My introduction to Slayer was from a programme once broadcast on Radio 1, that metalheads of a certain age will fondly remember: The Friday Rock Show. I never forget the very first time I heard tracks from Reign In Blood. I was only 15 years old, just starting to get into heavy metal, and I had never heard music so fast in my life. I played air guitar and headbanged in time to the music all around my bedroom the very first time I heard speed metal coming from the speakers and my reaction was, "what the ---- is this?" Now I knew how kids of the 50s must have reacted when they heard rock n' roll for the first time. That moment when kids of the 60s were first exposed to the Beatles and the Stones. How 70s youths must've responded when punk exploded on the UK music scene; and with myself in the 80s, it was with my initial exposure to thrash and speed metal (including Slayer). Like Metallica's Kill 'Em All, here was an album that was energetic; ground breaking; original, and some 30 years later, still sounds remarkably fresh. Angel Of Death. Piece By Piece, with it's slightly amusing lyrics. Necrophobic. Epidemic etc-- All those tunes played at a breakneck speed and as a result, the original album was around 29 minutes in length. Rain In Blood was one of the longer tracks and that was only cos of its 50 second long ending with the sound of thunder and rain added on to it. There are 2 bonus cuts on the re-issued CD and still it only clocks in at just under 35 minutes! Reign In Blood was a vast improvement on their weaker Venom soundalike debut; Show No Mercy, and a real step forward, helping to greatly establish Slayer as a force to be reckoned with in thrash metal.
I actually bought this album earlier today, and upon first listening I thought that it was incredibly heavy, repetitive, boring and I started to realise the reasons I didn't buy it earlier. BUT...
Upon SECOND listening, the album has knocked my fave thrash album (Master Of Puppets) of it's throne and this masterpiece has taken over the REIGN of thrash (A little humour there!)
'Angel Of Death' is obviously a classic in it's own right, and the same to the title track, however after previously undderating the other tracks on the album, I found that I was wrong (that doesn't happen often) and that EVERY track on this album is a masterpiece! But, if for some strange reason the music doesn't rise to your liking, if you're a true thrash fan, the sheer atmosphere during the recording of the album should be enough to send shivers down your spine!
I'll do a little track review section for you, just to let you know my feelings sensibly:
1. Angel Of Death - OH MY GOD! THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE CLASSIC! Seriously now, this song IS classic and should take the place of Metallica's 'Master Of Puppets' as the ultimate thrash song. A little slower towards the end, but we do like a change every once in a while! Rating: 10/10
2. Piece By Piece - Another of my faves, this track was actually the first Slayer track I ever heard and upon first hearing, I didn't take to it that much, but already it is on my iPod, Phone, myspace page, pretty much anything! However, I wouldn't say it's the best song on the album because every song is one my iPod! Rating: 9/10
3. Necrophobic - It's a bit short, but a Slayer classic. The solos are made to look so easy on this album, with Hanneman and King tossing solos back and forth to each other like playing a game of never-ending tennis! Rating: 9.5/10
4. Altar Of Sacrifice - Good song, but not my favourite. The riff in the bridge and chorus is great, but it's a bit samey. Rating: 9.5/10
5. Jesus Saves - Great song, one of my favourite thrash songs of all time (yes, that's including Megadeth, dare I say!) The intro is my favourite ever to a song, and then the actual song? Listen for yourself! Rating: 9.5/10
6. Criminally Insane - I LOVE THIS SONG! Almost as much as the first track, but is let down by not being able to understand what Tom is saying (and screaming) Rating: 9/10
7. Reborn - I don't really like this song as much as the others and if I were to create a list of my favourite Slayer tracks, I don't think that this would appear on it! Rating: 8.5/10
8. Epidemic - This and the next track are two of my favourites on the album, this one more so than 'Postmortem'. A great thrash song, you could call it a Slayer classic. Rating: 10/10
9. Postmortem - See above. Rating: 9.5/10
10. Raining Blood - This is the classic, this is Reign In Blood, this is SLAYER! Rating: 10/10
By the way, if you're new to Slayer, then I would reccomend 'Show No Mercy' first as it's not quite as heavy and fast as this, but if you're already a Speed Metal fan, then I would reccomend South Of Heaven, Seasons In The Abyss or Hell Awaits before preparing to open your wallet to buy this thrashmaster!
I bought this on a very expensive American import way back in '86 when it was refused a European release due to the `Angel of Death' track. An album so full of anger and hatred, that it only gave the surnames of the band on the back of the cardboard sleeve. Araya, Hanneman, King and Lombardo. Now, twenty years later, I still have many of the songs on my in-car MP3 player and you just cannot beat driving along to THAT thunderous opening riff from `Raining Blood' played incredibly loud!
One of my fondest memories of this album was being in the Virgin Megastore in Brighton soon after its release. The in-store DJ decided to play the ferocious `Reborn', presumably having never heard Slayer before. After the ensuing two minutes of sheer fury, there were a few seconds of stunned silence before he uttered the immortal words, "Well...that was different!" Utter classic!!
There was a rumour at the time that the songs were originally written much slower, but when it came to recording them, Dave Lombardo - drummer at the time - just couldn't play fast enough so the others had to keep pace! They eventually released a slower version of `Criminally Insane' as a single afterwards, but I was so familiar with the album version that I hated it!
This was Slayer's third album, and like so many other `third album groups' of that era - namely Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth - their sound changed dramatically, usually for the worse, with their fourth releases. I guess maybe it was just natural progression, or it may have just been me getting older, but as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Unfortunately, all the aforementioned groups did indeed break it and just like Humpty Dumpty, they couldn't put it together again.
Nearly every song is a classic in its own right, but my own personal fave is `Jesus Saves' with its brutal scrubbed riff following the slow intro. Any serious thrash metal fan should own this album and I still don't believe it's been bettered even to this day.
6 zillion riffs in a 4 minute time frame, 2 billion different time signatures.
Probably the most unrepentantly strong lyrics in Thrash.
It's probably impossible to clarify in words why this is so strong but it's something to do with the immense sense of catharsis the listener gains with it turned up to 11, it has the precision of Classical music, a disenfranchised rage later rock acts could only dream of tapping into and a sense of genuine sado-masochistic terror and urgency.