FEATURE OF THE DAY – Classic Albums: Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

After last night’s brilliant dream of crashing a church service with my dad followed by watching a live version of ‘Raining Blood’ on a huge screen and having Daddy praise Hanneman’s and King’s playing, I felt obliged to first watch the ‘Still Reigning’ version followed by listening to this full album.

If you are reading this and call yourself a metalhead, you’ve probably listened to this album at deafening volumes more than 20 times (possibly on the same day) with hopes that your house mates will loudly knock on your door, burst in and ask “What the FUCK is that?” Am I right? Of course I am. You now might as well stop reading here as you know what I’m gonna say from the next paragraph on. If not, continue reading.

Ask any “greasy” (according to the conservatives out there) and long-haired fan of heavy music and they’ll tell you that Reign in Blood is an “absolutely fucking classic” album and a staple of thrash metal before throwing the horns, shouting SLAYERRRR!! and taking a long swig of beer.

Following the brilliant (although less professionally produced) Hell Awaits this album is angry, fast, loud and even almost scary – more so live. It opens with a classic Tom Araya scream and thumping bass over Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P) and Kerry King’s twin guitar attack and Dave Lombardo’s double bass beat ‘Angel of Death,’ a song about the notorious Josef Mengele, owner of the Nazi camp, Auschwitz (the meaning of pain/the way I want you to die/slow death/immense decay/showers that cleanse you of your life.) One song in and Slayer have already pissed off every non-metal fan on the planet to the point of them being called Nazi sympathisers.

Unlike many Slayer songs, the vocals in ‘Piece by Piece’ are very slightly slower. Not much, but a bit easier to understand, the lyrics in this melodic jingle with hair-swinging riffs and neck breaking beats tell the listener that they have’ no choice of life or death’ and that Slayer will ‘rip your flesh ‘til there’s no breath/Dismembered destiny’. Maybe it’s time for you to keep an eye out (excuse the pun) after listening to this song. If this song hasn’t filled you with fear of dying, ‘Necrophobic’ is for you. With a title like that, the lyrics definitely need no description of what they mean/are about. I will say this though: at a length of just 1:40 with 2 solos thrown in for good measure, this is pure thrash. Disagree? Read above for what is now about to happen to you.

Altar of Sacrifice,’ huh? Sounds interesting and one of those song titles. This song is clearly going to be about some sort of sacrificial (duh) murder on a heavy stone table with the killers then receiving some sort of mental energy or power from a higher force such as God or Satan. My beliefs tell me however, that it’ll be neither and the killers will instead be giving blowjobs in prison showers.

Even the seasoned listener of this album (please see the end of this piece why I say album rather than song) will sometimes wonder (as he does with other tracks) how this band manages to achieve such speeds on both instruments and vocals.

The only advice I can now give is that if you don’t want this to be you, don’t use the lyrics as a guide on how to become more mentally energetic or stable.

With, at first, some slow but crunching powerchords which soon speed up into tremolo and sweep picked runs, ‘Jesus Saves’ speaks of and against those stories the Christians believe about walking through pearly gates and kissing crosses and asses all their life. I can’t disagree with any of the lyrics here. Tom Araya may be a Christian himself, but what makes him a decent/respectful Christian is that he is able to separate his religion from his music. Much like those who are anti-religion but like to listen to a bit of Demon Hunter every now and then.

Maybe I’m being slightly biased here, but at least he didn’t want to join in with the Westborough Baptist Church picket at Jeff’s memorial, right?

Much like the previous songs minus ‘Angel of Death’ the next four – Criminally Insane, Reborn, Epidemic, and Postmortem – are all around 2 and a half minutes long but seem to work as a nice build-up to ‘Raining Blood.’ We’re given a meal of galloping powerchords, fingertip-shredding runs and throat-ripping screams.

And then it all suddenly stops and the calm before the storm begins. In the background rain falls and thunder rumbles whilst in the foreground the harmonics and feedback wobble and dive slowly sounding like a door that needs some serious oiling.

No, the album hasn’t finished, just wait a minute. There it is! One of metal’s most recognisable riffs. There aren’t many notes here nor is it overly fast, but the dropped tuning and stacked Marshall amps give the listener tinnitus in 5 seconds. We can forgive them though.

The playing then goes up a further gear or two into a tremolo-picked open E string (this may sound boring but add the detuning and gain and it’s far from it) and then yet another gear to playing just under 4 notes per second. I must say that after practising this section at less than half that speed for 10 minutes my non-calloused fingertips had become a ‘Dead Skin Mask’.

In comes the operatic singing and the listener’s fear or sudden need to commit mass murder – depending on how accustomed they are to the album by now – is released. If you haven’t punched the air, broken your neck headbanging or started a one person pit in your room yet, now’s the time.

Now that you’ve made it this far in listening you’ve clearly enjoyed the whole album as there is just one unwritten rule to this album: listen to it in order from start to finish. Skip no tracks and don’t pause it at any point. Break this rule and Jeff Hanneman will send you to the north of Hell. Good luck.

Pete Kent

One response to “FEATURE OF THE DAY – Classic Albums: Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

  1. Pingback: Classic Albums: Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986) | Pete Kent Official·

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