The 80s produced some great thrash albums. Anthrax released Spreading The Disease in 1985, Metallica released the game changer Master of Puppets in March 1986 while six months later their rivals Megadeth released Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? However, something more sinister was waiting in the wings. In July 1986, a young producer called Rick Rubin wrapped up on his first metal album that would not only change his life, but the bands he was working with. That album was called Reign in Blood by a thrash metal band called Slayer whose name has since been screamed at every metal festival in the early hours of the morning.
Reign in Blood didn’t just change thrash metal, it changed metal completely. It’s hard to comprehend what heavy music would be like without this album. Its importance in the 80s cemented their position as part of the Big Four of thrash metal with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. The Big Four are all there for a reason, Anthrax are included for their influence over metal due to their partnership with Public Enemy, Megadeth had the riffs and Metallica have the anthems. But Slayer had the evil, the malice, the dark side that lead to death metal; all extreme music can be rooted back to this album.
A lot of people assume that this is their first album but it is actually their third. Nonetheless, it is with this album that Slayer really came into their own. Rubin’s direction led to the sound being more polished and tighter – at this point he was the fifth member of Slayer. The album’s length of 28 minutes was a big talking point as it bucked the trend of hour-long albums. The album fit on one side of a cassette which guitarist Kerry King said about in an interview: “You could listen to it, flip it over, and play it again“. When the album came out it received no airplay, yet it still made its way onto the UK charts and US billboard. Reign in Blood’s influence has hit thousands of bands. There are too many to list but every modern metal band has been influenced by this music; its artwork or just Slayer’s general “no comprise” attitude. The extreme metal genre owes so much to this band and album. It spawned thousands of copycats but none of them came close.
The obvious reason for the album’s influence is because the album is still stunning and relevant thirty years later. Tom Araya‘s banshee screech on opener ‘Angel of Death’ still sends a chill down the spine, while Dave Lombardo‘s double pedal drumming that closes this track led to the birth of the blast beat. ‘Raining Blood’ is still one of the best songs ever written and that intro still has an impact after all these years. But the middle part in-between these songs is no filler and contains some of the best thrash songs of all time. ‘Jesus Saves’ and ‘Postmortem’ being particular highlights. Jeff Hannemann and Kerry King were a fantastic double act with their intertwining, maniac guitars which inspired a generation of fans to pick up the guitar. Drummer Dave Lombardo earns his stripes as one of heavy metal’s greatest drummers, the speed-yet-accuracy of his drumming is still jaw dropping thirty years later. The praise, however, should go to Tom Araya, he is the backbone of Slayer and held the band together with an engrossing vocal performance. This influence upon thrash metal is substantial, the fast guitars with the hardcore punk influence helped change the direction of thrash metal, which was still in its infancy at the time. God only knows where thrash metal would be without Slayer (but he’d still probably hate us all).
Despite the album containing ten pieces of solid gold, ‘Angel of Death’ and ‘Raining Blood’ are still the album’s standouts and staples of the band’s live set; with the latter winning the band a new generation of fans thanks to its inclusion on Guitar Hero 3. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important metal albums of all time, it’s as equally important as any work from the early Sabbath years or Master of Puppets (which frequently beats Reign in Blood in best of polls and lists). Slayer’s Reign in Blood is an essential piece of metal history and is without a doubt one of the best albums ever made.
1. Angel Of Death
2. Piece By Piece
4. Altar Of Sacrifice
5. Jesus Saves
6. Criminally Insane
10. Raining Blood