(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
A Tier, classic Slayer:
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)