Slayer Reign In Blood- 1986
RMR Album Rating- 4 (Good)
On paper, Slayer’s 1986 release Reign in Blood has all the elements of a winning thrash metal album; however, for all it has working for it, it has just as much working against it.
I had very high expectations for Reign In Blood before hearing it. It was released in 1986, which is commonly considered the peak year for thrash metal, and it was supposed to be the fastest thrash metal album ever recorded at that point. Plus, it was produced by Rick Rubin, who is extremely talented and one of my favorite producers. I also knew that Slayer had great players: Dave Lombardo is considered one of the greatest metal drummers of all time and Kerry King is considered one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time. Therefore, I was really excited to hear the album because all this sounded great in theory.
Reign In Blood does have all the winning ingredients mentioned, but it has some serious flaws as well. And for me, these flaws far outweigh its winning recipe.
The album’s run time is just short of 30-minutes, which is not a problem in itself, but when all the songs sound basically the same, the whole album just melts together into one short blur, and because it is so fast all the time, there is very little song development at all. Anytime an interesting section starts to develop in a song, the song either changes or ends, so Slayer never capitalizes on any of the potentially interesting song sections, and there is never any real impact for the listener.
Aside from the underdeveloped song structures, much of my problem with the sound of Reign In Blood comes from the vocal delivery. The music is delivered so fast, it sounds like Tom Araya is constantly struggling to keep up, and his vocals don’t strike a chord with me at all. For the record, I have no problem with blood and gore themed lyrics, but even when singing about blood and gore, the lyrics still have to be delivered with some resonance, and this just doesn’t happen on Reign in Blood.
Of the 10 songs on the album, the only real highlights for me are “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood.”
“Angel of Death” stands out because it is the opener, and it is the longest song on the album (at almost 5 minutes). On a side note “Angel of Death’s” lyrics came under fire at the time of the record’s release, as some critics claimed the song was promoting the events of the Holocaust. Slayer has publically said that the song is a document of the events that took place, but it is in no way promoting the events that occurred.
“Raining Blood,” which closes the album, is my favorite track because Slayer actually develops an organized song structure for it, and the main guitar riff actually repeats a few times. “Raining Blood’s” run time on the album is also over 4-minutes, which makes it one of only three songs to break the 3-minute barrier. There are live performances of the song that near the 10-minute mark, and I like many of those renditions much better than this studio cut, but the short version here is great nonetheless.
Of the other 8 songs in between “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood,” the only other song that I’ll highlight is “Jesus Saves.” It is somewhat unique in that the first half is instrumental, but the total track time is only 3-minutes, so that’s not saying much. To me, every other song just runs together, and they are all basically indecipherable from each other, with no memorable melodies, harmonies, or hooks.
Click here to listen to Angel Of Death
Click here to listen to Raining Blood
Click here to listen to Jesus Saves
Ultimately, Reign in Blood was a let down for me for because everything is sacrificed for speed (the rhythm guitar is played faster than most guitar solos are played, and the solos are played even faster), but as impressive as the speed of the playing might be, there’s certainly more to music than just speed; however, with that being said, I think the album is worth hearing as a document of one of the fastest metal albums ever recorded.
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