SLAYER — Reign in Blood (review)

SLAYER — Reign in Blood album cover Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
First off, just let me say that I'm well aware how highly regarded the US thrash metal band Slayer is, especially this third album from the group, Reign in Blood (1986). Enough people think highly of this band and album that it has to be doing something right. However you are about to read a negative review for it. Given its fame and regard it'll probably be your inclination to write this review off as an attempt at trolling a well liked release. It is not. It would be equally be easy to assume that this review is written by someone who doesn't really like thrash metal. But again, it is not. Thrash metal is not one of my absolute favourite metal genres but I listen to enough of it to comfortable say that I am a fan of the style, one whose interest in it continues to grow in fact. Just today I checked out Kreator for the first time, and loved them.

I don't expect my word on these things will persuade you of course, and I expect you're already gearing up your choice insults in response to this having already seen the score attached to this review. So I will just ask, here and now, that if you're not open to reading an alternative point of view for this beloved album that we part ways here, agreeing to disagree. Nothing I say is going to dissuade you from thinking that Reign in Blood is the best thing since sliced bread. Otherwise read on and I don't know, I guess maybe be prepared to be offended?

Reign in Blood is a very short album despite there being ten tracks. It's not even a full half an hour. Unless something is so overlong that it becomes overwhelming or just outstays its welcome, length doesn't usually factor into the quality of an album, but with Reign in Blood it's actually quite integral to realising what is wrong with it. Slayer writes quite short songs on this album, with most not even reaching the three minute mark. In these short songs they basically do one thing: very fast thrash metal with Tom Araya shouting all over it. It's obvious that Slayer are skilled musicians all around to keep these tempos going and if this is all you want from a thrash metal album, then I'm sure Reign in Blood is basically thrash metal heaven. But for me Slayer forgot one key thing in these songs: a little thing called substance. There's little to none of it across the whole Reign in Blood album. Most of the songs follow the pattern described here, rinse and repeat.

Except of course for the two times when the band do get it right, which actually is the opening and closing songs Angel of Death and the Reign in Blood title track. The first thing that you'll notice about these two songs is that even though they aren't long by any stretch of the imagination they are longer than most on the album, each breaking not three but four minutes. It turns out that this increase in duration makes all the difference in Slayer's music. The songs have more room to develop beyond the band's go-to style and because of that they make an impact on the listener as something more than just being hard and fast. They're that too, of course.

Hard and fast metal is great, as these songs show, but they need good song-writing too. It's just a shame Slayer forgot that after track one and only remembered it when they get to their final song. Without that much needed substance to their song-writing, Reign in Blood just feels like an exercise in 'Hey! Look what we can do!'. Yeah sure, they can play. But what else have they got? Apart from the two songs Reign in Blood is forgettable, insubstantial and quite possibly the contents of one of the most overrated albums I've ever heard. The fact that there are two really good songs even proves a double edged sword as they further highlight both how weak the rest of the album is and what could have been is Slayer had just thought about their song-writing more.

I liken this album to being at a party and being told you can have a really good drink when you get there and another just before you leave, but the rest of the night you've got to drink Budweiser. The really good drinks in this analogy are Angel of Death and the title track, which I have to say easily number among the best thrash metal songs I've heard and the reason I'm scoring this album as high as I am. The rest of this album is metal's answer to Budweiser though. Some people may call Slayer the kings of thrash. Sure, but Budweiser calls itself the king of beers, a tagline that's surely said in irony.

Inflaming comparisons to pissy weak lager aside (actually, Budweiser is not that weak, but it sure don't taste like it!), I will acknowledge again that Slayer must be doing something right on Reign in Blood for it to have achieved this high regard. I will also say, because someone else does, that I just don't 'get it'. You're right, I don't get it. Same way I don't get why Budweiser is so many people's go to beer. I drank one of those once and then said never again. I shall do the same thing in regard to listening to this album.
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Warthur wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Heh, everyone's got to have a few widely-hated albums they love and critically adored albums they hate, it's how you know someone's an individual. ;)
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
One of my personal favorites, so obviously I disagree with just about every Word of the review, but as each his own.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I started out not liking this but somehow it really grew on me. Now i love it
martindavey87 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
This is actually in my playlist to be reviewed over the next couple of days, and I'm leaning towards two stars as well. So glad I'm not the only one! ^_^
Vim Fuego wrote:
more than 2 years ago
You're weird....:D


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