30 years on, Slayer’s Reign In Blood Is Still Fucking Garbage!

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Next week marks 30 years since the release of one of metal’s most historic records. While other albums of its age have smoothly transitioned into adulthood, Slayer‘s break-through is still out partying hard, exchanging bodily fluids with reckless abandon, and waking up with no knowledge of where it’s been. Truth is, Reign In Blood is still as garbage as it ever was.

reign-in-blood_1After having sired countless spawn across the globe for which it has paid a grand total of zero child support, hanging out at schools selling speed to generation after generation of teenagers, racking up numerous assault charges, flagrantly violating every form of noise restriction law, and essentially murdering everything in its class, Reign In Blood has proven itself to be the epitome of odious immorality. Eschewing the Sunday morning cafe conversations comparing health cover, raising children, and travel plans, Reign In Blood awakes with bloodshot eyes, tattered clothes, and reeking of an utterly repellent combination of sweat, smoke, and straight spirits. This is not a manifestation of some banal early-onset mid-life crisis-borne depression, no, this is simply all Reign has known in life. Belligerent aggression. Maniacal chaos. Unadulterated mayhem. Metal.

Regardless of whether you think its older brother Hell Awaits, or the more refined, well-mannered younger siblings South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss are superior albums, to deny that Reign In Blood was Slayer’s most influential album would be severely misguided. Released on October 7th, 1986, these 10 tracks signified the band’s emergence into the public eye; the album charted with no radio play. I know this because I was a very industrious 2 year-old who spent every waking moment meticulously cataloguing every track played on the entire world’s collective radio stations during that time (*). Reign In Blood also marked the commencement of the band’s long-running working relationship with Rick Rubin, who had only previously worked with hip-hop artists and the like. Apparently, he’s a pretty big deal now too.

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At this stage, it would be completely unnecessary for me to go through describing each track and tell you why they rule; you’ve heard, you know. If I could enumerate the exact number of brain cells I’ve decimated on an album by album basis, Reign In Blood would almost certainly be #1. That’s as good as any means for determining the personal significance of a piece of music in my (damaged) mind. The album’s profound influence in the metal genre is well documented, one only has to take a cross-section of the numerous tribute albums to the band to notice the abundance of songs from this single album. Instead of simply playing the original for the 9999th time, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling the album track-by-track via selecting what I believe to be the top 10 covers of the songs. Even just running through these few covers, it becomes clearly apparent the wide variety of sub-genres that owe some degree of gratitude to this rapid-fire 29 minutes of metal. There’s even a surprise live cover by some band that totally puts Slayer to shame (**).

250px-mohawk_picWhile we’re all ripping through the playlist, we’re each going to appease our nostalgia boners by talking about our personal experiences with the album. The first time I heard any part of Reign In Blood was most likely as a child watching Gremlins 2 on VHS for the umpteenth time; you know the part I’m talking about.  However, as a 6 year-old, even the concept of a riff was beyond me in 1990. My next run-in with the coveted “Angel Of Death” riff came through a somewhat unlikely medium – the MIDI.

After a year or so of sinking my teeth into Metallica and Iced Earth, I stumbled upon the MIDI files for the “Angel Of Death” and “South Of Heaven” main riffs while browsing the internet at friend’s house. You see, this was 1997, not everyone in my area had bothered to get the “world wide web” yet. We didn’t until about 1998 at my house. My friend had super lax parents. Needless to say, I saw some shit on this here internet thingy, but what I remember most vividly was the unprecedented access to new bands and their music. These sound sick even on MIDI, imagine what they sound like on guitar! I must have listened to those two files 20 times in a row that night. Upon one of my next visits to the record store, I managed to find copies of Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven, and the (then) just released Diabolus In Musica CD’s. After hopping in the back-seat of the car and promptly placing the disc in my shiny silver discman, I donned the earbuds and hit play on an album that would end up steering the next 18 years of my life.

Although at first, I was a little too timid to enjoy the constant “screaming” of Tom Araya’s vocals, the riffs were undeniably the most evil thing I’d ever heard. Relative to my prior experiences with the MIDI tracks and the vocal stylings of Hetfield, Barlow, et al., this was mind-blowing. Everything else now seemed to be a placid paddling pool; Reign In Blood was a tempestuous cascade of sulphurous vermillion falling from a precipitous wall of black clouds, directly into my ears, washing over my brain, and subsequently dissociating every atom within my skull. Fast, abrasive, addictive.

By a matter of sheer circumstance, the journey home from the shops was roughly equivalent to 25 minutes, and by the time I got to the album’s penultimate track “Postmortem”, a typically fierce spontaneous Sydney Summer storm had brewed that evening. I’m sure Mum wasn’t as oblivious to its onset as I, maybe that’s why the drive took a few minutes longer that day, it’s possible that she had slowed down through possessing some kind of personal concern towards our continued existence. The same existential regard I’d abandoned a mere 20 minutes earlier. What I do know is that just as the ominous intro to album closer “Raining Blood” commenced, there were lightning strikes flashing in closer succession to my location. It couldn’t have been more perfect timing. I’d never bought into the existence of a god; but at that moment, I bought into Slayer.

*shudders* Yeah, I just said that. Whatever, it was a really cool moment in my life. One of the few. By the time we hit the driveway at home, it was pelting with rain, and I sure as fuck wasn’t getting out before that song finished. For one, my precious discman would get wet! Secondly, my Mum probably said “we’ll just wait a minute”. Thirdly, I don’t think I’d brought my house keys. Fourthly, who the fuck are you, the Spanish Inquisition? I just didn’t get out, ok. Enough about me, I’ve asked a few of our writers to tell us what the album means to them.


Jason Kolkey

Here are the memories that come to mind when I think of Reign in Blood:

– Walking to school as a teenager, taking much comfort in having the chance to listen to the whole album on my Discman before dealing with the daily angst and travails of that age.
– Singing along to every track with strangers when some lazy sound guy decided to throw it on between sets at a show.
– And, of course, seeing the original lineup burn through the whole album at The Rave in Milwaukee, an experience that left me completely soaked in my own and others’ sweat.

Contrarians and revisionists will always have something to say against an album as widely beloved and influential as Reign in Blood. The outsize devotion many fans feel toward Slayer – mainly stemming from this record – invites derision from anyone who has dug deeper into the underground, as does the way the band has continued to be the most visible face of metal’s heavier side to the world’s plebs. Doesn’t matter. The riffs speak for themselves, as do all the band’s and songs that can trace their lineage to this release. And I truly consider “Angel of Death” one of mankind’s proudest achievements.


JAG

Talk about extreme metal… Reign In Blood *was* one of the few faces of extreme in 1986. At first I didn’t know what to think; there was talk of murder, satanic praise, and more murder.

My brother wore the original shirt and on the back it asked the question: “Do You Wanna Die?”. This whole album seemed to assure its listeners that not only will they indeed die, but possibly die a horrific death, and perhaps face an even more heinous afterlife.

Yeah, this album was 27 furious minutes of death and horror before death metal was really much of a thing. It was short enough that they repeated the entire album on the other side of the cassette tape. Nevertheless it was adequate, to the point, and left the listener feeling as though they’d heard a full album in spite of its brevity. The music and vocal delivery were so fast that one almost felt as though they were aboard a speeding freight train that was barely clinging to the railroad.

I was barely thirteen when Reign In Blood dropped; an adolescent who regularly attended Church and Sunday School. It scared the living shit out of me. Number of the Beast and Shout at the Devil were one thing, but this? This went too far. It went WAY too far and, by the time South of Heaven came out, I had somehow grown to love it.

Reign In Blood was, for me, a bitter cup to drink from. It was a masterpiece and a uniquely horrifying stroke of genius from a band who were formerly just a (better) copy of Venom. Reign In Blood is today a metal monument; one that will never be toppled by anyone. Thirty years later and the best any thrash or extreme metal band could ever hope for is “almost as good.”


Ron Deuce

My first exposure to Slayer was not this album, but Seasons In The Abyss, because my primary source for hearing new music was to sit up until 3am in the morning on a Saturday night and wait for the world’s most renowned poser, Riki Rachtman to play five minutes of good music during MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, among the sea of glam rock and grunge that you could already hear during MTV’s regularly scheduled programming. I had only begun to dip my toes into thrash with the likes of Megadeth and Anthrax, so hearing Slayer at the time was hands down the heaviest thing out there to my ear-holes until death metal came through. Seasons invited me to explore Slayer’s back catalog and Reign In Blood was next up for my musical consumption.

What struck me about the record was not only its fierce and relentless attack, but also its brevity. While it’s commonplace nowadays for a band’s album to clock in around 25-30 minutes, this was not the case in 1986. Most metal bands were putting out full lengths of around 45 minutes to an hour. I never had any problem with the length because you always wanted more and if you had one of those tape decks that automatically flipped, then no action was needed on your part. Because the entire album was on one side of the cassette, you could just relax and let your ears get ravaged again. The thing about Slayer, and this record in particular, is that it is not exclusively cherished by metalheads alone; the punk kids like it, the hardcore kids like it, and probably a couple of yuppie hedge fund managers from Wall St. like it too. With that kind of broad appeal, it’s no wonder that those who place Reign In Blood on a pedestal use it as a measuring stick against other critically acclaimed albums whether that’s fair or not. Anyone who thinks Reign In Blood is not an iconic record is in the minority.


Now it’s your turn, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the album in the comments below! Maybe you have a favourite cover version that you wanna share with us?


* = No, you’re right, I did not actually do thisYou clever reader, you.

** = I couldn’t source a stand-alone cover of “Reborn”. 

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