence? Priest did pop covers at their label's request which then turned into pop metal originals, Maiden did Women In Uniform, Metallica went on MTV with a ballad, and Slayer did what, got faster and heavier?! yes! sure the songs got shorter, but they cut the fat, got straight to the point, and still didn't cut the solos out. And maybe that was Rubin's influence, but the difference is that is benefitted the songs and the album enormously. For the first time, a metal band took what was great about punk, the succinct and straightforward delivery, and actually used it to create a better heavy metal song. I love punk rock but there is nothing punk rock about the songs on Reign In Blood. They are out and out heavy metal songs played faster, with more precision, and with a more venomous but contradictorily clearer and organic delivery than had ever happened before or since.
And let's talk about precision. Not the precision of pro-tooled digital autonomous bullshit that is all-consuming in our current time, but the precision of skilled musicians, skillfully recorded. Don't get me wrong, I love raw and I love early Slayer. There are some absolutely killer songs, but like early Kreator, Venom, Bathory, even Megadeth, they are muddy as hell. A cacophony of noise. And sometimes a cacophony of noise suits my mood just fine. But more often than not, a precision-guided metal attack destroys all comers. When it comes to Reign In Blood, the production suits the songs perfectly. Songs this fast, with double kick and rhythm guitar work this good, would simply come across as a sludgy mess with production any less clear than Rubin's (listen to the snare!). But in the process, he sacrifices absolutely none of the immediacy and brutal attack of the songs. They hit, and they hit hard. Crank this record up (especially the original master, with all dynamics fully intact) and you can hear every little nuance of every instrument, with drums and solos obviously at the forefront. And if repetition is truth, then I say again, clarity equals power. And that point is proven in an instant by comparing the Reign In Blood session outtake of Aggressive Perfector with the original Metal Massacre III version found on the Haunting the Chapel EP reissue.
It wasn't Hanneman & King's original, confrontational songs. It wasn't Araya's aggressive, brutal but still memorable vocals. It wasn't Lombardo's genre-defining double kick onslaught. It wasn't Rubin's heavy but crystal clear production. It was the perfect storm of all of all those elements, combined into one half-hour record, recorded in 1986, that ultimately constituted the greatest heavy metal record of all time. hands down. 100.
Slayer's origin dates back to 1981 when the band was founded by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. Tom Araya then joined playing out the parts of bass and vocals. Dave Lombardo decided to join on drums soon thereafter. Their first release "Show no Mercy" was a great debut though it wasn't entirely flawless. But for a debut, it was good enough to convince fans to check them out as a thrash metal outfit. "Hell Awaits", their follow-up release wasn't as good as I expected it to be. People found it to be something that should not miss out on. It just wasn't striking to me. "Reign in Blood", their 3rd full-length album was probably their most solid output for the time. Some of the most brutal speed infected songs are featured here on this release. The album is completely no holds barred form of thrash metal played at it's finest.
As far as the guitar riffs go, they are wholly technical and innovative. Not only that, but they are played with such spell bounding energy. It's really incredible. No track on here is boring or a complete waste. I'm assuming that their main focus here was to achieve a high level of success as far as the songwriting goes. All of the song tempos are totally and astonishingly fast. It's really baffling to the listener. Pure crunch distortion for the guitars that hardly ever seem to let up. I'd consider "Reign in Blood" to be one of the best thrash metal releases in history. The reason that I make this assumption was because all of the songs were spell bounding in intensity. They are all original sounding. Nothing here is copied from anywhere else. Previous releases showed their potential and here on "Reign in Blood" is where they shined their most.
"Angel of Death", their first song on here begins with a totally fast technical riff which gives the listener an idea of how the rest of the album will sound. It's one of the longest songs on here but is in no way lacking in originality. The tempos varied on every song though for the most part they were all very fast. The E-flat tuned guitars punch out some mind boggling riffs and other songs were in more brief moderate speeds. Musically speaking, Slayer demonstrates on here that they were not a force to be reckoned with. No real melodic songs are featured only pure deafening thrash metal. Really brutal and Araya's vocals mesh well together with the guitars. His outputs feature shrieking screams during some tracks and others that are way fast. A good example of the fast vocal output would be for the song "Necrophobic."
Aside from the crunch festered guitars, the bass is somewhat audible and Lombardo's drum outputs were solid. He keeps up the pace for each song and so does Araya's bass guitar playing. Tracks that were also notable besides "Angel of Death" would be "Piece by Piece", "Reborn", "Jesus Saves" and "Raining Blood." Slayer exonerates unique songwriting capabilities here as a 4-some band. They definitely matured as an uncompromising thrash metal band. Their previous 2 releases gave their audience potential as a band. "Reign in Blood" successfully fulfills that potential much more so then other thrash metal bands back in the 1980's.
The lead guitar pieces by Hanneman and King are way technical here. It's difficult to tell the difference between the 2 guitarists. The only way really is to view the insert that accompanies the CD. Though Hanneman said in the past that they show this so that people don't think that his solos are King's. They both show real talent however and the other band members are also very well versed. Araya's vocals/bass guitar playing is quite up to par with his fellow band mates. Lombardo definitely does a great job on drums keeping up in time with the guitar riffs. Probably their most technical release to date, "Reign in Blood" defines the way thrash metal should be played. That would be in a totally hardcore fashion. Production and mixing was really done well. Each instrument was blended together to form a strong and awesomely founded release. The rhythm/lead guitar, bass and drums were fit in together. This was what lacked from their previous 2 full-length albums. Rick Rubin did a great job here working alongside the band to enhance their studio efforts.
Lyrically speaking, Slayer's Satanic and anti-religion topics form the bulk of the songwriting. Their whole lyrical approach is a gimmick anyway. They aren't Satanists even though they chose for this release and prior 2 to talk of these topics. However, it blends well with the music. They wanted to keep that "underground" approach I suppose. Their previous albums also reflect this Satanic worship sort of style to their songs. They shouldn't throw the listener off because "Reign in Blood" is such a classic release from the band. Thrash metal isn't played much finer than this. The original album doesn't feature any cover songs here. It's good that they're entirely originals. This shows what talent the band has entirely.
Even though this was Slayer's 3rd full-length album, it sure shows a lot of maturity from a musical standpoint. Other bands such as Exodus and early Metallica showed their talent as well though Slayer never decided to give up their thrash metal roots. With "Reign in Blood", we see them to be playing at their finest. Pure originality, brutality and uncompromising thrash metal. Very intense album. They didn't wish to cash in and put out something that would sell out like Metallica did. People that wish to hear uncompromising thrash metal that's totally original, pick up "Reign in Blood." You won't be disappointed. It's a total personification of how thrash metal should be played.
...And thrash metal was all over the place. Most US bands weren’t all that evil. For instance no matter how fast or heavy Exodus were, their riffs still had something hopeful or even happy about them. No, the real darkness came from Europe. Kreator, Sodom, Celtic Frost, you name them. But of course there are exceptions! And the most important once was Slayer. Unamerican darkness surrounded them, Hell Awaits had put them on the map, globally. Slayer ruled supreme. And one month before Dark Angel could become pretenders to the throne by releasing the majestic Darkness Descends, Slayer had come up with something. Something called Reign In Blood.
It has been said Slayer were very much into punk and crossover and this love culminated in Reign In Blood. Letting go of the principle of long songs following the well known metal dogmas. Or maybe they were just touring so much, living the fast life, they only had a handful of riffs and weren’t in the mood to write elaborate material with the ideas they had this time. In any case, Slayer wasted no time and fabricated 10 songs with such an average pace and length, it could’ve just been another hardcore punk album. However it didn’t turn out to be a punk nor crossover album, not like S.O.D. did a year earlier. There was no comedy whatsoever. What if SOD, DRI and such hadn’t done their parts? Would Reign In Blood have turned out this way? No one can tell for sure.
Anyway, there still were two songs here which were longer (exceeding the 4 minute mark that is) and filled with breaks, changes in pace and a shitload of riffs. We’re talking Angel of Death and Raining Blood. For most of us also the best two songs on this album. These songs really are the missing link between the slightly more elaborate Haunting The Chapel / Hell Awaits approach and the remaining short fast songs on Reign In Blood.
Now what’s the true strength of the incredible speed here on Reign In Blood? Two major important aspects. First of all Dave Lombardo clearly suffers from ADHD here or he just forgot he was in the studio and thought they were performing live. If you compare his performance here to the earlier Hell Awaits album he has gotten rid off all neatness. He just goes berzerk, taking the rest of the band with him since they have no other choice. Rick Rubin managed to capture Lombardo’s intensity as we’d only seen earlier on the live Combat VHS. And secondly there are the non-fast parts, breaks and stop-and-go moments. They have been put in so cleverly, making each fast part feel even faster. It is this specific aspect which since then has been copied so often.
Trimming thrash metal ideas till the pure essence is left. No holds barred and to the point efficiency. As a result a band can create an album such as this only once. Yes, there are quite a few riffs which may sound interchangeable to some, often variations on the same D#, E, G & A patterns but that was the beauty of ancient crossover and in a way a charming detail on Reign In Blood, actually making the album sound more cohesive as a whole as well.
Reign in Blood was groundbreaking. And stating that now, two decades later, it might sound generic, simple or monotone in the ears of some younger people just makes the groundbreaking-statement more obvious. It is not without reason the style presented here has since been copied, and therefor further developed, by legions of acts. Slayer were one of those acts who set the standard for fast and furious thrash metal.
When I first saw kids at my school with Slayer shirts, I initially blew them off, after all, how good could they be if you their shirts are on kids who listen to Lamb Of God and Trivium? Well, you’d be surprised if you were in the same situation as me, and at the time I hadn’t listened to more thrash than Megadeth and Metallica, so this was totally new to me. About a month later, I had heard a couple songs, and they sounded pretty badass, and the end result was me getting Reign In Blood.
Now, if you know me, you’ll know that I’m not particularly big on what people think the classics are, just what it actually sounds like, and Reign In Blood doesn’t sound like all it’s cracked up to be. This is just a gateway album, introducing people to fast music, and there's very little for a veteran to appreciate. There isn't even enough memorable tracks for a nostalgic replay.
First off, Kerry King, the God Of Random-Fret-Solos, sounded good on Show No Mercy, but what happened? (did your balls drop off?) Putting it a bit harshly, King's solos sound more like a swarm of mosquitoes dying horrible deaths than the cries of the damned (which I guess is what he’s going for). And with RIB, his solos are the most overarching problem. They're on every single song (often several of them), and always ends up sounding mediocre, with a slight tinge of wankery becoming apparent when you realize he's actually serious.
As for the other laurel-sucking pretend god, there's Dave Lombardo. What’s so special about him? Why does he get all the praise he does? I don’t know, because his drum fills are completely average. He has two basic beats, kinda-sorta fast beats, and the more atmospheric pounding and slow drums. Of the two, the latter is much better, but he uses the first almost exclusively. In his defense though, at least he didn’t descend as much as Kerry King did from SNM, and was much better on that album as well as this one.
Now for Tom Araya. Well he doesn’t keep much quality beyond his very first scream on Angel Of Death, save few select screeches after that. His vocals are about as varied as Lombardos drumming, and even more bland than Kings solos. And as to his bass, well, it just plods along, not really doing anything. Speaking of repetitive, the songwriting on this album could be reduced to a simple mathematical formula that likely wouldn’t even require anything above a 6th-grade education to evolve. All of the eight middle tracks sound exactly the same, except for the intro to Criminally Insane (Which is really similar to the intro for Raining Blood)
Now, you’ve probably looked at the score again by now, and you’re wondering why it’s so high when I’m pretty much tearing this album apart. Well, this album can be saved by two things, and the biggest of those is the indescribable quality of thrash that makes you want to headbang and scream until your neck and vocal chords feel like they've been put through a meat grinder. The main thing helping this album with that is that it is FAST, with most of the songs being under 3 minutes. Before you know it, all those 8 filler tracks will be over with, and instead of dragging all the half-assed riffs through the mud, they just briefly touch it. Because of this, the songs are much easier to deal with, and don’t seem nearly so boring.
Jeff Hanneman, the lone ranger for quality on here, really shines. Where Kerry King goes crazy-deep into his dumbass style, and Lombardo just does the same thing over and over, Hanneman gets what both are trying to do. He goes kind of technical without going into wankery, and provides the base-line for head banging that usually falls to the drums. Make no mistake, all the quality that’s here is because of Hanneman.
But really, the way to listen to this album is by not paying attention to it. If you ever think about what they’re actually playing, it will just seem subpar. This album is perfect if you just want some good rhythm to exercise to, and it does extremely well at that. Take it for what it is, but don’t expect something that will reveal anything to you over time, you hear all you need to the very first time.
Highlights: Angel Of Death, Raining Blood
The Great Divide is not just a geological schism, it is also the debate among the metal community as to whether Slayer’s seminal Reign in Blood is overrated or not. For the record, I certainly do not believe such although I can see why some might think so. That being said, no matter how great and influential a metal album truly might be, there lie devil’s advocates (against Slayer?) ready to rebut the hype. The road to Hell Awaits was paved with good inventions indeed ala Venom; brick by smoldering brick.
Since we are on the subject of Great Divides, according to this album, skies will be lacerated and destinies dismembered. This is what Reign in Blood is all about and the only thing that matters here. When you switch on this album, apocalypse and inherent evil is the order of darkest day: Frenetic riffs are the fire and storm laden down beats are the brimstone. You need not bring wine and crackers atop this mount of Judgment Day.
What greeted listeners the first time they heard Reign in Blood? Why the Angel of Death that’s what. Clocking in just under five minutes, Tom Araya’s howling scream in the first thirty seconds is a farewell of sorts from this type of delivery that characterized Show and Hell. And what a great display it is. One of the knocks against later Slayer material was Tom’s abandonment of this Di’Anno and Halford inspired wailing. I would have liked to have heard a Victim of Changes type attempted closing scream to conclude this killer opening track. But Angel of Death is near perfect thrash so I can’t have everything.
The next song on the death list is the murderous Piece by Piece. The lyrics shouted on this song are a cunt hair too high in the mix compared to the other songs. And while I am splitting hairs, I think Slayer went to their own dictionary because I still have no clue what “modulistic terror” means. My point being that is how I knew the vocals were slightly a bit in the forefront; that I picked up on that term. But I digress, Slayer are thrash masters not wordsmiths. It says terror and this is a thrash album. That’s good enough for me.
The reign of terror modulistic or otherwise, continues to rain down most notably with Alter of Sacrifice. The raw opening riff on this one is quite awesome and I have heard some bands use it since. Every time I hear it I nod to myself that royalties should be thrown to Slayer. My guess is that Jeff Hanneman probably used a passive pickup to give it that raw, hardcore sound. This song is my favorite on the album. Dave Lombardo has some wicked blast beats here and Araya channels Cronos especially when he shouts “Praise hail Satan!!” and “endlessly searching for salvation!” I was left waiting for the Venom frontman to cameo “That was good. That was real good!”
Let us skip down to the final track that is Rain in Blood. The soaring, screeching guitars of Hanneman and King that are heard along with the thunder couldn’t be more brilliant to evoke the epic dread that awaits us here. The famous riff that opens the song needs no introduction. It is of course legendary. What does get overlooked at the start of the riffage is Tom Araya’s bass. What I heard was a masterful beat that seemed like pulsated drone. While Tom will never be mentioned in the same breath as four-string metallers like Steve Harris and Cliff Burton, I always thought he was underrated in light of the speed that Slayer’s metal traveled. I picked up on his syncopation underneath the guitars and it added to my appreciation for this song even more. Lombardo’s blast beats at 1:09 to 1:22 are a clinic for the style that other thrash drummers could only begin to emulate. That Slayer lost their luster after Dave departed is no coincidence.
Nineteen eighty-six was a banner year for thrash apparently. If nothing else, metalheads had options of which new thrash record to buy. That other “thrash” band released a Muppets album and ‘Deth sold Peace which was no push over. But it was Slayer who could bring the blood and brutality if you demanded your American thrash in extremes. Reign in Blood was tailored to be played live as if it was one headbanging assault. Blood would be spewed at the front rows like watermelons at a Gallagher show.
R.I.B is not a flawless thrash album. Some of the middle tracks might have that samey sound and the Brian Slagel production grit is sorely missed sometimes but I would be hard pressed to find a metalhead who didn’t value the contribution that it made on thrash. The divide is not as great on that point.
Well, I'll admit, when this album comes up the word that comes to mind is "overrated." When I use that word, it's usually a thinly veiled disparagement of whatever I'm talking about. What I'm usually saying is "I think it sucks but I don't want to be a dick about it." This isn't the case with this album. Sure, it's good, but when I want thrash metal I usually look elsewhere... so I'm perplexed as to why so many people hail this as a seminal, if not the best, thrash metal album, and as Slayer's crowning achievement. What, better than Show No Mercy? Haunting the Chapel? Hell Awaits??
Perhaps it's my bias against major label releases, but this being Slayer's major label debut, I think it's a perfect example for justifying this bias somewhat. Reign In Blood is Slayer's shortest album (without the bonus tracks), so if you deduced that it's their shortest album, you'd be correct. It is also their simplest, most watered-down release to date (they got worse, but this one is still good). Their first two albums are full of great moments, and basically that's what make them superior, they just have more moments. Moments that make you bang your head, play some air guitar, punch a baby, you know... those moments. There are more rhythm changes and more complex song structures that are impressive as hell. Take "Die By the Sword", "The Antichrist", or "Hell Awaits", they just have those crunching, menacing riffs that either lead up to or provide an interlude for the relentlessly fast verses. The false ending on "Praise of Death", and the following surprise of the band starting up again will literally make you jump. Then there are solo sections thrown throughout. They're impressive solos that haven't aged a bit, shredding and wailing but still intricate and tasteful.
Now on to Reign in Blood. The opener, "Angel of Death" (8/10), shows promise. Gruesome, dark lyrics spat out... check... fast, menacing riffs... check... thrashing, headbang-inducing drums... check... chugging, slower-paced bridge... check... harmonizing guitars, check... oh, but what the hell is that solo? Yes folks, that's Kerry King doing some mindless wanking that adds nothing to the song and makes you wish they'd just assign him to rhythm guitar. Now, don't get me wrong, I like atonal guitar madness, but this is pathetic. The double bass saves the day as the song ends, and you are left somewhat satisfied and hungry for more.
If you're hungry for more of Kerry King's awful excuses for guitar solos then you'll be satisfied... they butcher just about everything Hanneman does with his decent solos, and they usually come after Hanneman's in the song! Blah. If you want more songs on the caliber of Angel of Death with mroe than just verse/chorus/bridge structure, you'll have to wait till the LAST song, "Raining Blood". That's right folks, the rest of the songs are usually based off one riff for the verse, one for the chorus, one for the bridge and... well, that's it! If the tempo changes at all, it's only once during the bridge. A good example would be the song "Necrophobic" (6/10), which is actually made worse by its speed... and I generally like fast music!
The lyrics (8.5/10) are the one place where this album is on par with their previous works. They are consistently evil, mostly being about gore or blasphemy, stuff that made the kids apeshit back in the 80s. I doubt you will find any music on MTV today that will give you a vocabulary on this level (which is the level most of you should be at... no wonder so many MTVtards can't spell) or have six-syllable words. They even cross over to something real and political in their lyrics to an extent in the song "Jesus Saves" (7/10), critcizing those who have their nose in their Bible and don't live in the real world.
I know I've spent a lot of space bashing this album, but really it's still good. It's a perfect starting place for getting into thrash metal, and the songs "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood" are fantastic. Unfortunately my admiration for the album is a lot lower than most peoples' because I heard this album after Hell Awaits and Show No Mercy (since this is Slayer's most popular album, most people hear Reign In Blood first). So this album has my recommendation, check it out if you want to bang your head and scream... for the first time. If you're looking for the next step, do not go to anything Slayer did after this! Wrong Way! Turn around! Check out their first two albums, and then all the bands that were influenced by Slayer's brutal thrashing and took it to the next level... Possessed, Destruction, Morbid Angel, Exodus to name a few. Thrash on!
Note: I apologize if some parts of this review seemed a bit patronizing, but I originally wrote it for a bunch of mallcore kids who were curious about Slayer.
Slayer. The name says it all. Something that's dark, fast, sharp, aggressive and with intent to kill. The band couldn't have picked a better name...
1986. Pleasure to Kill, Darkness Descends, Master of Puppets, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, only to name a few, were massive albums that marked 1986 as thrash metal's golden hour. And where does Reign in Blood come in here? The anwser is right at the very top.
The rhythm section: Dave Lombardo delivers. From the machine gun-like double bass part of Angel of Death to the pounding toms of Raining Blood, this guy applies so much force to his playing that it's practically inhuman. Lombardo's frantic, breakneck style fits this album perfectly. Tom Araya's bass is very silent (in fact, the only part of the album where the bass would be audible- the bass intro to Piece By Piece- was ommited from the final product), yet that isn't anything new or shocking by thrash metal standards. The bass lines just follow the guitar riffs anyway, so we're not missing out on much here.
Guitars: The guitar work on this album is quite admirable. Your ears bleed as Hanneman and King belt out note by note, power chord by power chord and lead by lead. Whammy bar dive-bombs simulate dropping bombs, horrible whails mimic the cries of lost souls begging for their lives, and the frantically shredded solos only add to the general atmosphere of chaos and discord the album projects. However, it must be made clear that no mistakes were made here. Each note precisely on time, each insane solo played perfectly. Hanneman and King successfully defy all music theory through the album, having received little-to-no formal musical training (I do remember King mentioning somewhere that he used to have a guitar teacher, with whom he played in a band as well).
The vocals are frantic, horrifying screams spat out at dazzling speeds. From the opening shriek in Angel of Death to Raining Blood's last enfuriated line, Tom Araya manages to retain both the endurance and the fury of an elephant.
Next up is the songwriting. The songs are short, especially in comparison to the slightly progressive Hell Awaits. We all know the story when long-time Slayer producer Rick Rubin heard the album and let the band know that it clocked in at around 25 minutes. Shocked, the band asked the producer if they should write more songs. Rubin replied that as long as they have 10 songs, they have an album. A lot of people find this record to be much too short, I, on the other hand, find its length to be perfect. The songs are all very memorable, since it's possible to discern the lyrics pretty much without the booklet. The riffs are also very memorable and very easy to make out, thanks to Rick Rubin's phenomenal production. The lyrics aren't exactly innovative for today's standards, however back in '86 singing about Nazi horrors, dismemberment, insanity, etc. and graphically depicting it within one's lyrics was pretty shocking stuff.
So, the conclusion: Reign in Blood is definitely a masterpiece, one of thrash metal's best offerings to date and a prime representation of a young band in their golden hour. The songwriting is stellar, and if the riffs weren't so fast you could actually hum along to them. The band members' performance is perfect and the production is very clear. All this is good, but what makes this album so great?
Well, I ask you... How many times did you feel like listening to some good extreme metal to get your day started, something to help you get through work? And how many times did you start listening to an album when you realized all of a sudden that you have to be at work in ten minutes and at the same time felt annoyed that you had to stop listening mid-album? This problem does not exist with Reign in Blood, since it's possible to listen to it in its entirety without missing a minute of work/school while still getting a major kick out of it. Yes my friends, that's the beauty of it. I definitely recommend this if you're new to metal in general, and if you're an aspiring thrash/death metaller, this is the first thing you should purchase.
When someone puts a thrash album on the player, there isn’t really any question about what kind of metal you are listening to, it’s pretty much as obvious as the night being dark. Differentiating between bands is mostly accomplished through the ratio of punk to NWOBHM influences, the quality of the singer’s voice, and the ambitiousness of the songwriting. But as far as I am concerned, what makes a thrash album truly great is how memorable it is, from start to finish. Can a band actually walk a line between the hyper speed shredding and riffing, the rapid paced change-ups and shouted syllables, and still present something that can be recalled after the last track gives way to silence?
In the case of Slayer, memorable songwriting hasn’t been much of a problem, with the notable exception of this particular album. The hype around “Reign in Blood” is for obvious reasons, since for 1986 this was the most brutally fast, lyrically profane, yet musically ambitious releases to ever crack the Billboard top 200. The band successfully crams about 100 riffs into just under 30 minutes of pure evil, often in small doses that would seem more fitting to the likes of S.O.D. and Suicidal Tendencies. However, in this respect this album’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Although heavily influential in the death metal genre and widely heralded as a pinnacle of the thrash genre, as an album it doesn’t have the staying power to earn the lavish praise that most still attribute to it.
With four notable exceptions, I can not recall any of the songs on here unless I’ve heard it within 10 minutes before hand, and only if I just listened to that one song. Everything between the opening track and the closing track tends to run together because of a uniform approach to songwriting, an evil yet unvaried vocal delivery, and riffs and solos that do more to leave murky impressions rather than brand themselves in the memory. When I play this album from start to finish, I’m into it the whole time with the horns in the air, but the minute it’s over I immediately begin to forget most of what I’ve heard, particularly the middle part of the album.
The opening track “Angel of Death” is the obvious winner in just about every department. As a thrash song it balances mid-tempo grooves and high speed thrills the most even-handedly, features some ugly yet perfectly executed vocals, and plenty of riffs for the ear drums to absorb. The lyrics got the band into some trouble with the suits due to their extremely graphic depiction of the works of Josef Mengele in the Auschwitz death camp, although in rekindling those horrors so well I’d argue that the band did a favor to everyone who would be a future target of such evil by getting people to talk about it and condemn it. The title track and album closer “Raining Blood” rides a very close second, featuring one of the most ridiculously fast riffs I’ve ever heard, one that is still difficult to play in time after more than 6 years of being able to do so.
Unfortunately in between these two monumental songs is a good deal of 1 dimensional punk leaning speed/thrash that individually clock in quite short, yet might as well be one massive 20 minute song. The two standouts are “Piece by Piece” and “Criminally Insane” because they have relatively clear-cut structures and don’t try to cram 20 different riffs and 10 verses into 2 minutes. They’re quite compact; they do change up quite a lot in spite of being short in length, but they do stand out from the rest. The other songs are not very memorable, but definitely fun while being listened to. “Jesus Saves” suffers from trying to cram too many words into a verse and succeeds in making one appreciate the value of a lyric sheet. Tom Araya does his best to clearly sound out each word, but it goes so fast that all you get is “blah, blah, blah, blah” which resolves to a resounding “JESUS SAVES!!!”, definitely not my first pick for sing along material.
Basically after 6 years of owning this album I can say that it is a good album, above average by both metal and thrash standards, but it’s not something that I’d call amazing or genre defining. “Hell Awaits” and “South of Heaven” both bring a lot more to the table than this musically and deserve at least as much attention as this. If by some strange set of circumstances you own either or both of those albums and not this one, it is worth getting, although I’d recommend getting the re-issue so you can at least get more than 30 minutes of material for your hard earned money.
Maybe I’m a bit “common” in my ideas about this album, but I love it and only few others can match this one in intensity and violence. We must think that this was recorded in 1986 and even now a lot of black or death metal albums are not so evil and brutal.
Since their first album “Show No Mercy” you could hear something “more” in their music, compared to the early Metallica’s one: the violence seemed to be from another world. Then on the “Haunting The Chapel” EP this violence grew with a better production and better musical skills by the group. After the gloomy “Hell Awaits”, it was time to release their third masterpiece and so it has been. The goal has been achieved completely.
I thing that nobody expected an album like this. Well, yes, one year before “Seven Churches” was released and still nowadays is regarded as an inspiration for black/death metal, but the pure THRASH INTENSITY is unmatchable here. Slayer have always had the natural ability to compose extreme thrash metal songs with a good songwriting and refrains that can be “catchy”, and, as time passed by, legendary.
Already from the beginning, history has been made with “Angel Of Death”, the song-manifest of Slayer. The band is incredibly fast and Lombardo has become so vicious at the bass drum. This song is huge, a true piece of musical aggression. From the fast parts to the mid-paced riffs, the band is awesome and the solos here are a trademark. Araya’s vocals are so screamed and schizophrenic, reaching the top in “Jesus Saves” song. Pure violence with that mid-paced riff at the beginning, so easily transformed in an up tempo one, supported by incredibly brutal solos.
Here you cannot find so technical parts or melodies so well done by Metallica and so on…this is pure ignorance thrash attack. The hardcore influences are heavily present in the sound, like in the terrific sequence “Piece by Piece-Necrophobic-Altar Of Sacrifice”. Here the violence is terrific…a train! Neverending up tempo parts, good refrains, fast solos, evil atmosphere…a journey through the most far-from-the-sun zone of hell. The drums intros to “Criminally Insane” and “Epidemic” shows no mercy for the listener.
The two final tracks, “Post Mortem” and “Raining Blood”, are the most obscure, always being so fucking fast. The scary solos, the distorted guitars and the faster and faster drums lead in a horror gallery that ends with a imaginary (but not so much…) blood rain. More or less 30 minutes of neverending violent emotions. A must for every extreme thrash metal fan. Here history has been made.
This album is underrated. There will never be sufficient praise bestowed upon Slayer’s work in order to qualify into a justifiable amount. Reign in Blood is a remarkable achievement, and it will always stand as a mighty monument before which all other bands, except Judas Priest, must simply kneel down and admire. This is, so far without a doubt, the greatest thrash album of all time, and one of the greatest accomplishments in all of metal.
Before I get to describing how much this album rules I must confess that I despise the naysayers. Those unsatisfied blokes whom claim that this album is “not that great” or “overrated”. Well fuck you. All I can say is that you assholes have got it all wrong. This album is more than just “fast speed” or “brutality” or even “shock value”. The music featured here captivates something beyond the tangible and the comprehensible. Listening to this with the mindset of wanting to hear “cool riffs” or “brutal songs” or even something resembling memorability will yield undesirable results. On Reign in Blood, Slayer have captivated the very essence of what makes life worth living: conflict. The struggle that brings that glorious sensation of victory is found here in its purest form on Reign in Blood.
Now prepare to have your epidermis sanded off; your bones cracked and shattered; your bowels viciously removed and every part of your body melted into liquid shit. This is the most supreme, ball-busting, gut-punching, bone crushing and amazingly awesome and intense thrash metal album ever created.
First and foremost, the riffs. There is absolutely nothing to complain about. Some might cry and whine about how they are not memorable or catchy and what not, but that’s not the point. Every riff is simply overflowing with powerful and violent urgency. Chromatic notes blend together to for a vast array of atonal harmonies. Aggressive melodies swirl around a sonic landscape filled with abysmal lava and surging water; locked forever in constant struggle. Every note of every riff is sequenced to create tremendous amounts of colorful contrast. The contrast may not initially leap out at first, but it slowly reveals itself after repeated listens. The contrast certainly does ,however, paint a vivid and beautiful picture of every type of conflict the mind can possibly think of. There is just no end to the vivid images conjured by such incredible guitar riffing. Not to mention the outrageous guitar solos.
Speaking of which, the solos are far more cleverly arranged than most people realize. Sure, they are indeed a mish mash of random notes selected from the Satan scale. Yet, somehow Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King manage to make sense out of such insane chaos. The solos themselves travel through the same rise and fall tension of an entire song. It’s safe to say that Slayer is good at making coherency out of chaos.
This concept is also reflected in the ultra intense songwriting. Just listen to the naysayers now: “It feels incomplete” or “It’s underdeveloped”. Well, what the hell do they fucking want? Do they want a catchy chorus, or a memorable verse? Well there isn’t any here! If you’re looking for a sing-along complete with plastic hooks, try the pop band Pantera! As far as the songwriting goes, it’s indeed among the best. Possibly Slayer’s best. On Reign in Blood, Slayer exhibited a willingness to descend into absurd extremities most bands are afraid of venturing into. The songwriting is triumphant not because it’s catchy or memorable or any of the sort. Indeed, the beauty of each song is derived from their ability to change tempo, texture, and feel in one abrupt and violent motion. Such instantaneous alterations occur frequently; often too fast for any unprepared listener to fully grasp. The melodies and differences between each composition are quite subtle, and often obscured by the unquenchable thirst for blood. But lo and behold they will be noticeable after many listens. The pace and direction will change without warning, and yet, Slayer manage to form a visible structure out of such madness. In the hands of any lesser bands, the structure would have simply crumbled into insignificant pieces. In the hands of Slayer, it transforms into and elegant skyscraper; towering above the landscape and dwarfing all other buildings.
Reign in Blood is a brilliant work of art when standing on its own. However, the influence it hath wrought is not to be ignored. It is indeed, quite simply, one of the most influential metal albums of all time. That fact alone elevates its importance. The convoluted style of songwriting feature here would be mimicked by copious amounts of death metal bands including, Morbid Angel, Deicide, At the Gates, Atheist, Crimson Massacre and countless others. Such mind maddening intense songwriting was not done by any other bands prior to or at the time this album was released. Not Kreator, Metallica, Megadeth and certainly not Dark Angel. It’s safe to say that Slayer may have single handedly changed the face of metal.
Ultimately, what makes Reign in Blood such a bold triumph is its garish disregard for all life. The ridiculous Christian derived concept of “sanctity of life” is whole heartedly rejected. It cares not for whatever pathetic life forms that stand in the way. Most importantly however, it does not try to impress anyone. Unlike Dark Angel, whom were busy trying to impress mindless head bangers and pseudo-intellectuals alike, it does not WANT to be liked. It does not WANT to be enjoyed. It has absolutely no intentions of satisfying a bunch of metal heads or snobby intellectuals. Reign in Blood almost seems to reflect the continuity of our chaotic universe. It is not good nor evil or anything. It just simply IS.
Reign in Blood is ,quite frankly, the most breathtakingly beautiful collection of metal songs ever known to humanity. It represents everything metal should be. It is an unsurpassable work of art which must be the envy of all other bands. The only possible exception is of course, Sad Wings of Destiny from the mighty Judas Priest. But let’s save that for another review. Meanwhile, we shall leave in awe of such an eloquent musical masterwork. Hail Slayer! And the highest praise goes Reign in Blood, the most supreme and inspirational thrash album of all time!
If there was ever a time for me to forgo any witty, intriguing opening, now would be the time. Because no matter what I say, the message will still be the same: “Reign in Blood” will beat the living shit out of you, your family, your neighbors, and anyone you know. In exactly 29 minutes and 1 second, the clear-cut message of hatred will be sewn into your mind, and love it or hate it, you’ll learn a lesson in true malice.
Oh yes, and this kicks "Master of Puppets" square in the balls.
Released upon the unsuspecting masses in 1986, “Reign in Blood” embarked upon a path that was left desolate by other thrash metal acts such as Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Metallica and Megadeth choose to deepen their sound with more intricate playing and (seemingly) more meaningful lyrics, and Anthrax became even more of a comic-relief Thrash band, but not Slayer. They looked upon the scene and determined it was time to show the world just what a hideous, vile-spewing monster thrash could be.
"Enter to the realm of Satan..."
All it takes is the first pulverizing riff off the infamous “Angel of Death” for those to comprehend that this is certainly the album of the apocalypse. It’s the dual oppressive guitars, the thunderous drums, and Tom’s savage voice that will knock you off your feet. And it never lets up after that. “Necrophobic” and “Altar of Sacrifice” are the bastard offspring of Kerry and Jeff’s cruel intentions, with blazing speed and an intent to kill. Tom’s psychotic voice brings “Criminally Insane” to life, fulfilling its purpose to implant the image of an asylum patient poised to kill. With ease, Dave unloads savage fills all over “Epidemic” and “Piece By Piece”. But combine these deranged musicians together, and you get harrowing masterpieces such as the wailing “Raining Blood”, a bi-polar diagnosed “Jesus Saves”, and “Angel of Death”, whose ruthless riffs have caused ungodly amounts of physical violence.
Each member brings something to the table that benefits this album. Tom’s voice is purely sadistic, and while there isn’t much variation in it, he doesn’t need it. He sounds possessed throughout this whole album, as he spits out his lines faster than you can absorb them. On the Holocaust themed “Angel of Death”, he unleashes a furious scream that’s very often mistaken for an actual guitar because it’s so high. While he doesn’t write most of the lyrics (King does), he delivers them as if they were his own. They’re disgusting, gore-infested, anti-God, and aim to hand you one of the most spiteful Metal trips you’ll ever take. Listening to Tom shout out “Ripping apart, Severing flesh, Gouging eyes, Tearing limb from limb!” could cause your mother to faint. To perfectly match him, Kerry and Jeff create some of the cruelest riffs and solos the world has ever heard. The glorified omniscient intro riff to “Raining Blood” is a stone-cold testament to their riff writing power. And while their solos are painfully mindless by themselves, they give a true frenzied feel when put together with the music. They tend to trade off, such as on “Angel of Death” and “Criminally Insane”. But it’s Dave Lombardo who is the greatest here, as always. One of the most breathtaking drummers in the whole genre of Metal, Dave never disappoints. The tempo and precision that which he is able to play, especially live, has gained him immense respect and God-status. His double-bass will obliterate your speakers, and his fills on tracks like “Postmortem” will leave your head spinning.
There are only three flaws that this album really has. For starters, as many know, this album is the definition of repetitive. Everything will sound the same all in one sitting, but then again, that’s the point of the album. It was made to never let up on its attack, and while it certainly accomplishes this, it could make some heads hurt. Another problem is that it’s a little too short. This album is over so fast that you won’t know what to do next. And finally, while others may hail it, I do not find "Postmortem" to be all that interesting. While it’s got a great fluctuation in tempo, it just feels sub-par compared to the rest on this album.
It’s all here folks: the satanic and gore-filled lyrics, the insane drumming, demented vocals, and searing guitars. I can’t stress to you enough how much of a Thrash classic “Reign in Blood” is. If I was about to get into a serious fight with someone, I would make sure I brought this album along with me. But then again, this isn’t for everyone. “Reign in Blood” is simply a straight-shot of aggression and adrenaline, and all of those who want some of that will find more than their fill here.
Overall – 5/5 (100)
Angel of Death
This revision of my old review of Reign in Blood has been a long time coming. I did not and still do not particularly enjoy this album, but considering that I'm pushing an unpopular opinion on a much-beloved thrash metal album, I think it deserves more than the old, naive, frankly somewhat embarrassing review I wrote for it so many years ago, especially considering that I've more recently listened to the three other classic Slayer albums (Hell Awaits, South of Heaven, and Seasons in the Abyss) and the greatness of those three albums (especially Hell Awaits) brings the shortcomings of this one into sharper focus.
Rumor has it that part of the reason this album sounds like it does is because the members of Slayer had been listening to a lot of Metallica and Megadeth and were bored by the repetition of guitar riffs in those bands' work. Indeed, in some ways the songwriting on this album is like a mirror image of Master of Puppets--whereas Master of Puppets endlessly belabored its limited set of riffs, throwing in countless superfluous bridges and transitions that do little besides pad out the running length and test the listener's patience, Reign in Blood feels like musical ADHD, lurching seemingly at random from riff to riff and section to section with little effort made at shaping these collections of violent riffs into actual songs. The riffs are strong on an individual level, but there's no songwriting context to put them in.
Compounding the problem is the relentless uniformity of the songwriting--the tempo seems to be essentially the same ~220 beats per minute through most of the album's running length, and without the variations in tempo you encounter in better thrash albums (including the other '80s Slayer albums), the hyperfast parts lose meaning and impact. Aside from the first and last songs (more on them later), the tracks run together with the transition between (for example) "Altar of Sacrifice" and "Jesus Saves" almost unnoticeable. Nothing stands out of the amorphous pile of riffs, and they just sail through one ear and out the other, even if they might individually be good riffs when pulled apart from their nearly identical kin.
Another issue is the production. The sound on Hell Awaits was just about perfect for the sort of music Slayer play--it was clear and sharp but also raw, with an amazing cavernous reverb to the rhythm section that enhanced the album's malevolent atmosphere. With this album, they enlisted the services of the eminently overrated Rick Rubin, who has brought the best technical recording techniques 1986 money could buy, but in the process stripped away the haunting ambience that made Hell Awaits so compelling. Dave Lombardo sounds like his drums are made of plastic, the bass has been sent to the concentration camp, and the guitars are oversaturated with distortion and almost like a precursor to the hideous "noise blaster" sound that would plague albums from the mid-'90s onwards.
Speaking of Dave Lombardo, he's a truly elite drumming talent but this album does not show it at all. Gone are the rumbling, threatening double bass runs, incredibly forceful snare flams, and tricky drum fills of his earlier performances, and he mostly sticks to a single "polka" beat for the fast sections and generic backbeats for the rare slower section, with fills almost absent. Kerry King likewise seems to be phoning it in with his leads, hitting notes seemingly at random without any regard for coherent phrasing while apparently unable to distinguish between his whammy bar and his penis. He jerks that thing so hard you'd expect it to smack him in the face. Meanwhile, Tom Araya is at the start of his slow slide towards the hilarious Angry Yelling Man persona he now exhibits, his vocal delivery reduced to a monotone caricature and sounding more like an ill-trained dog barking at cars than the demonic snarling of Hell Awaits or even the way he sounded on Seasons, where he at least tried to change things up a little.
However, when this album gets its shit together, it completely destroys. Exhibit A is opener "Angel of Death", which is probably 80% of the reason why most people like this album to begin with. It is by far the longest and most developed song on the album (indeed, the only fully realized song on the album), and it is the riff monster to end all riff monsters, charging out of the gate on the back of Tom Araya's infamous "rape scream" (the only time where he really shines), monstrously heavy yet carefully structured. This song does everything right, from the way riffs are developed instead of played a couple of times and cast aside, Dave Lombardo using his whole kit instead of just the snare and bass, and then...the thrash break to end all thrash breaks. Holy Mosh Jesus. The song lurches into a churning rock-crusher riff that redirects the high-speed fury of the first half of the song into pure sledge, stomping inexorably forward as Tom Araya spits out the lyrics with the most vigor he has anywhere on the album, the tension building and building and building as the riff becomes more elaborate and the beat becomes more insistent before suddenly blasting to warp speed again for the solo section and grand finale. Pacing, development, tension and release--this song has all the elements the rest of the album lacks, and is so good Slayer recycled it wholesale for "War Ensemble" off of Seasons in the Abyss and even the retread was an absolute motherfucker of a song.
The second highlight is "Raining Blood", which is paradoxically even more of a fragment than the songs that came before it but simultaneously more interesting. It sounds like an unfinished start to a 7-8 minute epic, with a moody atmospheric intro gradually building into a pummeling mosh riff, the song thereafter deftly transitioning between fast and slow, ratcheting the excitement higher and higher until...it stops. It doesn't really end, but just abruptly cuts off for no apparent reason, leaving you dazzled by what you just heard but frustrating and wondered what could have been, if they actually bothered to write the whole song. It's almost like a summation of the whole album, really--a lot of good ideas and potential wasted by a lack of focus, furiously raging at nothing in particular, expending its formidable energy in vain before collapsing from exhaustion all too soon.
Fortunately, Slayer seemed to have learned from this album, first creating its antithesis in the slow-burning, brooding South of Heaven, and then a synthesis in Seasons of the Abyss, which, while marred by a slight shift towards commercialism, comes the closest of any of the albums with Rick Rubin to embodying all of Slayer's strengths. But that's another story for another time...
Killer tracks: "Angel of Death", "Raining Blood"
It’s safe to say everyone in the metal scene has at least heard of this album, and many of them have probably heard it at least one. There are those that call this “the best metal alum ever,” or at least “the best thrash album ever.” There are also those who believe it’s very overrated and not even close to being the best of anything. To really see this album for what it is, you have to take into account that this was released in 1986. But does this constitute it being called the best metal album ever.
Not so much. This album has indeed aged and it shows. I can only imagine how this sounded to people back in 1986, but that’s not how people hear it today. However, while it has aged it manages to still be one of the most furious thrash albums ever, and I would say in all of metal. The album kicks off with none other than Angel of Death, and from then on in you should have a good idea of what you’ll be in for for the next half hour. Over the top lyrics, bone crushing riffs, pounding drumming, and the solos Slayer is infamous for: random, but oh so intense, wankery. The stars aligned and all these elements produced quite a monster. Jeff and Kerry really did come up with some incredible riffs. In fact, there really isn’t a BAD riff on the album, only ones that pale in comparison to some of the others found here. Each song between the first and last tracks is under 4 minutes long (and only one of those is over 3). With this Slayer just sends quick hit after hit at you with no room for air. The incredible Necrophobic is basically the epitome of this. It clocks in at under 2 minutes and is a quick kick to the stomach with an devastating, speedy riff backed up by equally fast drumming and led by even faster vocals. While this is the fastest song on the album this isn’t to say the others are exactly slow. Altar of Sacrifice, Piece by Piece, Reborn, Epidemic, and of course Angel of Death and Raining Blood are all very crushing tracks, following pretty much the same formula, but each song is made its own with very different and identifiable riffs, all of which are great. Any slow parts on the album, found in Criminally Insane and Postmortem among others, don’t last for long, but even those are devastating.
The performances by every band member here is great. This album is Tom Araya’s most energetic vocal performance. He has his so-funny-they’re-awesome screams, and sings some of the songs ridiculously fast. He does his job on bass but it’s nothing spectacular and not always fully audible. Dave Lombardo tore up his kit for this recording, especially on the aforementioned Necrophobic. He always keeps things interesting and keeps you guessing, and always adds a constant, driving force to the songs. Jeff and Kerry are who shine on this album. They created all hell with their riffs and even more with their solos. Some may argue the solos are nothing but randomness, which they basically are most of the time, but they’re more effective than anything I could think of for such a chaotic, intense album. The production is very good, everything sounds as it should. Tom’s bass could be a bit more audible at times, but it doesn’t take away from the album because the guitars take enough control on the string front.
This is an intense album and there’s no denying it. Unfortunately, the word intense has been redefined since 1986 and some of the intensity here has worn off. But they keyword is “some.” The fact that an album so old still manages to be THIS furious says something in itself. Whether or not it’s one of the best metal albums ever is up to you, but there’s no denying Slayer accomplished exactly what they wanted to with this album, and that’s kicking your ass and leaving you wondering what just happened when it’s all over.
It seems like sooner or later everyone comes down on one of two sides regarding this album:
1) it’s one of the best metal albums recorded, an indisputable classic, and a must-own.
2) it’s not. For all the influence it hath wrought, the songwriting just isn’t there, aside from the first and last tracks.
At least a certain grudging respect is mandatory for any metalhead aware of the art form’s history. Aside from giving us quite a lot of thrash, it’s one of the huge, looming influences on death metal, so far ahead of it’s time that a good many of death metal’s canonical albums – early Death, for instance – arguably sound thrashier.
Even so, a negative viewpoint is supportable. Slayer started out with a lot of Judas Priest in their veins back on Show No Mercy but quickly set about eliminating it (partially with heavy doses of Discharge). Reign in Blood takes them as far away from Judas Priest – from classic heavy metal – as they would get, and as seems to happen to a lot of bands, they immediately beat a hasty retreat from the abyss right afterward, covering Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor” on their very next outing.
From a classic metal standpoint there are only two real songs here, and they’re the two that are going to stick out to any first time listener. “Angel of Death” is mostly straight-up aggression but with a slower break that everyone likes, and “Raining Blood” prophesizes the riffing style Slayer would move towards on South of Heaven – but in between them there are eight other, much shorter tracks, which might be the most important ones.
During that bulky mass in the middle the riffing and transitions are too frantic for the songs to have an immediately apprehensible flow. The slower midsection of “Angel of Death” is sort of unveiled, but the slow parts of “Necrophobic” hit like airbags in car accidents. Araya’s delivery is too breathless to be sung along to and the riffs pile up as fast as the listener can process them. Catchiness is neglected, but structure isn’t; even after countless listens I find myself consistently impressed by the way the riffs play off of each other.
This is a better death metal album than a heavy metal album; typically we split the difference and call it thrash, though it’s still a fair distance from the kind of metal Metallica or Exodus were playing. How much you enjoy it will depend on the standards you judge it by. In my case (which is typical), it took me a long time to fully get into this album, but nowadays it’s one of the very few I can listen to non-stop without ever getting bored. If not perfect, at least as close to perfect as we’re ever likely to get.
Well, here it is: the be-all, end-all thrash album of our time. It may not be the most original metal album ever made, the most entertaining, or even Slayer's best; (That place is reserved for Hell Awaits, in my opinion.) but its influence is more than enough to compensate for what it is generally criticized for: the non-stop, one-way, mile-a-minute fury that is just about as relenting as a band like Marduk. Had it not been for this album, we wouldn't see the majority of death, thrash, black, and even metalcore bands today. It is an understatement to say that Slayer created a cornerstone without even realizing it.
But how did they acheive it? It's pretty simple, really; in the writing process of this album, Slayer distilled every part of their sound. Every element from every album by the band is seen here, but has been trimmed and condensed into a furious, malevolent burst of violence that was separated into ten different songs. One example of this is the song structures and tempo range; goddamn, we knew they were a thrash band, but "Necrophobic" and "Epidemic" upped the ante on the speed and technicality the band had attempted up until this time. Speaking of song structures, one will automatically notice that the majority of the songs here are drastically shorter than that of Hell Awaits. The ultimate classics "Angel of Death", "Postmortem", and "Raining Blood", the last two of which are interconnected, span over the 4-minute range and constantly shift driving, full-speed-ahead guitar work. The former is probably one of the most dynamic and yet brutal songs Slayer has ever written; the mid-paced passages in the middle are ripe with hellish harmonies and headbanging power, while the beginning and ending are outright slaughterous in their delivery of palm-muted tremolo riffs and pummeling double bass. Everything in between is a maniacal, frenzied, wall-of-noise attack of spastic, chaotic rhythm guitars and solos, machine-gun drum work, and Tom's one-dimensional shouts.
Things may blur together at first, but long-time listeners will find that even though the band are overtly violent in their delivery, things do let up a bit on the mid-album anthems of "Jesus Saves" and "Criminally Insane"; it's only temporary though. Tempos slow only for a matter of seconds before being thrown back into oblivion. I will make it known that when I say that the music is all over the place, doesn't mean things aren't done proficiently: Kerry and Jeff are absolutely flawless in their delivery of the non-stop barrage of rhythm riffs, and even though the solos may seem totally random, they're pulled off perfectly and only add intensity to the songs. The interesting thing is, this is constant through the whole album, but the never ride the line of sounding mechanical or sterile; a big plus, in my book. Dave's drum work is mostly based on thrash beats, with violent cymbal crashes and textural fills interjecting for the sake of dynamics and moving the song to its next phase.
Though the band may not be very forgiving or varied in their delivery, one has to give it up for the endurance, power, and tightness in the performances here; not many bands can pull this off. Somehow, this album keeps you glued, regardless of the fact that many of the middle songs are cohesive to one another and sound somewhat homogenous. Maybe the album's length helps it out, being under 30 minutes. Either way, kudos go to the members for making one of the damn tighest metal records that these ears have ever beheld.
Tom's vocal delivery is of special note: sure, overall it's nothing too different from what he usually does; but the falsetto screams that open "Angel of Death" and are scattered through the other songs is one-of-a-kind. Each song is packed full of lyrics, and each song is also incredibly short and fast; so in turn, Tom is spewing out lyrics at an ungodly pace with ease on "Piece by Piece" and "Necrophobic." To these ears, it's nothing short of wonderful; Tom shows no visible signs of wearing down, and each line is delivered with a menacing conviction.
Rick Ruben's production helps things out immensely. Slayer's sound got a modern update: the guitars are thick and beefy with a fair amount of treble, and the tone is one of the most widely emulated in metal today. It's one of those things you automatically recognize. Dave's drums are punchy and direct with very little echo or gating effects, but never sound compressed or hampered. The old-sounding tape hiss and echo of the former albums is absent, and this helps things out in the long run by confronting the listener with a full, no-bullshit sound.
At the end of this review, I contradict myself by saying that no set of words can truly do this album justice on a level of status and influence, even with a generally one-minded, unchanging nature. Buy it and love it.
Here we have possibly the most well-known thrash album of all times, Slayer's legendary third album "Reign in Blood". What we have here is really an assault of fast, brutal riffs, cat-in-a-blender solos, thrashy snare- and double bass-heavy drumming, aggressive rapid fire vocals and not much more. The sense of melody they'd use later on in "South of Heaven" for example is nearly nonexistent, although there are a few hints of those sinister melodies in the mid section of "Angel of Death", for example. Then there isn't much variety either, all the stuff here except the first ("Angel of Death") and the last ("Raining Blood") could more or less be the same song- which really is the best way to take this album.
The 8 songs in the middle are just one epic thrash attack that menacingly says that it's not going to hurt you, it's just going to bash your brains in. And that's just what it does.
No one can deny that the riffs on here are awesome. I mean, check out those monsters in "Piece By Piece", "Jesus Saves", "Reborn" and "Postmortem"... awesome shit. And how about "Necrophobic", which might as well have been taken from "Darkness Descends" if it weren't that short. The brutal technicality, incredibly fast sung vocals, and even the long words are there, all trademark Dark Angel material. Great song. And then "Altar of Sacrifice" slays too. "Learn the sacred words of praise, hail Satan!"
But there are two songs that really make this a fucking thrash classic. We open right up with, one of the ultimate classics of thrash fucking metal: ANGEL OF DEATH! Brutal fucking riffs, badass lyrics dealing with the holocaust, and of course the crazy Jew-in-a-blender solo section. Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King can't play solos worth a damn, but that's what so fun about them. They don't make sense, they don't seem to have been thought out in the slightest, they just wank away out of key, making the most piercing noises they can come up with. And man, it works so fucking well, especially on this album.
The second highlight as I've mentioned is "Raining Blood". Starting with a haunting intro of pouring rain with the guitarists making eerie noises with their guitars, it kicks into this absolutely menacingly sinister riff, before galloping away into another brutal and fast-as-fuck thrasher. Lots of fun headbanging guaranteed. And watch out for the slowed-down middle section - a favourite in the mosh pit.
From reading all the reviews on here, I guess you've kinda figured what to expect. Brutal, fast and aggressive thrash with not much variety. Since the songs are so short, it also might be hard to really get into them, which is why I'd recommend you pretty much take the whole thing in as one long epic riff monster. Don't listen for individual songs, cause there aren't really any to find, except again on the first and last tunes. Oh, and "Postmortem" is a standout as well, and the third best song here.
Does this deserve the legendary status it's reached? I'd say so. Does it deserve all the criticism it receives? I'd say so, all of it is indeed based on facts. You'll have to get it yourself and see how you like it. Personally, I dig the fuck out of this one. "Death means nothing, there's no end - I will be reborn!"
Now this is not a bad album. In fact, it is a pretty good album, but why people consider this to be the greatest metal album of all time is beyond me. It's an above average album that definitely pushed the envelope of brutality, but it doesn't have the raw heaviness of Darkness Descends, or the sheer frightful evil factor of Seven Churches (or even Hell Awaits for that matter!).
There are quite a few great songs on here... not just the first and last song, which everyone remembers (Angel of Death and Raining Blood, for those that have spent the last 16 years listening to disco), but also Postmortem, Jesus Saves, and also the highly underrated Epidemic. Those are probably the most well-developed songs on there: Angel of Death with the monster thrash break in the middle. Postmortem and Raining Blood together are a 7 minute thrash epic. (The line between the two songs was forever blurred when the CD was mastered incorrectly and the last verse of Postmortem began the last track!) Jesus Saves has that nifty intro, and Epidemic has a great middle break, almost as good as that of Angel of Death.
The rest... Altar of Sacrifice is not bad, in fact quite good. Just not... GREAT. It's a song that would not have made it to Hell Awaits - add maybe 4 more riffs, and possible. But, it just feels incomplete - just when it really starts to pick up, it's over. That's the problem with some other songs on here. Criminally Insane has that cool middle break, but it's only a few seconds. Necrophobic, well, for lack of a better term, is pure crap. Sure, it's 253 beats per minute, but fast for fast's sake never works. (Besides, if you want FAST, check out the demo version of Kruiz's "The Last Dawn" from 1986... 318 beats per minute of pure fucking speed metal!) Reborn, well, just another kinda forgettable song. Piece by Piece... they left out a few pieces, it's another half a song.
The album really does suffer in the fact that 8 of the 10 songs are under 3 minutes long. It's only 28 minutes in total: an example of S.O.D. syndrome. Slayer are capable of writing full, and interesting songs: check out any of the other albums with Dave Lombardo. Reign in Blood has a lot of potential, but it just manages to come up short. It's a fun listen, but not nearly as classic as some of the other Slayer releases.