Unleashing Hell: The Story Behind Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”
Unleashing Hell: The Story Behind Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”

Unleashing Hell: The Story Behind Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”

In 1986, Slayer unleashed a musical tempest that would forever redefine the world of heavy metal. “Reign in Blood,” a brutal and unrelenting masterpiece, sent shockwaves through the music industry, leaving an indelible mark on the genre. Join us as we delve into the history and development of this iconic album, dissect its track listing, explore its key themes, and examine its critical reception. We’ll also take a closer look at its version/release history and recommend similar albums that fans of Slayer should check out.

Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”

When it comes to the annals of heavy metal history, few albums have left as lasting an impact as Slayer’s “Reign in Blood.” Released on October 7, 1986, this landmark album is a relentless assault on the senses, a sonic journey into the abyss that has influenced countless bands and defined a subgenre of metal known as thrash.

History and Development

To understand the significance of “Reign in Blood,” we must first explore the band’s journey leading up to this seminal release. Slayer, formed in 1981 in Huntington Park, California, consisted of guitarist Kerry King, vocalist/bassist Tom Araya, guitarist Jeff Hanneman, and drummer Dave Lombardo. Their early work showcased the raw energy and aggression that would become their trademark.

The band released their debut album, “Show No Mercy,” in 1983, gaining recognition in the underground metal scene. It was a precursor to what would come next, as Slayer continued to refine their sound and push the boundaries of extremity. With “Hell Awaits” in 1985, they began to solidify their reputation as pioneers of thrash metal.

But it was “Reign in Blood” that catapulted Slayer into the metal pantheon. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album was recorded in just two days, capturing the raw intensity of the band’s live performances. The brevity of the recording process added to the album’s ferocity, and its short runtime—clocking in at just under 29 minutes—made it a relentless barrage of sonic chaos.

Track Listing

“Reign in Blood” boasts a compact yet potent tracklist of ten songs:

  1. “Angel of Death”: The album’s opener sets the tone with its controversial subject matter, delving into the horrors of Nazi physician Josef Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz. Musically, it’s a blistering onslaught of riffs and thunderous drumming.
  2. “Piece by Piece”: The tempo doesn’t let up as Slayer continues their assault, with lyrics depicting gruesome violence and dismemberment.
  3. “Necrophobic”: This track explores themes of death and darkness, and it’s a relentless barrage of thrash aggression.
  4. “Altar of Sacrifice”: The band delves into the occult and ritualistic themes in this song, creating a dark and menacing atmosphere.
  5. “Jesus Saves”: An unapologetic critique of religious hypocrisy, “Jesus Saves” is a fast-paced, headbanging anthem.
  6. “Criminally Insane”: Clocking in at just 2:23, this track is a whirlwind of insanity, mirroring its subject matter.
  7. “Reborn”: The shortest track on the album, “Reborn” doesn’t waste a second, delivering unrelenting aggression.
  8. “Epidemic”: Infectious and brutal, this song touches on themes of disease and decay.
  9. “Postmortem”: With a slower, more deliberate pace, this track builds tension before launching into a crushing assault.
  10. “Raining Blood”: The album’s closer, this epic track is a fan favorite, known for its iconic guitar riff and unrelenting brutality. It paints a vivid picture of a world drenched in blood.

Significant Reviews

Upon its release, “Reign in Blood” received mixed critical reception, with many music journalists and radio stations refusing to air it due to its explicit lyrical content and graphic cover art. However, as time passed, the album began to receive the recognition it deserved.

One notable review came from AllMusic’s Steve Huey, who described the album as “a stone-cold classic of the genre.” He praised the album’s intensity, musicianship, and its influence on the thrash metal genre.

“Reign in Blood” also gained retrospective acclaim from Rolling Stone, which ranked it as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time, praising its impact on heavy metal and extreme music.

Key Themes

“Reign in Blood” is not for the faint of heart. Its lyrical content delves into the darkest corners of the human experience, exploring themes of violence, death, disease, and religious hypocrisy. The album’s provocative subject matter and unapologetic approach set it apart from its contemporaries.

One recurring theme throughout the album is a fascination with death and the macabre. Songs like “Angel of Death” and “Necrophobic” embrace the morbid, while “Postmortem” and “Raining Blood” paint vivid, apocalyptic pictures.

Religion is another theme explored in “Reign in Blood.” Tracks like “Altar of Sacrifice” and “Jesus Saves” criticize organized religion and its perceived hypocrisy, a common thread in Slayer’s lyrical catalog.

Version/Release History

“Reign in Blood” has undergone several releases and reissues over the years, each adding to its legacy. Here are some notable versions and releases:

  • Original Vinyl Release (1986): The album’s initial release on vinyl.
  • CD Release (1986): The CD release of the album featured an uncensored cover, which had been altered for the vinyl version.
  • Remastered Edition (1998): This version featured remastered audio and bonus tracks, including a live recording of “Raining Blood.”
  • Vinyl Reissue (2002): An audiophile-quality vinyl reissue for collectors and vinyl enthusiasts.
  • Expanded Edition (2007): This release included the original album remastered, along with a bonus CD featuring live tracks from 1986.
  • 25th Anniversary Edition (2011): To celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary, a deluxe edition was released, featuring remastered audio, a bonus DVD, and a live concert recording from 1986.
  • Spotify Release (2019): “Reign in Blood” is readily available on streaming platforms, ensuring its accessibility to new generations of metal fans.

List of Similar Albums

If you’re a fan of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” and want to explore more music in a similar vein, here are some albums that should be on your radar:

  1. Metallica – “Master of Puppets” (1986): Another thrash metal classic, this album is often mentioned in the same breath as “Reign in Blood.”
  2. Megadeth – “Rust in Peace” (1990): Featuring virtuosic guitar work and intricate songwriting, this album is a must-listen for thrash metal enthusiasts.
  3. Anthrax – “Among the Living” (1987): Anthrax delivers an adrenaline-fueled thrash assault with this release, earning their place in the “big four” of thrash metal.
  4. Kreator – “Pleasure to Kill” (1986): Hailing from Germany, Kreator’s sophomore album is a relentless onslaught of speed and aggression.
  5. Exodus – “Bonded by Blood” (1985): Often considered one of the foundational albums of thrash metal, “Bonded by Blood” is a high-energy, riff-driven masterpiece.
  6. Sepultura – “Beneath the Remains” (1989): Brazilian thrashers Sepultura deliver a ferocious and influential album that helped define the genre.
  7. Testament – “The New Order” (1988): Testament’s second album showcases their melodic approach to thrash metal while maintaining the genre’s intensity.

Reign in Blood

“Reign in Blood” remains a timeless masterpiece in the world of heavy metal. Its uncompromising approach, provocative themes, and relentless aggression have secured its place in the pantheon of classic albums. Whether you’re a seasoned metalhead or a newcomer to the genre, this album is essential listening, a testament to the power of music to push boundaries and challenge conventions. As Slayer’s legacy endures, so does the impact of “Reign in Blood.”