What can be said about Slayer's “Reign in Blood” that hasn't been said already? It's a thrash metal album that's considered by many metalheads to be among the best and most intense ever made. For a little while, I felt the same way, thought those sentiments would soon be dissolved once I sunk my teeth into the prime works of Kreator, Sodom, Morbid Saint, Dark Angel, and Pestilence (though they're known for being death metal, Pest' started off as a thrash metal band, and a superb one at that), just to name a few.
I'll be honest here and say that while Slayer displays a good deal of confidence in their songwriting and mastery of instruments on this album, I felt the band saw better days in these areas when they recorded albums like “Hell Awaits,” “South of Heaven,” and “Seasons in the Abyss.”
With the guitars, it's business as usual for Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. This album is loaded with tight, fast thrash riffs and “bunny in a blender” guitar solos. While this works for the most part, in songs like “Piece by Piece,” it feels rather uninspired, especially since a lot of the songs are pretty short. However, it works really well with some songs like “Necrophobic.” “Angel of Death,” the most popular song on the album, displays probably the best dynamics in the guitar department, though some welcome time changes do occur in songs like “Postmortem” and “Raining Blood.”
Dave Lombardo is widely-acclaimed for his drumming skills, and while I don't think he's one of the absolute best drummers in the heavy metal genre, his contributions on this album are really tight and fit the type of thrash on display here. I think some of his best-sounding work in on the song “Reborn.”
Tom Araya's vocals fit this album like a glove. His vocals have a gruff feeling to them, adding a harsher edge to the music. He also can dish out some blood-chilling screams like in the opening to “Angel of Death,” the near end of “Necrophobic,” and the middle of “Postmortem.” I wish Araya's basslines were more audible in this album, since in previous Slayer recordings, they had more presence.
Let's start off with the opening track, “Angel of Death.” For those not in the know, this song is about one of the most evil men that ever lived, Joseph Mengele, a Nazi physician in Auschwitz infamous for his extremely twisted medical experiments on the camp's prisoners. The lyrics about Mengele are a perfect fit for this twisted, iconic thrash song. The highlights of “Angel of Death” are the really twisted dual guitar solos between King and Hanneman. While “Reign in Blood” is well-known for being a fast and intense thrash album, it can utilize some good time changes to make the songs more interesting and even more intimidating than if it were just all fast. As stated before, the last two songs, “Postmortem” and “Raining Blood” are a welcome change in the album and a great way to cap it off. With “Raining Blood,” the slow, quiet introduction is a great way to start it off as it rather quickly turns into a chilling, intense thrash song. The “fast” songs like “Necrophobic” can be really creepy and intense, and especially such track, as that one still still creeps me out for its brutal riffage, chilling guitar solo, and nefarious lyrics meticulously detailing torture and killing all in 1 minute and 40 seconds. The only “bad” song on here is “Piece by Piece, as it feels so flat and uninspired. I'd say songs like “Altar of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves” are good, though not masterful.
There's two bonus tracks, which is a re-recording of “Aggressive Perfector” and a remix of “Criminally Insane.” While they're not bad, I prefer the original “Aggressive Perfector's” NWOBHM aesthetics that would have made it a perfect addition to Slayer's debut “Show No Mercy.” The remix of “Criminally Insane” isn't bad, though I think the original feels much better.
The production on this album isn't bad, since the guitars, drums, and vocals come in really clear. There's also a “harsh” aesthetic to the guitar sound, which is a good thing, especially for a thrash album. I wish the bass had a stronger presence in the album, since I feel a well-mixed bass guitar can add some great power to the guitars and drums.
If you're fairly new to thrash metal and are curious about the more “intense” albums out there (especially with the Unholy Trinity of 1986), I suggest you start off with “Reign in Blood” first. After you digest that album, then you're ready to tackle RIB's more intense counterparts, “Pleasure to Kill” and “Darkness Descends.”
If you want Slayer's best work, check out “Hell Awaits,” “South of Heaven,” and “Seasons of the Abyss.”
Personally, after getting into thrash albums like this, it made me rapidly lose any love I had for Metallica's “Master of Puppets.”
What did you think of this review?