SLAYER — Reign in Blood (review)

SLAYER — Reign in Blood album cover Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
UMUR
"Reign in Blood" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based thrash metal act Slayer. The album was released through Def Jam Recordings in October 1986. It´s the successor to "Hell Awaits" from 1985. Slayer were still under contract with Metal Blade Records, but label boss Brian Slagel, who at the time was also Slayer´s manager, saw the opportunity for the band to sign to a major label and was ready to let them go. Producer and Def Jam Recordings owner Rick Rubin showed interest in the project and while some members of the band were reluctant to sign to, what at the time was primarily a hip hop label, Rubin´s enthusiasm and vision for Slayer, finally pursuaded them.

Rubin had no prior experience with producing heavy metal oriented music, so Slayer took quite a risk. Both with the choice of label but also with hiring Rubin to produce their new album. History shows that they made the right choice, but back then...who could have known? "Reign in Blood" went on to become one of the most iconic and influential albums of US thrash metal and greatly increased Slayer´s profile on the scene.

Stylistically the material on the 10 track, 29:02 minutes long album are quite different from the dark and occult themed thrash metal style of "Hell Awaits (1985)". While "Hell Awaits (1985)" certainly features fast-paced riffs and rhythms, it´s nothing against the fiercely aggressive and ultra fast-paced material on "Reign in Blood". Slayer shortened the song lengths, quit repeating their riffs and sections in regular vers/chorus formats (at least in the most strict form of that structure), and generally just went berserk and delivered one of the most furious and intense thrash metal releases of the day.

"Reign in Blood" opens with the longest track of the album in "Angel of Death". A track which revolves around the horrors of the holocaust and especially the medical atrocities committed by the infamous nazi doctor Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz death camp during World War 2. "Angel of Death" is a structurally rather complex track, with many tempo changes, different sections, and a host of screaming atonal guitar solos (and even a short drum solo break). The piercing scream during the opening of the track is one of Tom Araya´s finest moments. The intensity and brutality don´t let up on the following tracks and both "Piece by Piece" and "Necrophobic" threaten to rip the listeners head off. The same can be said about "Altar of Sacrifice" and "Jesus Saves". The either very short breaks between tracks or the way some tracks seque into each other makes the listening experience only that more intense. It´s like the sonic violence never stops. No peace, no breathers.

The first track on the B-side of the original vinyl is "Criminally Insane", which opens with one of the most instantly recognisable drum patterns in metal (and it´s so simple it´s almost criminal). Then on to the crushingly fast-paced brutality of "Reborn" and "Epidemic", before the album closes with the brilliant "Postmortem" and "Raining Blood". While everything on the album is delivered with high level aggression and intensity, the closing minute of "Postmortem" still takes the prize as the most badass moment on the album. The level of extremity and intensity goes through the roof at that point of the album.

So the songwriting is really something special on "Reign in Blood". Every track is memorable, powerful, and raw, and although the pace is predominantly fast, there are enough heavy mid-paced grooves for the album never to sound one-dimensional. The vocal parts are also filled with hook laden phrases, and after a while you may even find yourself making a twisted humming sound to imitate the screaming atonal guitar solos, which there are plenty of on the album.

Other than the high quality songwriting one of the greatest assets of "Reign in Blood" is the powerful organic playing style. Dave Lombardo relentlessly drives the music forward with his hardcore punk on meth influenced drumming style, Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King deliver one razor sharp and furiously fast-paced riff and solo after another, and Tom Araya lays down a heavy bass bottom and performs his vocal parts with great aggressive passion and conviction. So the skills and the unique sound are there, and when you pair that with the organic, raw, and detailed sound production, which was by far the most powerful and well sounding production on any Slayer release up until then, you get a release that is high quality in all departments. A 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.
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Tupan wrote:
5 months ago
Still their best!
UMUR wrote:
5 months ago
I listen to Slayer weekly...have done since I was 11-12 years old :-)
siLLy puPPy wrote:
5 months ago
Haven't listened to Slayer in a while. That needs to change. Thanks for the reminder with this classic!

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