Still Reigning 30 Years Later

Article by Lance Viggiano.

After Slayer‘s foray into narrative composition on Hell Awaits, Slayer could have taken any number of directions in the then fertile metal landscape: gone in for the throat of aggression, matured their pubescent approach to long-form content, or paired down on riff quality for focused but circular songs. Reign in Blood was something of a compromise bred to appease more Floridian tastes which crave motion before coherence or purpose. The album is brief but bookended by two of the better songs in their discography which daftly elevate the questionable content residing in between. The remaining material siphons off of the paired down and quintessential “Angel of Death” by meandering in whatever assortment of good but disconnected riffs the Hanneman/King dichotomy happened upon in between Heinekens; held together in tacit alliances by a sweltering pace which exhausts itself right as the title track closes the record. The foresight required to write an album such as this is commendable but Reign in Blood is not Slayer’s watershed moment if for nothing more than the sheer amount of disposable songs – not riffs – which constitute the majority of the runtime. This uncomfortable fact goes unrecognized due to the sheer brevity of this work. Yet as I wrote this brief paragraph I must have recited the full album in my head at least a few times and I have not listened to the album is many years. May the resolve of Reign in Blood’s memetic warfare continue to withstand assailants from the ever flowing genre compost bin and grant listeners to the strength to withstand the torrents of nature herself.

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46 thoughts on “Still Reigning 30 Years Later”

  1. Johan P says:

    For all its shortcomings, I still love this album. Maybe nostalgia, or just that it’s a good way of clearing the mind and body. Anyway, they fixed the bad on South of Heaven.

    1. C.M. says:

      I love it too, it’s the first Slayer I got into. Though from a less personal perspective I see that Lance is right. The whole middle of the album feels like a blur. Still would recommend this one to anyone not familiar with Slayer or even extreme metal in general; it’s the perfect gateway album.

      1. Spectral Nutritionist says:

        The whole middle of every metal album sounds like a blur, man!
        Can you call out the opening riff of, like, Sammath ‘Thrive ‘n Arrogance’?! lol

        Lance Viggie is just being a provocatively contrarian motherfucker.

        1. C.M. says:

          What about the middle bits of practically any good Immolation album? There are some real kickers once you get into the thick of those.

    2. get a brian says:

      To me South of Heaven is the first Slayer album where the band sounds tired and out of ideas. (“Slower than Reign in Blood” is not an idea!) People talk about a disposable middle half on RiB, but anything on RiN is better than “Cleanse the Soul” or that Judas Priest cover. Its saving grace is Dave Lombardo and the cover art…

      1. Vigilance says:

        Nope. The title track of SoH is considerably better than say, Jesus Saves. Valiant polemic however.

  2. Billy Foss says:

    Here’s some cool riffs between these two great singles we came up with. Would you like some chips and a drink with that? Maybe a cookie?

  3. Rob says:

    I tend to agree with the author on this one. For me, Show No Mercy is the album that I would hold up as being the most indicative of Slayer’s sound and fury. However, Reign in Blood is still a very much worthy lp and while there are throwaway songs in between Angel and Raining, almost the exact middle of the album, specifically Altar of Sacrifice nearly resurrects the album.

  4. Vangelis rules says:

    Yes, of course – songs like Altar of Sacrifice and Postmortem are “questionable”…

    These articles are lame.

  5. Billy Foss says:

    I always felt like it picks back up at Reborn. The latter half of the album is superior to the first.

  6. AK-47 says:

    To some extent the same is true about Blood Fire Death, with the first and last songs being a level above the middle material. The Golden Walls of Heaven, Holocaust and Dies Irae are still good songs though.

    1. C.M. says:

      Pace Til Death is one of the most intense songs ever, can’t leave that one out.

  7. get a brian says:

    Postmortem is underrated. It veers dangerously close to some sort of prototype of “groovy” thrash like Exhorder but comes out great anyway.

    This was my gateway to Slayer and metal in general. When I was a kid my aunt took me to the record store and specifically told me “just don’t get an album by that SLAYER band–I heard they’re a bunch of nazi satanics!” So I came out with Reign in Blood. Best recommendation you can give a 13 year old, at least from my era.

    It’s still special to me but nowadays I agree the earlier material is a bit better.

    Anyway, they all have a their own mood: outrageous B movie schlock, spikes and leather (debut), something straight out of Bosch’s nightmares (Hell Awaits), and something more realistic and urban on Reign in Blood.

    1. realistic and urban on Reign in Blood

      This may have been their downfall. Slayer was great when they wrote about epic fantasy and metaphorical battles in the human soul. When they got into serial killers and the concrete horrors of modern time, moralism slipped in and accuracy faded.

      1. Spectral Nutritionist says:

        What up, B.
        Certainly you’re referring to the next album?
        ‘Angel of Death’, for example, was controversial specifically in it’s flagrant amoralism towards Mengele. Non-moralising on the ultimate taboo (the Holocaust).

        Many of the successive tracks are gorefests with hardly a hint of emotional content, except maybe the killers’ delight.

        Or celebrating the transformative power of evil:

        Blood turning black, the change has begun
        Feeling the hatred of all damned in Hell
        Flesh starts to burn, twist and deform
        Eyes dripping blood realization of death
        Transforming of five toes to two
        Learn the sacred words of praise, hail Satan

        This ain’t yo Anaal Nathraakh’s urbanity! LOL

        1. Spectral Nutritionist says:

          What’s that one industrial black metal band called, name starts with a D? Dayzal, Dalyz, FUCK.

        2. ‘Angel of Death’, for example, was controversial specifically in it’s flagrant amoralism towards Mengele.

          “Rancid angel of death, flying free” suggests a strong judgment, even if the rest of the song is mostly descriptive.

          Other examples:

          Stripped of
          Your life’s worth

          Seems positive to the victims.

          Sadistic, surgeon of demise
          Sadist of the noblest blood


          Millions laid out in their
          Crowded tombs
          Sickening ways to achieve
          The holocaust

          Not really positive. “Sickening” is moralization.

          And then, the final lines, a position of great importance:

          Pathetic harmless victims
          Left to die
          Rancid Angel of Death
          Flying free

          Harmless victims versus the rancid sadist.

          This is not a pro-Holocaust song, nor neutral on the topic.

          1. Morbideathscream says:

            Interesting analysis on the lyrics, but I don’t think they had an anti-nazi message overall. You also gotta remember the name of their fanclub was called Slaytanic Wehrmacht. They’re obviously not Nazi’s, but they definitely had a fascination with Nazi Germany especially Hannemann. They covered Guilty of being white and Araya convienantly said guilty of being right at the end of the song which Ian Mckaye had a shitfit over BTW.

  8. Doug Killjoy says:

    Sharing a label with LL Cool J and Beastie Boys, apparently it’s pretty inevitable that your music gets pulled in that direction a little bit.

  9. Cfs says:

    Jeez the writers on this site suck the life and enjoyment out of music. I’ve yet to read a review that isn’t pseudo intellectual wanking, there’s no need to pontificate over every detail of a classic album. Does it sound good at night when slamming beers? Yes.end of story.

    1. C.M. says:

      That’s very insensitive to people who don’t slam beers.

    2. Spectral Nutritionist says:

      Buddy, damn near EVERYthing sounds good at night when slamming beers. So how to differentiate anything from anything?

      Also, beering isn’t the only time we listen to metal, so it’s not the only metric.

  10. Kingdom_Gone says:

    I tend to listen to South of Heaven, the first album and the EP when I’m in the mood for some Slayer. And maybe some tracks from Seasons in the Abyss, but when I do listen to RiB I do it while reading the lyrics.

    “Waiting the hour destined to die
    Here on the table of hell
    A figure in white unknown by man
    Approaching the altar of death
    High priest awaiting dagger in hand
    Spilling the pure virgin blood
    Satan’s slaughter, ceremonial death
    Answer his every command”

  11. canadaspaceman says:

    Gotta agree with Jeff Spicoli here… youre all fags if you dioss early Slayer like R.I.B.

    Slayer ruled on everything, including Divine Intervention album, where Forbidden’s drummer Paul Bostaph added a fresh energy.

    Too bad it did not carry over onto the other “modern” albums.
    Fuck you Kerry King you dickwad.

    Kerry, start Slayer as a Judas Priest cover band again.
    You will gain respect, and can bust the model of what a “major” band is allowed / supposed to do.
    That asshole Ozzy records albums and only performs one song off it for that tour. You can do the same ,or something better.

    Who am I kidding? Kerry would not read this site. he is being hypnotized. just like Ed Grimley from SCTV, , but Kerry lost his mind a long time ago, worshiping the snakes.

    1. Morbideathscream says:

      I always knew Hannemann was the mastermind, but I always had certain amount of respect for Kerry King until I found out he endorsed Hillary Clinton and followed that with statements that made himself sound dumber than Barney Greenway.

  12. Morbideathscream says:

    Reign in Blood was a very big album for me in high school. I still remember being blown away the first time I heard Angel of Death. When I first heard the into to the title track, I heard the blood raining and gave me that eerie feeling as I felt like I was descending into hell. Those are obviously the 2 highlights of the album. There are some filler songs in between, but songs like Altar of Sacrifice, Criminally insane, Postmortem, Reborn and Jesus Saves are also killer tunes just a bit overshadowed by the opening and closing tracks. I will say it is not their best album, that would be Hell Awaits. Haunting the Chapel EP is also godly, I probably like Chemical Warfare just as much if not more than Angel of Death, an underrated Slayer song indeed.

    No Slayer release before Divine intervention is short of godly. South of Heaven was their weakest release from their classic era, but still a damn good album.

  13. Roger says:

    Reign in blood is easily slayer’s best. Hell awaits should have been called ‘sleep awaits’ and south of heaven is very decent butstandardised

    There is sometimes a reason an album is acknowledged as a classic.

    1. Morbideathscream says:

      Dude, I’m convinced that you’re just a fucking troll.

      1. Roger says:

        No way. Hell awaits i find boring as fcuk. Actaully south of heaven is really good too.

        1. Morbideathscream says:

          South of Heaven is a good album, but it’s the weakest pre-Divive intervention album. I actually like Seasons better. No point arguing with you over hell awaits, it’s not like you have a valid opinion.

          1. Roger says:

            And why is that, my man? Explain to me in non question-begging/bullshit terms, why my opinion is ‘not valid’.

            1. Slowly We Frot says:

              Such a demanding young man!

            2. Morbideathscream says:

              Your musical tastes are akin to a mainstream fans’. It seems to me you only like the bigger black and death releases. Also the fact that you childishly made a comment saying that people who like Abominations of Desolation and like death metal demos from the late 80’s are hipsters. That actually says alot about you. If you don’t feel the raw evil energy on demos from bands like Nihilist, Necrovore, Grotesque, Deathstrike, Revenant, Exmortis, Slaughter Lord or even the Pestilence or Asphyx demos you’re not a real metalhead, plain and simple. Is one a hipster if they regard Morbid Angel’s Thy Kingdom Come demo as a classic? Gimme a fucking break. You probably think a band like Hellhammer sounds shitty. You mainly like the more polished releases from the metal underground, this is probably just a phase for you and I bet you won’t even be listening to metal in a couple of years. So yeah, I wouldn’t consider someone like you to have an opinion to be taken seriously.

              1. Many times, it is the demos that are influential and not the actual album like with Repulsion.

                1. Morbideathscream says:

                  That’s true, especially in the 80’s when the subgenre of Death metal was still being defined. You just can’t tell idiots like Roger that. He just doesn’t get it and most likely never will.

                  Horrified was a classic but, the worst thing that happened to that album was that it didn’t get released until 1989, 3 years after it was recorded. But yes, the Genocide demos were supreme as well. I do like the Profanatica demos better than any of their full-lengths. As much as I like Into the Grave, the Grave demos were best. The Pestilence demos were godly but, so was malleus malificarum. There’s many more I can think of but, obviously can’t mention them all.

              2. Roger says:

                I asked you to explain in non question-begging terms why my opinion is invalid, and your assertion is:

                “If you don’t feel the raw evil energy on demos from bands like Nihilist, Necrovore, Grotesque, Deathstrike, Revenant, Exmortis, Slaughter Lord or even the Pestilence or Asphyx demos you’re not a real metalhead, plain and simple.”

                Explain to me why this isn’t question-begging… I see no necessary connection between these two propositions:

                1. Being a ‘real metalhead’ (as though that weren’t a gay label in-itself)
                2. Feeling the raw evil energy on demos from bands like Nihilist, Necrovore, Grotesque, Deathstrike, Revenant, Exmortis, Slaughter Lord or even the Pestilence or Asphyx demos

                Moral: MUST TRY HARDER LITTLE MAN

                (PS: drawing wildly general conclusion like “You mainly like the more polished releases from the metal underground, this is probably just a phase for you and I bet you won’t even be listening to metal in a couple of years” from my comments on only two(!) albums (abominations and hell awaits) is not becoming of a man with a brain. For what it’s worth, I’ve been listening to death and black metal for over 10 years now. Hellhammer I really like. But this isn’t simply because it has necro production and sounds kvult.)

                1. I see no necessary connection between these two propositions:

                  1. Being a ‘real metalhead’ (as though that weren’t a gay label in-itself)
                  2. Feeling the raw evil energy on demos from bands like Nihilist, Necrovore, Grotesque, Deathstrike, Revenant, Exmortis, Slaughter Lord or even the Pestilence or Asphyx demos

                  His point: if you are able to understand the artform and indeed do understand it, these will communicate to you the essential spirit of that artform, which you can then appreciate. If you are “real” — that is, this appreciation motivates you — these will as well.

                2. Morbideathscream says:

                  Got 7 years on you. Been into metal for 17 years.

                  I’m arguing with an idiot who thinks folks that are into old school black and death metal demos from the 80’s are hipsters. It has more to do with you not liking a couple of albums. You being ignorant to the fact that many of those demos defined the genre before any of full-lengths, they were vital to the metal underground in the 80’s. It’s one thing if you don’t like a certain album, EP or demo but, it was the nature of your comments. It was your idiotic hipster comments which make me not take your opinion as valid.

                  What the fuck do you know about being a man? Trolling on forums/comment sections trying to start pseudo intellectual arguments because you’re some self righteous rich college fag who’s had everything handed to him does not make you a man. You couldn’t make it one day on a construction site, you probably never worked a day in your life. At most, you may have worked at Starbucks, hipster metrosexual havens. If the economy were to collapse and shit were to hit the fan your type will be the first to perish. Yeah, you’re a man.

      2. Roger is a gay computer says:

        see above

        1. Roger says:

          You must really depend on (what you see as) some absolute commander stating that ‘x is Good’, in order that you may enjoy x.

          Any disturbance to this Divine Logos raising your own crappy subjective preferences to the realm of the Great and the Good seems to visibly upset you such that you write about people being ‘gay computers’ as though you were literally the archetype of asperger’s syndrome.

          1. Morbideathscream says:

            You’re the archetype of homosexuality.

            1. Roger says:

              What? Do you want to fuck or something? Is that why you’re point out that you perceive me as being sexually attracted to other men?

              1. Morbideathscream says:

                I know my utter awesomeness turns you on but, I only like women in that fashion. Sorry to crush your hopes, but strictly heatro here. Surely amongst the hipster circles you most likely associate yourself with you’ll find a man that’s at least bisexual and will share your communist views and will probably vote for Hillary as well. So you should find someone compatible in that joke of a subculture. Good luck with your search.

                1. Roger says:

                  You don’t turn me on (all that much, anyway). I’m just curious about the fact that you label those you find marginally threatening as ‘homosexual’?

                  Have you had a bad experience in your past involving a man? Daddy? You can tell me…

                  1. Morbideathscream says:

                    Haha you think you’re threatening, that’s quite amusing. You don’t threaten me whatsoever. Funny, I don’t think I’ve seen you deny being gay, you just keep demanding intellectual answers as to why that person called you a homosexual and trying to make yourself look smart. I believe you actually are a homo.

                    And please, nobody wants to hear your childhood stories about how your dad molested you.

          2. Roger is a gay computer says:

            I rest my case.

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