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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.