30 Years Reigning in Hell - Tribute to Reign in Blood by Slayer
All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 19, 2016
Back in 1986 the Heavy Metal world went totally berserk over the release of Slayer's landmark album, Reign in Blood. It's one of the classic Thrash Metal albums that people mention any time the talk turns to the most revolutionary and meaningful albums of all time. Reign in Blood tops many lists of favorite Thrash Metal albums and deservedly so. One can hardly find a more frenzied, aggressive, brutal and hostile-sounding Thrash Metal album than Reign in Blood and it has kept its position on the Thrash Metal throne for 30 years. It is arguably the number one album if brutality and aggressiveness are the measuring sticks.
2016 marks 30 years since Reign in Blood was released so we here at the headquarters of The Metal Crypt thought it would be a cool idea to show some respect to the brightest gem of the Thrash Metal genre by asking several musicians for their thoughts about Reign in Blood, how much that album changed their views about heavier music in general and how it influenced them personally.
One thing remains the same; Reign in Blood seems to be impossible to beat. Many have tried but eventually failed to equal the tight, uncompromising and aggressive songwriting.
Luxi: What makes Reign in Blood such a special album for you personally and how did it change your view of Heavy Metal music in general?
Venomessiah (DIVISION SPEED): I think "Angel of Death" was one of the first heavier Thrash songs I listened to. Shortly after that it was "Raining Blood" so Reign in Blood in general had a big impact on my views of Thrash and Death Metal. It was just amazingly heavy and brutal.
Jesse Kämäräinen (INKVISITOR): Reign in Blood has a special place in my heart since it was the album that truly introduced me to Thrash Metal. Sure, I had been listening to early Metallica records and whatnot, but this was the album that made it clear what Thrash was all about. It's a brutal, unrelenting and iconic piece of music. For me, it's THE Slayer album. It has the best production and the songwriting is spot-on, no-nonsense. Early Slayer albums are somewhat hazy, but on this the band nailed it and got it all together.
Alec Edelson (AXATTACK): Reign in Blood is not my personal favorite Slayer record but I think it best defines Slayer as a band and in turn best exemplifies what extreme Metal was to become. It was the first album of its genre to be produced the way it was and that lends a certain sound that is synonymous with a lot of later Thrash/Death Metal.
John Kevill (WARBRINGER): The main thing that is special about this record to me is how hard it rules. The significance of this record is that it contains absolute purity of essence; the record wants nothing but to annihilate everything in its path. There are no soft elements whatsoever and it gives you no time to catch your breath. The very concept of a record "doing" that was fairly new at the time of its release and is really exemplified with this one. What's really cool here is we see the beginnings of extreme Metal song structures with "Raining Blood" being the one of the first Metal songs with an almost completely nonlinear structure. That's a total break from the Rock-based verse-chorus dynamic seen in practically all Metal that came before this record.
Julz Ramos (HATCHET): Personally, for me it was a special album because it was the second Thrash Metal album I purchased. I had bought Metallica's Master of Puppets a few weeks earlier and hearing "Battery" for the first time blew my mind. I was in my early teens in the early 2000s and at that time Alternative, Grunge and Nu-Metal were king on radio and TV. After hearing Master of Puppets, I was so floored by the heavy but fast sound that I needed more. I forget which store I bought Reign in Blood from but I remember looking at all the Slayer titles they had and finally deciding on Reign in Blood. When I put it in and listened I remember feeling tense all over my body because it was like Metallica but darker, faster and more evil. From there I was hooked on Thrash.
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): Reign in Blood is not my favorite Slayer album but it did set a standard. The production was stripped down, dry, raw: it defined how Thrash is supposed to sound. Above everything, though, is Dave Lombardo. This album marks the exact point where Metal drumming changed, everything from the fills, the double bass, the tempos, the speed, the precise meter. This album set the bar for every Metal drummer. That bar is still there. I challenge any Metal drummer to lay down a performance like that without editing software. I also like the length of the recording. Give me 30 minutes of total bangers any day over 50 minutes of two good songs and filler.
Tyler Shatterlee (BLESSED CURSE): What makes it so special? I will never forget 2001, freshman year in high school, barely 14, right when we formed, having already been weaned on Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Pantera, Megadeth, Michael Jackson and Prince. When you first hear it, it is jaw-dropping. I knew the name, I had heard a few live tracks, then my buddy in guitar class, Nick Wilson, who was a couple years older than me said, "you need to borrow this". I did and it was a gut-wrenching, 20 plus minutes of absolute energy and chaos on all instruments. The headbangable level was at its max. I was floored. It got me through four shitty years of high school and to this day, never gets old. It has such a raw but clear intensity, the riffing between Jeff and Kerry, Tom's vocals, and the mighty Lombardo drumming was overwhelming at that age and still is. It actually frightened people I knew because it sounded so intense and honest, especially the title track and "Angel of Death."
Michalis Moatsos (ENDLESS RECOVERY): Well, in our point of view Reign in Blood is a special album because it's straight to point, uncompromisingly pure and full of sheer aggression! Nothing less, nothing more. It grabs you from the first second and won't stop till it melts your face off! Dave Lombardo is a fucking beast and one the best Thrash drummers in general. Its influence in the development of extreme Metal genres cannot be questioned. Let's not forget the fact that there is an enormous percentage of Thrash maniax who got into this music by listening to ''Angel of Death'' or ''Raining Blood'' in the first place...
Joss Farrington (SEPREVATION): Jeff was the reason I switched from bass to guitar actually, along with Hetfield. I was into Metallica, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden when I was 13-14 but Reign in Blood was certainly a different beast. It's really because of that album that I found a bunch of old-school Death Metal bands like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and Deicide. For years, it was my go to album for influence and to some degree still is. The songwriting is just insane and many bands have tried to write a full blast 30-minute Thrash or Death record but only a few, in my opinion, have pulled it off so well.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): In my opinion this is the quintessential Thrash Metal release. It has the energy, attitude, aggression and songs that make it the perfect Thrash record. Tom's voice and tone were key to the record for me. Other Thrash records of that time had the same elements but the vocals set it apart. He sounded heavy without sounding stupid or fake. It was cutting and powerful. Obviously, the drums are always mentioned in any comment or review on Reign in Blood and for me it is still the standard for all records in the genre. I remember thinking we need to have this heaviness. We formed in 1985 a year before Reign in Blood was released and we were working on writing songs that were super-fast. When Slayer released this masterpiece, I remember thinking we need to make our songs heavier. If you listen to our song "Chaos" off of Killing the Future you can hear the Slayer influence.
Juhana Heinonen (RE-ARMED): Reign in Blood is the pinnacle of Thrash Metal. It's evil in every way; the artwork, booklet, the songs and specially the lyrics. Still to this day it sounds BRUTAL! The sinister catchy- riffs combined with raw "in-your-face" type of lyrics are legendary. After listening to the album the first time my songwriting changed a lot.
Dimi (RANGER): I was about 13 when I found Slayer. It was random songs from '83-'90 that I first heard. The heaviest stuff for me before that was Dio, Maiden, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Ozzy and many other 70's-80's dinosaur bands. I was so shocked, excited and horrified when I finally realized in that early age how this is the heaviest thing on planet. There was a phase when it was all about white hitops (basically still is) and only violent fast music. Slayer helped that with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Tom Araya is still one of the biggest influences for me. Could not get enough of "Angel of Death"'s Thrash falsetto in the beginning. The production on the album is flawless. It is a timeless album. Many of the same era albums sounds so 80's (which is what I love), but they manage to compose the Hardcore Punk length Thrash songs perfectly and make the sound natural and powerful. Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood paved way a lot with their ultra-violent lyrics and music to a lot extreme bands.
Luxi: 1986 was very important for Thrash Metal and many albums that we consider classics came out that year. How does Slayer's Reign in Blood rank among other Thrash Metal albums that were released at the same time (i.e. Master of Puppets by Metallica, The Force by Onslaught, Pleasure to Kill by Kreator, Eternal Devastation by Destruction, Darkness Descends by Dark Angel, etc.) in your opinion?
Venomessiah (DIVISION SPEED): I think it was beneath Dark Angel but was just more brutal than the other records. Not because of the songs but more because of the heavy and thick sound. Maybe it had the sound every other band at that time was searching for. Nowadays the bigger bands from the 80s all sound like it a bit (or even more modern/shittier hehe).
Jesse Kämäräinen (INKVISITOR): In my book, Metallica's Master of Puppets holds the no. 1 spot of Thrash albums made in 1986. Reign in Blood has the second place, no doubt. Like Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood rightfully sealed Slayer's status in the Big Four. No band could come close to that production and song writing. The sound is spot-on for the songs and there is nothing unnecessary on the record. Every riff is diamond and you can listen to it in one sitting.
Alec Edelson (AXATTACK): I think Reign in Blood was one of the most digestible and accessible albums of its time, heavy as it was. You had bands like Sodom putting out Obsessed by Cruelty and destroying speakers and minds but for Metal newcomers or casual listeners it was too much and the production was too garbled or muddy. Reign in Blood was a sort of the "gateway drug" for extreme Metal for a lot of people.
John Kevill (WARBRINGER): Probably number one and if not, certainly in the top 3. I always loved the heavier, more relentless end of Thrash and Reign in Blood really sets the bar for that style. Compared to Master of Puppets or Peace Sells... this is an entirely different animal. There are a few records from 1986 that are about equal in extremity (Darkness Descends is even faster and Pleasure to Kill is probably even more chainsaw-psychotic), which are also very excellent in their own right, but on this record, we see a great balance of all-out extremity and evil frenzied speed with hooks and memorable songwriting. It stands tall in a year of many excellent Thrash releases and probably pushed the genre forward towards its later evolution to Death Metal more than any other release of that year.
Julz Ramos (HATCHET): I would say this was a more well-produced album mix-wise for that year. A lot of bands were still had that room-reverb sound to their albums and it made them sound dated. Reign in Blood was in your face, dry and it just hit harder. I think overall t was a great great year for Thrash. And I was born that year too so that makes it that much more special for me!!
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): Master of Puppets was a game changer for all of Metal. Reign in Blood is the game changer for the more vicious side; Thrash, Death, Black. Metallica became a band that any Rock fan could appreciate. Slayer embraced the underground and became the ultimate extreme band that just did not fuck around. The other albums you mentioned aren't quite the same and I am sure the bands involved would readily admit this. Darkness Descends is closest. Along with Dave, Gene also established himself as inhuman.
Tyler Shatterlee (BLESSED CURSE): I love all those Thrash albums (especially Darkness Descends) and as much as I think that is a limiting tag for bands, Slayer seriously nailed it. The other albums were doing their own thing where as Slayer was like "Fuck you all, THIS is true Thrash Metal". Absolutely brilliant. You can judge what you want in terms of Thrash or what you prefer but I think it was just intense, in your face and raw but precisely executed real "Thrash" Metal. Rick Rubin's guidance and advice had a profound impact on them at that time. My dad bought me the book about the making of it (which you should totally check out) because he thought the lyrical content mixed with the music was fantastic and original and he doesn't even like Metal. Reign in Blood is THE Thrash Metal record whether you enjoy it or not.
Michalis Moatsos (ENDLESS RECOVERY): 1986 was an INSANE year for Thrash Metal indeed. Some of the most influential and classic albums of the genre came out that year. What a great year for Heavy Metal! The albums you referred to are timeless classics that will forever make all dedicated metal lunatics around the globe bang like crazy! Even though it's not our personal favorite from that year we must admit that Reign in Blood is amongst the best Thrash Metal albums ever released!
Joss Farrington (SEPREVATION): I think along with Pleasure to Kill it was much better than the rest. I did love Master of Puppets but it didn't stick with me as much in terms of inspiration. I didn't really find Darkness Descends or Eternal Devastation until a bit later on so they never really had that same impact. Along with Possessed's Seven Churches, Slaughter's Strappado and Repulsion's Horrified it's one of my favorite 80s Metal records and they stand out to me, not for their success, but purely for helping Metal expand in its extremity.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): I would say that 1986 could be the peak of the genre. The records you listed were all great but Reign in Blood was the greatest of the greats. It had it all and there wasn't a weak moment on the record. It was a half hour of pure brilliance. Simply put the best.
Juhana Heinonen (RE-ARMED): It's the best Thrash Metal album. Master of Puppets is also, of course, unbelievable!
Dimi (RANGER): As I heard other titles from '86 I realized that one certain band is behind this sound - and it' s Slayer. But I love as much of Peace Sells... and Master of Puppets as I love Reign in Blood. When I want ultra-violent shit, I go with R.i.B. Beyond the Gates and Darkness Descends definitely get almost as much of superiority as R.i.B. In '86 they knew the magic of hooks, production and songwriting.
Luxi: This is, of course, all speculation but if most of the songs on the Reign in Blood album were written by Kerry King instead of Jeff Hanneman, do you believe Reign in Blood would have sounded a whole lot different?
Venomessiah (DIVISION SPEED): I'm not that much into Slayer's songwriting. It was even news to me that Hanneman wrote most of the early material at the time of his death haha! I think Reign in Blood is straight in your face compared to Hell Awaits, so maybe King had a larger impact on it? I think he's more of that straight writer, but I'm really not into this...
Jesse Kämäräinen (INKVISITOR): What I've gathered from books and interviews gives me the impression that Jeff was the brains behind Slayer when it comes to songwriting. Sure, Kerry wrote golden stuff too, but it was Jeff who wrote all the legendary stuff. The record may have been weaker if Kerry had been more in charge of the songwriting but then again, a band is always a combination of individuals, so Jeff could not have done it by himself either. I think that the band has pooled all things coming from them and picked out the best bits for the album.
Alec Edelson (AXATTACK): Personally, I have always preferred Hanneman's playing and riffs to King's. My favorite Slayer record is still Show No Mercy but in all honesty, they were a different band then compared to when they put out Reign in Blood I still don't think things would be much different. I think they wrote the record they needed to write and if anything was different they would have produced something just as important.
John Kevill (WARBRINGER): Well, yes. How exactly I can't say, but I like the record the way it is.
Julz Ramos (HATCHET): I really think their writing styles were pretty similar back then honestly. I think the songs would probably have been slightly less memorable but that is my humble opinion.
Rob Urbinati (SACRIFICE): This is a band performing as one. If there weren't credits, I wouldn't be able to tell who wrote what. Everyone came together and made a classic. It's more than who wrote the riffs. The whole band delivered, period.
Tyler Shatterlee (BLESSED CURSE): Well you can look at the songwriting credits and judge all you want between Kerry and Jeff. The fact is, Jeff had a nightmare that manifested itself into the title track which is probably the heaviest song ever written. They worked a lot on that and what person wrote which song, Slayer only knows. All I know is that album really helped me, my band, and a ton of metal heads, enjoy life and we still do to this day. Cheers Slayer for one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums ever written!!!!
Michalis Moatsos (ENDLESS RECOVERY): Both as band and as music fans, we are eternal worshippers of the first three Slayer albums. In these releases both musicians composed some of the best songs the genre has to offer.
Judging from their songwriting styles, which are slightly different, we could assume that it would have been a total different sounding album...
R.I.P Jeff Hanneman! Satan now holds your future, watch it unfold!!!!
Joss Farrington (SEPREVATION): I never liked Kerry from the minute I got into Slayer. Something just didn't seem right and that suspicion paid off because he can't seem to shut the fuck up nowadays, especially about himself. As I said, I got into guitar because of Jeff. I used to listen to bands like Dead Kennedy's and Minor Threat too, so Jeff always had the upper hand for me. I think Kerry was perhaps too focused on Metal. It seems like Jeff and Dave really dragged that Punk influence into the band and without that it would've never sounded the same.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis (AFTERMATH): Jeff was a great songwriter. I don't think Kerry would have written anything as great. I can say that without much speculation since he never has before or since.
Juhana Heinonen (RE-ARMED): Of course! Reign in Blood wouldn't be the same. R.I.P Jeff Hanneman and hail Slayer!!!!!
Dimi (RANGER): Probably no. Jeff dominated with his skills so much. In that era they were in the same page with songs, at least I think so. I don't think Jeff would have passed just any riff from Kerry. Personally I dig Kerry King. People are always bashing Kerry or Lars. Gotta remember that without these individuals US Thrash would be different.
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