Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Slayer a Day - Reign In Blood

Slayer - Reign In BloodReign In Blood, Slayer's major label debut, is the album that put Slayer on the map and changed thrash metal forever. What is it about this album that makes it stand out not only from their previous efforts, but from most heavy metal records from other artists?

This time around Slayer enlisted the talents of Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Run DMC) to produce Reign In Blood. What Rubin did to Slayer's sound is award winning. The guitars are clear, sound large and loud, and have a ferociously evil tone. The drums pound with a fervor, and you can feel the double-bass in the pit of your stomach. Finally, Rubin peeled away the thick layer of reverb that had coated every previous Slayer record. With this change, Slayer sounds like they're actually in the room (too bad for you that the room is now most definitely Hell).

Segues between songs are practically non-existent. Since many of the songs have abrupt stops (then starts) within them, it's almost impossible for the first time listener to figure out where one tune ends and the next one begins. Slayer speeds through them at a pace and with intensity that's beyond description, and any pauses or "slowness" are used to great dynamic effect (the Slayer "groove", in my opinion, cemented itself on this album). They're just enough to give the listener a welcome breather before being audibly slammed once again.

Slayer, knowing the importance of leaving the audience wanting more, clocked the entire album in at under 30 minutes, and most songs don't even hit the three minute mark.

The musicianship has also been taken up a notch. There are countless riffs here, even within the same song, but they are expertly put together so the album feels like a cohesive whole. With the reverb gone, the preciseness of each different rhythm part grabs the listener by the neck and doesn't let go.

The guitar solos are, for lack of a better description, flabbergasting. Each lead sounds like a hapless victim being viciously assaulted, as he frantically kicks, screams, and scrambles to rid himself of his tormentor. But just when escape may be within reach, the perpetrator grabs hold again, and continues to pummel its prey into submission.

Lyrics? Well, when your main subject is the infamous Nazi butcher Josef Mengele, you're going to (purposefully) ruffle some feathers. Satan, murder, and brutal violence is the norm here, barked out by Arya at a speed that's almost impossible to contemplate. What did you want them to sing about, puppies?

Reign In Blood should always be listened to in its entirety for full effect, but here are some highlights:
  • "Angel of Death" - A blistering intro riff and Arya's blood-curdling scream starts this album off right, but it's the groove in the middle (1:40), then the abrupt stop and start that precludes the solos, all wrapped up with the double-bass drum genius at 4:20, that make this song a winner.

  • "Altar of Sacrifice" - Tom's "Praise Hell, Satan!" is truly a standout (the word "Satan" echos and pans between speakers).

  • "Jesus Saves" - The ending slow drive of "Altar of Sacrifice" expertly segues into this tune's intro riffs, which build and grow upon each other until the speedy musical explosion at 1:05.

  • "Postmortem" - The best riff Slayer had written to date. It grinds and slithers like nothing they had done previously.

  • "Raining Blood" - The sound of thunder and rain are a fantastic backdrop to haunting guitar wailings, before Slayer assaults with a series of wonderfully executed guitars playing in harmony. Bang head furiously from 2:10 to conclusion. Start album over again.
If you can have only one thrash metal album in your collection, it should be Reign In Blood. Nothing in your house will be more aggressive than this album, which is considered by most to be Slayer's finest accomplishment. Turn it up to eleven and watch the paint peel off your walls.


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