“It put me off my lamb shank supper”: What happens when you listen to Slayer for the first time
As dyed-in-the-wool metalheads we all love Slayer and appreciate everything they’ve done for heavy music. That much is a given. But what do all those normal people think of them? Y’know, the sort who think we’re all mad for loving this music? That was the admittedly slim premise that prompted us to ask our very funny comedian pal Sarah Sumeray if she’d give their 1986 classic Reign In Blood a listen for the first time and let us know what she reckoned. Because it’s nice to get some perspective on these things. Imagine hearing those songs afresh again. Lucky, Sarah, right? Or maybe not…
As someone who spent a large chunk of my childhood bopping around to inoffensive pop tunes released by sickeningly wholesome bands, the heaviest sound I ever came across was probably the chorus to Avril Lavigne’s Sk8r Boi. So when I was asked to review Slayer’s Reign In Blood, I knew I was in for a challenge. To say I was thrown into the deep end is quite the understatement. Essentially, I was sailed off to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, abandoned, and required to work my way to shore without even a single armband to keep me afloat.
Never one to turn down a challenge however, and fully aware that I desperately need to expand on my musical tastes, I enthusiastically accepted the request.
So here it is, my in-depth review of Slayer’s Reign in Blood…
Angel Of Death
I wasn’t immediately emotionally touched like I hoped I would be by this song, but I did think that at the very least I’d discovered an ideal new alarm clock sound for getting me out of bed on those particularly tough mornings. I’m a keen listener of lyrics and it quickly became apparent I wasn’t going to be able to keep track of what was being sung(?) so I chose to Google the words and read along.
‘Auschwitz, the meaning of pain / The way that I want you to die,’ are the opening lyrics of Angel Of Death and I’ll be honest, it’s a brave move to kick off your third album, with what I can only interpret as a direct threat to me, the listener. Let’s not ignore the method of death that Slayer want to administer, either, and the fact that a third album is usually a challenge in and of itself. These guys clearly have a truckload of self-confidence. Admirable.
Piece By Piece
Halfway through the second song on the album, I started picking up on Slayer’s preferred topic: death. The name of the band should’ve been a giveaway. This song plays out as a threat once more, with the band’s vocalist Tom Araya offering up lyrics such as ‘bones and blood lie on the ground, rotten limbs lie dead, decapitated bodies, on my wall, your head!’ It was horrifying trying to to imagine this scenario playing out, and after visualising it a little too vividly, I was sadly put off my lamb shank supper.
Shorter than the previous songs, at just under two minutes long, Necrophobic features a concise list of ways to kill, including strangulation, execution, amputation, and limb dissection. Both a useful reference point for psychopaths, and a masterclass in how to rhyme methods of murder.
Alter Of Sacrifice
I thoroughly enjoyed the impressive guitar solo in this, and the rhythm change later on in the song actually had me bobbing my head. By this point, I was asking myself a lot of questions. Was I becoming a thrash metal fan? Were my Spice Girls days behind me? Would I ever be able to eat meat again?
I was expecting this one to be the album’s slow song, but I’ve since learnt that the world of metal has no place for a ballad. I couldn’t quite tell whether this song genuinely supports the idea of Jesus, or if the lyrics are ironic, but going by what I’ve learnt about Slayer so far, I concluded the latter. I also read that Slayer like to read the satanic bible, so I’m pretty sure I’m right.
Musically, I didn’t find that Criminally Insane differed hugely to the rest of the album. Lyrically, I continued to feel physically and emotionally threatened. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have listened to this after four strong coffees.
My headphones stopped working temporarily when I reached this song, and because I was in a café I couldn’t play the music out loud, I chose to just read through the lyrics. Costa Coffee have an eclectic song-list that plays out of their in-store speakers, and reading the lyrics to Reborn whilst angelic, soothing violin sounds played in the background, made for quite a strangely emotional experience. Of course, once my headphones started working again and I heard it the way it was meant to be heard, every pure emotion was immediately sucked out of me.
Again, I found myself joyfully rocking my head to this, although after reading the lyrics I felt a little guilty for enjoying it as much as I did. Epidemics are no joke, people. On a different note, I was super impressed by the high-pitched scream near the end of the song that gives Mariah Carey a run for her money.
Another classic Slayer piece that gave me what can only be described as an existential crisis thanks to the lyric ‘Do you want to die?!’
After taking a moment and dedicating 10 minutes to a ‘Sounds Of The Ocean’ YouTube playlist to settle my crisis, I was ready to approach the penultimate song on the album: Raining Blood. Kicking off with a suspenseful drum beat and the sound of trickling rain – probably blood – it was clear that Slayer were not going to mess about here. This song means business.
It’s almost like they know how you’re feeling by this stage of the album, as one of the first lyrics in Aggressive Perfector is ‘your fears will soon overtake’. They couldn’t have been more correct. By this point I think I’d downed my seventh coffee and was breaking out in both a cold and hot sweat. If there’s one tip I can offer from this experience, it’s don’t abuse mild stimulants whilst listening to thrash metal. You’re asking for trouble.
Minus the numerous toilet trips I took to have a little dry-heave, and the various intensely frightening anxiety attacks I experienced throughout, Slayer’s Reign In Blood was actually a pleasant surprise. Before now, this never would have been an album I would pick up, but I now find comfort in knowing that I have a soundtrack to accompany my next outburst of anger…
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