Sep 202019
 

 

(This is the fourth installment in an extensive series of posts by TheMadIsraeli devoted to a retrospective analysis of the discography of Slayer. Links to the preceding installments are at the end of this post. Our plan is to continue posting the remaining Parts on a daily basis until the series is completed.  NOTE:  Through an oversight, the assessment of Hell Awaits got skipped in the sequence, but we’ll have that installment after this one.)

Reign In Blood is rightfully considered the breakout album for Slayer in terms of their really becoming noticed in a more widespread sense.  I say rightfully, but while Reign In Blood is a good album, it’s not great. I think for me this shortfall is due to the fact that it distinctly lacks much of what would hook me about Slayer as I explored the rest of their discography.

Kind of odd, right? Considering this is the record that exposed me to the band.  But my exploration of Slayer’s entire body of work ended up reshaping my perception of this album.  While I like it, I’ve come to think that it’s overrated.

 

 

It’s fast, yes, and the mix is fantastic.  Some of the lyrical spitting on here is among the best Araya’s done.  It lacks song-writing superiority, though. Its historically touted short run-time leads to a lot of songs that to me feel like they could’ve used another minute or two.

Maybe coincidentally, the best songs (and the ones that are the most remembered) happen to be the longest ones, with the most room for the band to flex their compositional muscles.  “Angel Of Death”, “Postmortem”, and “Raining Blood” are the only songs off this album you actually NEED.  “Piece By Piece”, “Criminally Insane”, and “Epidemic” are exemplary of the fact that much of this album just doesn’t do much that’s interesting.  It’s fast-as-fuck music, but it isn’t even the most technical Slayer had ever been up to this point.

“Jesus Saves” is cool because it has a little bit of flair with its intro. That kind of drama and tension-building is something that defines Slayer to me.  But the general lack of distinctive song-writing is why I’m just not as attracted to this album as I used to be.  The intro of “Criminally Insane” is also quite cool, but the song itself devolves into a pretty generic riff that doesn’t quite land.  Songs like “Reborn” and “Epidemic”, though, are just comparatively awful.  Both of these songs are short 2+ minute bursts that would’ve been climaxes in the longer and more dynamic songs on Hell Awaits, with nothing about them that really stands out as memorable.

It’s not that this album is bad by any means, and I’m a music critic right?  So I have to be an absolute dick and pretentious about it all.  I just don’t think though this is Slayer’s finest moment, although it’s certainly the band’s most digestible, and “Angel Of Death” combined with the closing salvo of “Postmortem/”Raining Blood” is ALMOST enough to justify this album’s existence alone.

“Postmortem/Raining Blood” should’ve been one song.  It would’ve been a nice callback to the writing style present on Hell Awaits that hooked me so much.  I’m actually going to rank this album’s songs in tiers.

 

S Tier, the best of the best:
Angel Of Death
Postmortem/Raining Blood

A Tier, classic Slayer:

Jesus Saves
Altar Of Sacrifice

The rest of the album is forgettable when I really think about it.

 

For previous installments in this series, check these links:

PART 1 (Intro)

PART 2 (Show No Mercy)

PART 3 (Haunting the Chapel)

PART 4 (Hell Awaits)

 

 

  21 Responses to “HIGHER CRITICISM: SLAYER (PART 5) — “REIGN IN BLOOD””

  1. Skipped Hell Awaits? Say it aint so!

  2. Whew, hot take over here! Haha great write-up.

  3. Also surprised to find the mighty ‘Hell Awaits’ absent!? I’ve gotta disagree with your analysis of ‘Reign..’ – there’s so much to hear between the ‘recognised classics’ and it will always remain their finest (sub-half) hour in my mind!!

  4. Super happy you gave the appropriate nod to Jesus Saves. I was eating and all of a sudden I was gnashing my teeth at the omission and then saw you mentioned it directly. Whew! Digestion continues, unabated.

    That said, Im curious, as I may have missed the first article, when you were introduced to Slayer?
    I love the album, but I also don’t love it compared to what metal has become. Im far more interested in the ongoing formation of metal and its various extremities than I am to remain in the past.
    Yet, I am from that past. I was not a fan when Reign in Blood came out. I was scared. Motley Crues Shout at the Devil was the most satanic adjacent thing I was comfortable with at that age. Fast forward a few more years though…. Metallica being the big paver of inroads here, I was able to fully appreciate what the guys were doing here. It was vital and ripshit and evil.

    Now, again, modern metal is way more ripshit and way more evil, yet Slayer – Reign In Blood, remains, as a note of nostalgia, entry vital. So I can see where someone who may have to go back to dig up these things may find they pale in comparison to what hey influenced… Again, I feel thats true… Yet… at that time… That was definitely an eye raising, hackle raising, hell raising experience to my middle school brain. It changed my world and I suspect it changed a lot of other peoples worlds during that era.

    So thats where a lot of the praise comes from. Enough that, like gravity, it draws in more praise, from this new to the sounds that have tried to make sense of this metallic realm we inhabit

    • So I heard Slayer for the first time when I was… 15 or 16? It was 2005 and I bought the very album this piece is about. I think a lot of people of people may be more shocked at my hot take since typically, you love the album you heard first the most. I’m an outlier in that sense.

      As far as how I look at old school versus modern metal and how it appeals to my tastes, I oddly don’t draw much of a distinction. I get the same adrenaline rush from Slayer, Meshuggah or even the first Periphery album. I love all the OG classic stuff as much as anything modern and find it just as enthralling. I’m sorry if I didn’t QUITE answer your question there lol, but yeah. That’s my take.

      • Wow! So I saw Slayer in 1985 which was 5 years before you were born! That’s crazy. I think Haunting was the first Slayer I heard. I’m surprised by your review of Reign in Blood but it’s not off base – as a whole it’s pretty strong but individual songs are indeed kind of simple despite the raging. I always think about Crypts of Eternity and all the weird rhythms and time changes and wish the band hasn’t abandoned that largely over the next few records. Caught them on this tour so I think 33 years is my record for longest time seeing the same band (though I saw several other tours over the years).

        • I grew up hearing of Slayer but, it wasn’t till reign of blood that I actually heard Slayer …Bamm I was hooked… Slayer became my head bangers ball.. Rewind….i have listened to there older stuff, watched them live on YouTube and I can say they’re defiantly one of my favorites…. Rock on!

  5. “Well he must be saving it for the end of the series since its the best…” I thought to myself wondering where Hell Awaits was.

    Also, while I agree that “Angel of Death”, “Altar of Sacrifice”, “Jesus Saves”, “Postmortem” and “Raining Blood” are the album highlights, it wouldn’t be the album it is without the shorter tracks. And those tracks get all the hype but really “Piece by Piece”, “Necrophobic” and “Criminally Insane” are all really well written and insanely aggressive.

    I have to admit “Epidemic” and “Reborn” are the two tracks that I really don’t consider essential even though they are good (end riff of Epidemic is great), and I think if they weren’t on the album nobody would miss them. They probably just wanted to make sure the album cleared 30 minutes of music haha.

    Just the other day I saw Outer Heaven open for Pig Destroyer, and they covered “Piece by Piece” it was fucking awesome.

  6. Not much I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said. It’s a thrash masterpiece, relentlessly fast and heavy. The production style wouldn’t work well for every band, but it’s perfect for this album. I can still put this one on at any time and enjoy it just as much as the first time I heard it.

    • I agree 100% with Godless Angel, anytime I hear tunes from Reign in Blood, I crank it up . No matter where I’m at!!! SLAYER!!!!

      • That writer is an idiot, an absolutely incompetent assessment of this album. Obviously a desk jockey nerd and not SLAYER for LIFE!

  7. “Altar of Sacrifice” was the first song I heard by Slayer on a college radio station here in NJ and have to say, it’s the best song other than “Postmortem/Raining Blood”. “Hell Awaits” I agree is a better album but with crappy production. Great write up, look forward to the rest!!!!

  8. As someone coming from punk/hardcore, post punk, who got into metal because of Metallica covering Killing Joke and Misfits on the $5.98 EP in 1987 (a metalhead friend hooked me up with a tape of the EP), I don’t get this review at all. Reign in Blood and Master of Puppets are basically the two reasons why I listen to death metal, black metal and post metal today.

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