The Grand Re-Listening Part 26 : Slayer – Reign In Blood

Posted: June 9, 2011 by kingcrimsonprog in Life, Metal, Music Reviews

Slayer - Reign In Blood

Slayer - Reign In Blood

Reign In Blood (as you will well know if you are reading this blog) is one of the most famous and respected albums that has ever been released by a metal band, it constantly tops polls as the best album by the band, the subgenre and the genre as a whole.

It is an album that I have always felt is greatly overrated, and I am a large Slayer fan, who rates other albums they have released as among the best ever written. The main thing that spoils Reign In Blood for me, unfairly if truth be known, is the mystique and marketing around it. I hate its public cult status. I hate how easy it is to call it the fastest album ever made, the heaviest album ever made, the most extreme album ever made and whatever other exaggerations it gets tied in with.

Not so much anymore as I have grown a) used to it and b) older and nolonger have such childish resentments in most areas in life and though I do not form new ones, some of the lasting ones haven’t fully shaken off.

Two huge things in the album’s favour, (but outside the music) are the artwork and the production. Firstly, the record sleeve is just really striking and memorable, it looks fantastic and suits the album perfectly. I have no complaints in that department at all.

Secondly; regardless of the songwriting quality, this album sounds fantastic. The production is absolutely exceptional, really ahead of its time, no other thrash band ever managed to cover fast sounding material with this deal of both clarity and space. Kreator and Sodom often had similar speeds as this but it always either sounded muddy or like tinny buzzing. The drum sound and mix are literally unrivaled by any release I’ve ever heard from the time and maybe even the next five years afterward.

On the subject of the music; when I am not in the mood for this record it sounds to me like a short, poorly written collection of samey hammering where all the transitions between the non-hammering sections are clumbsy and underdeveloped. When I’ve had a good clear listening session (such as now) the case is usually different, I usually notice all the little touches that make the album good.

For example; the last section of ‘Necrophobic,’ and the intros to both ‘Jesus Saves,’ and ‘Criminally Insane’ have undeniable quality but last for too short a time and are under explored, a continuing problem with the album, everything cool happens once and is gone forever, whereas all the dull hammering happens again and again, a problem this release shares with both Haunting The Chapel and about half of Hell Awaits.

There is much more to enjoy with ‘Alter Of Sacrifice,’ which starts off as dull as the others but features a two second long breakdown that is exciting, a fun long high pitched tom roll breaks the tedium and then it finally becomes a good song from the point Tom sing ‘Enter to the realm of Satan…’ at which song the song slows down, gets into a grove and has unusually musical guitar solos from the guitarists.

I’ve always had a little trouble accepting ‘Angel Of Death,’ because it fills a position in the world’s brain that I assumed for a few years belonged to ‘Raining Blood,’ and which I think ‘Raining Blood,’ is more deserving of. The song doesn’t live up to its unlivable-up-to legend and instead of me accepting that I resent it sometimes when I don’t realise how stupid I’m being. When I listened to it in recent years I finally came to like it. One thing in Angel Of Death’s favour is the double kick solo, which is so perfect and enjoyable that it can never be spoiled for me.
As a whole though, for many years I felt Angel Of Death was like Apocalypse Now or A Clockwork Orange, in that it is too famous, has been talked about too much and has been ripped off or referenced too much for me to be able to relate to it on its own terms any more. A problem with the album as a whole too I guess, but not to the same extent.

Curiously (or perhaps not, given the how my head works entries) I never “count” either ‘Postmortem’ or ‘Raining Blood’ when thinking about or judging this album. The two best songs on the album in my opinion are discounted. Two of the best songs the band have ever written. Two of the best songs ANY band have ever written.

I can’t remember a time when I fell out of love with either of those songs and if there was such a time, it both didn’t last very long and didn’t make much of an impression.

It proves an undermining of any negative evaluation that I ever make of the album that those two excellent songs aren’t in consideration, as they raise the estimation of the album ludicrously higher than it would otherwise be. To be fair to myself its probably only because they are so different in both composition and quality of the rest of the album.
Maybe though its because I want to rate the album lower because it still is overrated and its a lasting remnant of teen stupidity and resentment. Who knows ? … not even me.

Overall I really, really enjoyed Reign In Blood this time around. The thing is though, that if I don’t listen to it soon again I can very realistically see me thinking that it is a rubbish record the next time that I think about it. Its more of a peculiarity of my own brain than a reflection of the actual album as it exists in the world.

The problem with Reign In Blood is interesting in its cancerous spread because when somebody mentions it or when boorish fans start screaming the word ‘Slayer,’ in inappropriate situations it makes me think that I hate Slayer. When however, a single riff from any other Slayer album is playing or when I think about in detail or listen to the band in general I think of them as one of my actual favourite bands who I am genuinely fond of and take an active interest in new music from. Something that a lot of the pig headed Reign In Blood fans on the internet seem to be above.

That might sum it up better than anything actually. There are Slayer fans and there are Reign In Blood fans and the Reign In Blood fans almost spoil Slayer for me and often spoil Reign In Blood for me. Unless I give it a full attention, unbiased listen, at which point I see how good it actually is.

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