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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.