SLAYER — Reign in Blood (review)

SLAYER — Reign in Blood album cover Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

This well-worn aphorism is oft-attributed to Frank Zappa, Theolonius Monk, Steve Martin, or even Elvis Costello. Most evidence points toward humourist Martin Mull coining it. On the surface, it is a throw-away witticism. Imagine the absurdity of dancing to express an opinion on something as austere as architecture. Ha!

But if you look deeper and more philosophically, the absurdity disappears and a kernel of truth emerges. How can something as instinctive and primal as music, which is experienced at both the sub-conscious and conscious levels, be adequately described by the written word? Reading and writing are far higher level functions, requiring abstraction of thought and expression. There are limits to written language. Shakespeare produced incomparable soliloquies. Bertrand Russell introduced elegance of phrase to philosophy. Oscar Wilde’s rapier wit cut as deeply as it amused. The powers of these three, or any other writer since the emergence of written human expression, prove insufficient or inadequate to describe the primitive basal connection to a stirring piece of music. The conjunction predates the development of hominid language. In short, writing about music is futile.

Futility, though, has never been a barrier to human endeavour. If this were so, never a word would have been written of Slayer’s magnum opus, ‘Reign In Blood’. The futility of describing, comparing, exploring, analysing, or quantifying this album should seem insurmountable. Yet, since its release on October 7th, 1986, it has been written of again and again. It has been the subject of superlatives, metaphor, hyperbole, praise, worship, and envy. It has caused controversy, consternation, protest, alarm, confusion, and imitation.

To disciples of the faith, ‘Reign In Blood’ embodies thrash metal. It is fast, heavy, and aggressive. Any description beyond that is simply laying on bullshit. It is ten songs, slotted in to less than half an hour, often with little or no gap between each song. Only three songs are longer than three minutes. The songs cover subjects from horrific war crimes of Dr Josef Mengele, to cannibalism, to fear of death, to anti-religious diatribes. The songs seem to be a complex tangle of riffs and solos, underpinned by rapid precise percussion, while the almost shouted vocals have little use for melody. The cover is a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare vision.

‘Reign In Blood’ is ten songs, and ten songs only. On many versions of this album, there are twelve tracks. The two extra songs are superfluous, and do not flow. They are an addition by an entity which did not understand that less is more. The extra six minutes of music are useless. The length of the album is pushed out to almost 35 minutes, ruining it’s short, sharp punch effect. Do not listen to those songs.

Description of how this album sounds is completely useless. It simply must be experienced to be understood. Thrash metal devotees already know what it sounds like, and understand the importance of this album to metal, and music in general.

A world without ‘Reign in Blood’ would be futile.
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UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Yep that pretty much sums it up perfectly :-)

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