Slayer – Reign In Blood

September 20, 2012 in Kylie's Classic Corner, Reviews by Kylie

Slayer
Reign In Blood
1986

Really? People consider this to be the king of all thrash albums? Oh sure, it’s bookended by two of the best metal songs ever (“Angel Of Death” and “Postmortem/Raining Blood” for those who have been quivering in fear under a rock for the past 26 years), but the rest of the album feels so underdeveloped, especially when compared to Slayer’s first two albums, Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits, and their Haunting The Chapel EP. Yes, it’s fast as hell, but no song breaks the three minute mark that doesn’t either open or close the album. Great for a grindcore album, not quite so for an album in a genre that was focusing more and more on structure. Even Slayer themselves were getting a bit more “progressive” from their initial NWOBHM roots (tell me that “Crionics” isn’t the logical successor to Judas Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor”) to the absolutely stunning Hell Awaits and the rest of the initial Dave Lombardo era (South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss). So, what the hell happened here?

Angel Of Death” kicks things off with a bang. No subtle evil like was seen on Hell Awaits; it’s just a flat-out riff monster. Yes, Kerry King is potentially the worst guitarist to ever be in a famous metal band. Yes, his guitar solos sound like an epileptic tabby cat watching that banned Pokémon episode, Electric Soldier Porygon. Yes, the riffs are badass enough to compensate.

Criminally Insane” is the best song from the middle seven. It actually feels like a finished product, unlike the majority of the songs that sound like a quality production of a Jeff Hanneman riff tape. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s that they leave you disappointed and wanting something more. “Altar Of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves” are the biggest offenders in the “hey, where did the rest of the song go?” collection.

Postmortem/Raining Blood” (you have to take them as one continuous song, like “Dreamer/Deceiver” from Judas Priest’s Sad Wings Of Destiny, and they go from good to mind-blowing…also, the tracking on the original CD pressings had the cutoffs slightly mixed up) is a fine slab of epic thrash. “Raining Blood” has some riffs that any classic thrash head can hum in their sleep. Also, the scream at the “…fatality, reality, await the final CAAAALL!” in “Postmortem” and the subsequent thrash assault is the absolute highlight of the album.

All in all, it’s a solid album, but an EP with “Angel Of Death,” “Criminally Insane,” and “Postmortem/Raining Blood” would have been a LOT more cohesive, complete, and sensible. The middle seven songs are far too fast for their own good (the vocals can’t go fast enough to make any sense…and yes, Ms. Speed Metal actually just said something is too fast).

I’d like to take this time to scratch the surface on the other 4 good Slayer albums (I made the mistake of listening to the albums without Dave Lombardo once…I think the metal gods sent divine retribution on me in the form of having to review a Skylark album for my first assignment here) rather than do yet another rewind series (wait, you’re putting your least favorite good Slayer album in the Classic Corner?!). Show No Mercy has Slayer at the crossroads of the burgeoning thrash movement and NWOBHM, with a LOT of Mercyful Fate influence in the lyrics. It’s a sound that Slayer had down to a science, yet never even sniffed it out after, preferring to go the route of Possessed and Dark Angel in the more “extreme” direction on the amazing followup, Hell Awaits (my personal favorite Slayer album). South Of Heaven is a LOT more melodic than Hell Awaits or Reign In Blood, but still has the “extreme” edge (and “Behind The Crooked Cross” is their “Breaking The Law”…too bad they never play it live!). Seasons In The Abyss is part South Of Heaven (melodic and brooding evil) and part Reign In Blood (the first and last songs are amazing, the rest is decent, but nowhere near as good as the two “big” songs).

Anyways, Reign In Blood is an overrated classic outshined by both the preceeding and succeeding albums. It’s not bad, but there is far better Slayer (also, there is far WORSE Slayer…being anything newer than Seasons).

 Kylie’s rating: 3.0 out of 5