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This is the "Be all, end all" of thrash? - 45%

Ziomaletto, May 16th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1987, CD, Def Jam Recordings

All right, no jokes here, only my honest opinion. I've always had problem with Slayer. I can count up a lot of thrash metal bands which work is more consistent and way more engaging than the mindless whiplash this particular quartet is known for. I think bands like Dark Angel, Kreator, Overkill, Annihilator (well, early one at least) and Onslaught are much better when it comes to subject of relentless speed. However, they also remember to incorporate actual melody into the mix, making the speed actually mean something. Well, Slayer too understand the idea of melody, as seen with basically any other classic album, which mix their trademark aggression with melodic interludes. Which is why I don't understand why 'Reign in Blood' seem to disregard all of this.

Yeah, it's breaking the boundaries of speed known to mankind at 1986. Too bad it has to happen at the expense of songs themselves, as they suffer from the goal of making this album 'most brutal release', big time.

I'll start with positives first. 'Angel of Death' became one of the best Slayer's songs, and for good reasons. While it's beginning and ending are pretty damn fast, it's the middle section that makes this song so engaging. Listening to it every time I can't wait to hear the riff that begins the bridge. And Dave Lombardo is shining here, not only because of insane double pedaling, but also due to him setting the proper groove for this slowdown. The only downside are the solos. Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King were never great guitarist, and while their riffs can be strong, their soloing is, from here on out, very forced and shallow. Jeff sometime managed to came up with something more interesting, like in 'Dead Skin Mask', or 'Seasons in the Abyss' (the song), but Kerry seems to never improve over his very basic skills. You could probably tell his solos if you isolated his tracks, but you could never tell from which song it is. You could probably do that for Hanneman's leads, but King just sticks to the same pattern of playing random notes without any thought behind it. It's just annoying.

Two other highlights are, no suprise, 'Postmortem' and 'Raining Blood'. 'Postmortem' in its entirety is a build-up to the final song, and I love how it progressively gets faster and faster, until the explosion of energy in its last 40 seconds, which later turns into introduction of 'Raining Blood'. The finale itself has an iconic riff and is solid overall. It builds up the atmosphere to the classic double-bass mayhem, but it also slow down again and makes another buildup for another fast section. That's cool, I wonder where they go next... Wait, it ends already? They didn't even evolved the solos past some random noises and they just cut it and put some rain effect? Really? It's like they had a great idea for epic 6/7 minute thrasher, but after 3 minutes they run out of ideas and maybe they had no time to finish the album.

And let that serve as a metaphor for the rest of this album. All the three songs are great, because they take their time to build-up to the rampage. However, everything else doesn't hold a candle to those three songs. The likes of 'Necrophobic' and 'Altar of Sacrifice' are like those overhyped kids that can't sit in their place for 5 minutes. They just have to start fast like there's no tomorrow. And because they only last for 2 minutes or less, you won't remember anything after listening to them. I mean, somehow I can still remember the chorus for 'Pride in Prejudice' and I haven't heard that song in 3 years or so, but I can't recall anything from 'Necrophobic' even though I just finished this album. At least 'Altar' has a memorable beginning riff. Meanwhile 'Reborn' and 'Epidemic' has nothing interesting about them. It also doesn't help when the drumming in each of those song just sound the same. This whole "average 220 bpm" gimmick really doesn't work here.

Two songs seem to actually has something going for them. 'Jesus Saves' and 'Criminally Insane' are a bit more complex than the usual RiB whiplash. But... it doesn't work well. 'Jesus Saves' ends up being underwhelming, because the second part of the song has basically nothing to do with its first part. It's a slow build-up towards a fast hitting song, but the riffs from beginning never come back again. Once it enters full force - it just stays in it. 'Criminally Insane' has a great intro and it's probably the closest to be finished. It definitely needed some polish and more delevopment, probably closer to what 'Beauty Through Order' is, just, you know... without being lame like its younger brother.

I seriously have hard time following how this underdeveloped piece of music became such a classic, a 'masterpiece' even. Yeah, it's definitely the fastest music of 1986. Unless you've heard Dark Angel. Honestly, aside from drumming (cause Hoglan and Lombardo are equally badass), 'Darkness Descends' is what 'Reign in Blood' should be. Sure, it's also kind of fast and mindless at times, but Dark Angel at least took its time to make a build-up to this rampage. Either 'Darkness Descends' (the song) or most recognizable 'Merciless Death' don't just start up fast. And when some song start up fast, like 'Burning of Sodom' they have something to shake things up.

And it sucks, because there IS a lot of potential in those songs. But they often tend to just end abruptly, leaving listener with feeling "The hell was that one about?". If you want to "get" into Slayer's music, then yeah, it's important to know it. But not for the reasons fanboys want you to believe. This should've been either polished with a package of new riffs, or just released as an EP with 'Angel', 'Postmortem', 'Raining' and 'Criminally'. It would work much better, and then I could actually understand high ratings it received.