Reign in Blood, by Slayer
Suggested by Rob Wagner
Full disclaimer: Reign in Blood is not new to me.
On October 13th 1990, my friends and I attended the Clash of the Titans concert tour, in the Birmingham NEC. Playing that night were Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, and the dual headliners Megadeth and Slayer. If pressed at the time, I was there for Megadeth, although my dirty secret wat that I much preferred Suicidal Tendencies. Testament? Couldn’t care less. Slayer? Sure, they’re pretty damn cool.
We arrived after the gig had started, due to the designated driver setting off late, but we caught the tail end of Suicidal Tendencies (much to my ire at the time) Testament came, played and left. Then Slayer took to the stage, and they were as ferocious as hot balls.
The four-piece thrash outfit, at that time, consisted of the classic lineup. Tom Araya, with pounding bass and full-on metallic gravel voice. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, with screaming, terrifying widdlediddle guitars. And Dave Lombardo, whose ten-minute drum solo made me literally soil myself. And by “literally,” I mean literally. Although by “soil myself”, I mean “applaud wildly.”
This same lineup are responsible for those early Slayer albums that scorched the eyeballs and sledgehammered the skulls of metal fans the world over. Reign in Blood, the bands third studio album, contains ten blistering tracks with as much impact as mortar shells, and the same damage output to boot. We start with the fantastic Angel of Death, which starts with ugly, buzzing guitars and the promise of bludgeoning drums. When those drums kick in, and Tom Araya unleashes his piercing, ungodly scream, you know you’re in for an aural kicking.
I could wax lyrical about Araya’s thunderous bass guitar and ultra-menacing presence, or about Lombardo’s thrash drumming masterclass, or about both Hanneman and King’s napalm-hot guitar solos, but perhaps the best thing about Reign in Blood is the fact that the songs, and the band themselves, simply Do. Not. Let. Up. Not for a second. The opening chords promise brutality, and for thirty hectic and breathless minutes, brutality is what you get. From the lyrical subject matter, tacking Joseph Mengele and Satanism and postmortems and overthrowing heaven itself, to the machine gunning drums and spitfire-strafe guitar, to the raw malice emanating from Tom Araya’s throat, Slayer are exactly the band that your parents warned you about.
By the time they left the NEC stage on that October night, thirty years ago, my friends and I were completely moshed out. Megadeth came on and rocked our collective socks, but we headbanged with sore necks and at least a ten percent yearning to ditch the gig and head home to our beds. Slayer had won that night, hands down.
Reign in Blood is pitched perfectly, and so many bands and albums chase after its mercurial blend of heaviness and balls-out intensity, only to come up short in some regard, presenting as poorly written Slayer fanfic. It’s Slayer’s second strongest album, after South of Heaven, and is realistically the heaviest I personally like to get. I give it a strong 8/10.