The year of metal continues, with yet another highly acclaimed heavy metal record that came out in 1986. “Reign In Blood” by Slayer is the 4th rated album on the loudwire.com list of Top 10 Metal Albums of All Time. Like Metallica and Megadeth, Slayer also hails from California, and just like Dave Mustaine was previously in Metallica, Kerry King was briefly in Megadeth with Mustaine, which helped to fuel some rivalry and animosity between the bands.
Where do I even start? I don’t know that I had ever intentionally listened to Slayer prior to this experience, and I don’t know that I will do so very often again. My most familiar reference to the band prior to this day was a comedy routine by Jim Breuer, a SNL alum and avowed metal fan who has toured with Metallica. Jim asserted in hilarious detail to the level of devotion, intensity, depravity and obsession of the prototypical Slayer fan. As such, I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into, but of course it was even more than I anticipated.
If Megadeth is darker and more intense than Metallica, then the same can be said for Slayer in comparison to either of these acts. Fast, crushing, and jarring, the vocals edge closer to what eventually evolved into screamo metal. Again, the topics are not pleasant or uplifting. As we listen to the band explore Josef Mengele on the song “Angel of Death” to open the album, it is clear there are not any silly love songs coming down Interstate 5. The songs are rather similar in pace, volume, range and duration, as they tend to play shorter per track than their peers, not unlike the two and a half minute songs featured by many hardcore punk bands. If I had to single one track out from the bunch, and that is a task, I would probably go with “Raining Blood”, the last song on the album, although “Angel of Death” is also an intense and interesting burst. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to get cheered up by when listening to “Necrophobic”, “Altar of Sacrifice”, “Criminally Insane” and “Postmortem”, but my metal ear hasn’t evolved enough yet to truly pick my favorites from the bunch.
With their classic lineup of Tom Araya on bass and vocals, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman on guitars, and Dave Lombardo on drums, along with support from Def Jam records and producer Rick Rubin, this record is in rare air with the other thrash metal classics of 1986. Along with Anthrax, these four bands redefined the intensity of this sound, even as British leather metal and southern California hair metal were thriving in parallel.