For the record this is not going to be a review of the album. That’s been done to death. What I want to write about is the relationship I have with this album. First released in 1986 when I was in high school, Slayers “Reign In Blood” hit me like a dead body from a lacerated sky. Up to that point I had heard of Slayer, but my friends at the time pretty much dismissed them as juvenile devil worship music.
“Hell Awaits”, their previous record, was steeped in demonic imagery much more than any other metal record I knew of to date. By that time I liked my metal to be literate or at least have something less stupid to say. Motorhead, Maiden, and Metallica were the metal bands I started listening to as I abandoned hair metal all together. The S.O.D record that started the crossover scene even ridiculed Slayer (i.e. “Chromatic Death” and “Fist Bang Mania”), and I had read Anton Lavey’s “Satanic Bible” by then and found satanism to be simply humanism dressed in drag. So I dismissed them right along with everyone else.
Then comes “Reign in Blood”. By this point the Def Jam label was permeating certain parts of the trailer park I grew up in and I was only slightly interested in hip hop (except Luke Skywalker). So I was surprised when Scott Neff brought the cassette to me. I put it on in the tape deck of my stereo in my bedroom and let it play.
Two things happened by the time it got to the part in “Altar Of Sacrifice” where Tom Araya bellows, “Enter to the realm of Satan”: 1) My mother the catholic came into the room crying begging me to turn it off and 2) I decided this album would be a constant in my life.
To be fair I loved my mother but at that time in my life we saw things the exact same way. She saw a loser who couldn’t do anything right and was likely going to wind up dead and so did I. The difference was she cared and I didn’t. I honestly just wanted to be left alone to try and sort myself out.
Now this is where I’m going to blow your mind. It was this record that helped mend some of that disrepair in my relationship with my mom. You see, she was a jazz head. At some point Eric Brown and Steve Goossen started introducing me to hard-bop jazz. I fell in love with the avant-garde. The rampant use of the chromatic scale and the reckless abandon in which it was wielded were very reminiscent of “Reign In Blood” to my ears.
Think I’m wrong? Go listen to Albert Aylers “Ghosts”. Go listen to Grachan Moncur III’s “Evolution”. Go dive into Charlie Parker’s great body of work. Then go listen to this record and pay close attention to the solo’s. Tell me I’m not right. Slayer prepared me to accept jazz into my life.
This was great because my mothers taste in jazz was fairly straight although not square. Brubeck, Stanley Turrentine, George Shearing, Johnny Mathis; not entirely boring but not very “out there”. I got to turn my mom onto Mingus records she’d only heard of. I got to turn her on the Eric Dolphy. For this I have Slayer to thank.
Getting back to the Def Jam label, this record also brought another great record into my life, Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. I dare you to try and say this perfect hip hop record is also not a punk rock record. It is. Using the break down for “Angel Of Death” as the main riff in “She Watch Channel Zero” was incredible and far ahead of it’s time. Since then hip hop has been a constant in my life, and is ever expanding.
“Reign in Blood” is to this day one of those rare records that I just turn on and let go and never skip a song.