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...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.