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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.