Saturday, March 2, 2013

Slayer - Reign in Blood

It'll have you down... ON YOUR KNEES

Okay, I know, nobody wants to read the fifteen zillionth Slayer review, I'm sorry.  I never planned on writing this, it'll be the 30th review currently on the MA page, and really, why bother with it?  Everybody already knows how awesome Reign in Blood is, it's the same reason I have absolutely no plans to review Rust in Peace.

Or so I thought.

Seriously, the amount of bullshit criticism this album has retroactively pulled in from dipshit kids is nothing short of mindblowing.  "It's two/three good songs and a bunch of filler".  No it fucking isn't, have you mongoloids listened to "Epidemic" or "Jesus Saves" or "Altar of Fucking Sacrifice Holy Shit You Dumb Cunts"?  "Hell Awaits was so much better because it was more adventurous and progressive".  Are you just saying that because it's the least popular of the first five?  Hell Awaits is awesome, but let's not start calling it progressive simply because it sports a couple long songs.  "Show No Mercy was so much better because of the NWOBHM  and Judas Priest influence".  Holy shit I'm about to staple your fucking lips shut and pour some Draino in your ears.  Show No Mercy is awesome (and my second favorite Slayer album), but the band continually evolved from that sound and that's part of what made it so special.  It was a primordial soup, a nebulous mash of influences that helped shaped a yet undefined genre, whereas Reign in Blood is the logical endpoint of what they'd started three years prior.  And Slayer was always at their best when pushing envelopes or just trying to one-up themselves.

I know it's stupid and unprofessional to make broad, sweeping generalizations about people's motives or opinions, but it seems to me like a lot of people who dislike this album seem to claim that Darkness Descends is more extreme and deserves this album's place in history (it doesn't), or they were born after 1989.  Yeah yeah, I'm a young guy who falls into that timeframe, and I've been into metal for a long time too, but I can't help but notice that the amount of people who dislike it that were around when the album first dropped is much, much smaller than the amount of people who grew up with the internet and a couple loudmouthed fools who just consistently told them how it wasn't very good.  Same obstacle Metallica's early work faces nowadays.  I can totally accept that some people just don't like it or that any given album didn't age well or something like that, but even if you take away the monumental influence the album had or it's stunning historical context, this is still the be all end all of thrash metal.  I will stick to that until the day I die.

Is this as "evil" as their previous works?  In a way I guess not, because it isn't quite as dark as Hell Awaits, but it's really only by a notch and it's because Slayer spent precisely zero time fucking around with anything that wasn't the most absurdly over-the-top madness they could conjure up at the time.  Fuck the three minute intro to "Hell Awaits", they can almost cram two full songs into that allotted time on this one.  In fact, if you take all of the long, drawn out intro sections with fifteen riffs featured on the previous album, it might last as long as a third of Reign in Blood.  This shit is fast, it is hungry, and it is focused.  It's twice the intensity in half the time, and despite what so many mouth breathing neckbeards seem to think, everything is fully developed and thought out.  I don't know where the fuck this idea came from that 70% of the tracks are brainless filler, perhaps from jilted Hell Awaits fans who are bummed that nothing here pushes seven minutes like "Crypts of Eternity"?  What the fuck else could you add to these songs?  Do you really think you can improve something like "Criminally Insane" by making it longer?  It's just fast as hell with a ton of riffs and ideas crammed into it.  What do you want?  To slow it down and rob the riffs of their intensity?  To let the riffs breathe by repeating them more often and ruining the pacing?  Evolving them by adding more variations to them and thus fucking up the theme and turning the songs into an even more literal collection of riffs like you already complain about?  There's nothing you can do to make these songs better, and if you already don't like them simply because you want them to be something they aren't, then you'd be best to just fuck off to your lounge chair, postprandial handrolled and finger of grappa, you sophisticated creature, you.

This is the most hard nosed, to-the-throat thrash album to ever exist, and it was done by simply removing every element that didn't immediately lend itself to deranged neck-wrecking.  Not one moment is wasted, if the music ever slows down or cuts out for an intro (which pretty much only happens in "Criminally Insane" and "Raining Blood"), it's only for a short time, and it's only so the pummeling percussion and batshit nardcockingly rigid riffs hit you that much harder when your false sense of security gets obliterated.  And while it would later be surpassed in terms of heaviness by Epidemic of Violence and brutality by Tapping the Vein, nothing puts the whole package together like Reign in Blood.  This is a violent, rabid album, completely off its own hinges, swinging wildly at anything and everything.  I would say that every element comes together perfectly, but really there's only one element at play, and that is "violence".  You'll see the phrase "watered down" thrown around a lot when talking to somebody who doesn't like this album, and that is potentially the most bewilderingly stupid comment one could make in regards to Slayer.  This is the most concentrated attack the band has ever put to tape, much more so than the awkward attempts at melodic songwriting on South of Heaven or the feeble attempt to please everybody on Seasons in the Abyss.  They have but one goal in mind: to unleash the most profane, raw, and blistering essence of pure aggression ever recorded, and all four members give the maximum effort to achieving this goal, and it shows.  How in the living hell can something be watered down when it's diluted with literally nothing.  It's pure hatred concentrate.

Another element that gets trashed a lot is the soloing, and I just have to refer to two paragraphs ago, what the fuck do you people want instead?  In technical terms, Kerry King's solos are garbage.  There's no phrasing or skill beyond picking and area of the fretboard and hitting as many notes as you can while paddling your whammy.  Hanneman is much better in a technical sense, but he still flails forth naught but utterly atonal chaos.  And again, what would improve them?  Michael Romero?  Kirk Hammett's pentatonic wah-wahrbling?  The leads need to be equally as chaotic as the frenzied riffs and vocals, they need to be as high tempo and relentless as the drumming, what they do here is perfect, nothing less.  If you'd prefer this to be more thoughtful or artsy or feelsy, then feel free to not listen to a thrash album and congratulate yourself on not looking for love at a carnival.

Speaking of the vocals, they also feature Tom Araya at the top of his game.  Again, he was technically better early on, with more ear penetrating shrieks and vocal acrobatics, but he followed the form that Hanneman and King set with their songwriting and stripped it down, focused on one aspect he was good at, and just went all out with it.  He shouts for all but three high pitched wails, and it works perfectly for what the rest of the band was doing.  I love the falsetto in "Necrophiliac" as much as any Slayer fan should, but man that wouldn't fit anywhere in "Reborn".  He focuses on spitting as much vitriol as possible, and gives no thought to finesse, which is great because the last thing this album needs is something fruity and not completely berserk like finesse.  He crams so much blasphemy and hatred into each line, to the point where I'm convinced he's just shouting gibberish because that's the only way to accurately sum up just how much he hates Jesus.  I'm going to try to transcribe the chorus to "Jesus Saves" without cheating, to make my point:

Jesus saves!
Doneetaprydagodolonegwaitooseems you've lost your waaaaay!

THAT IS FUCKING AWESOME.  He's like a tape on fast forward, enunciating every syllable, all sixteen of them in a vocal pattern that should logically fit six.   This is the embodiment of simply not giving one solitary fuck, and I wouldn't change that for the world.  Essentially every song is loaded with classic riffs or vocal patterns, and if you can't hear that, I really don't know what to tell you.  As I alluded earlier, "Altar of Sacrifice" is one of the best songs the band ever wrote, and that chorus is just magnificently infectious, as is the main riff to "Epidemic".  It saddens me that so many people get lost in the meat of the album thanks to the monolithic opener and closer.  Yeah, "Angel of Death" is potentially the band's best song, and everybody knows how fucking awesome "Raining Blood" is, but the fact that so many people seem to focus on those two (and sometimes "Postmortem", if their minimum time limit on a song is three minutes instead of four) and miss out on all of the brilliance in between them for stupid petty reasons like "they're too short" or "it's just speed and nothing else" makes me such a sad panda that I might as well be on the endangered species list.  One theory I've heard on this (from a person who isn't a goddamn dolt) is that the reason for such a view is because those endpieces of the album work great on their own, whereas the rest of the songs only work in context of the entire album.  I can see why somebody would feel that way, but then again I could also see why some people believe vaccines cause autism.  Sometimes something can make sense to you, despite the fact that you're factually wrong in every way.  The only track I think you can make a case for that applying to is "Piece by Piece", which is the only song that isn't stellar from start to finish, riding on a pretty basic riff and a not entirely interesting chorus (unsurprisingly, this was the only track written solely by King), but if you can listen to "Altar of Sacrifice", "Epidemic", "Criminally Insane", "Jesus Saves" or anything else and say "eh, it's just speed and I can only enjoy it if I hear twenty more minutes of it, otherwise it's worthless", then you deserve to be slapped with an entire country.

I know I've been defending one of the most popular metal albums of all time like it's been unfairly treated by the majority of listeners.  Believe me, I realize I'm preaching to the choir when it comes to people who know their shit and can understand how near flawless the idea and execution is here, but it really does blow my mind when I see such ridiculous criticism so frequently directed at something for doing exactly what it sets out to do better than anybody else.  Yeah yeah music is subjective and everybody has an opinion, spare me your crocodile tears.  The point is that there is a vocal contingent of metal fans (especially amongst the younger crowd, for whatever reason) who seem to believe this shouldn't represent thrash as a whole (despite being one of the purest thrash albums ever written) and that it is woefully overrated, and it was definitely something that I feel needed to be addressed.  If you're one of those people who abide by the belief that tracks 2-8 are pointless filler, all I can say to you is "I'm sorry, that is incorrect, please try again".  Go into this with the mindset that you've been a goddamn idiot up until this point in your life, and instead pay a little bit more attention than none at all.  Every last one of these songs has an identity, nothing is a faceless blur of chaotic atonality and double bass, everything is instead masterfully crafted with blistering, frenzied riffwork designed to both pulverize and stick with you for years to come. 

Teal;Dear - This is pure and unadulterated havoc, and it succeeds wildly at what it sets out to do and still stands as a testament to what Slayer stood for and was capable of.  Even if you ignore the fact that it was monumentally influential within the established genre of thrash and the then-not-quite-existent death metal, this is still just about flawless on the whole.  "Piece by Piece" is the only small stumble, with it's "meh" chorus that kind of drags the rest of the song down a notch, but that's literally the only moment of Reign in Blood that I'm not in love with.  Everybody knows that "Angel of Death", "Postmortem", and "Raining Blood" are Slayer classics, but I'd be a happy camper if I saw a setlist that also included "Jesus Saves", "Criminally Insane", "Necrophobic", fucking "Epidemic", and "Sweet Mother of Christ Altar of Motherfucking Sacrifice".  And I haven't mentioned it yet, but I'm assuming most of you are familiar with the 1998 reissue that fixes the tracklisting error between "Postmortem" and "Raining Blood", and this is a good thing because the faster, rerecorded version of "Aggressive Perfector" that is included as a bonus track on that version is actually my favorite Slayer song of all time, despite how much I've jerked off "Epidemic", "Angel of Death", and "Altar of Sacrifice". 

If you're one of the people who doesn't like this because it's just speed for the sake of speed and the solos aren't pretty or melodic enough or the vocals are too one dimensional and the only dynamic is blastissimo, then just go to the playground and listen to Testament's first album, because that's essentially what you're asking this to be instead.

RATING - 98%

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