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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.