Review Summary: Encyclopedia Of Brutality2 of 3 thought this review was well written
The year in which Slayer's 'Reign In Blood' was released, 1986, is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times to release a metal album. To elaborate, here is a list of some albums released in that year: Metallica's 'Master Of Puppets', Megadeth's 'Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?', Kreator's 'Pleasure To Kill', Iron Maiden's 'Somewhere In Time', Fates Warning's 'Awaken The Guardian' and Candlemass' 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus'. A bit difficult to follow, isn't it (even if this album before some of these)? That makes it all the more impressive that this album has become the second most popular metal album of the year. This should give you an impression about how monumental this album is.
If you are still not convinced, let me sum it up for you: this is the greatest pure thrash album of all time. If that doesn't tell you anything, nothing will. This album acts as a sort of encyclopedia for brutality which shows you what it needs to show you and no more, something which is very rare among metal albums, as most metal bands tend to think very highly of the riffs they make and end up unnecessarily stretched out from that, while Slayer show restraint, enhancing the potency of the music.
The production is astonishingly sharp and clear, bringing the best out each instrument: the slashing guitars, the thunderous drumming, the thumping bass and the furious vocals. There is certainly nothing wrong with the way Slayer sounds on this album and it would be a major task to find a thrash album with better production.
On the subject of guitars, they are more Slayer-like than anything that came before or after. For perspective, it makes 'Hell Awaits' sound tame in comparison, containing some of the best riffs in thrash. It rips, it grooves, it screams, it kills.
The drumming on this album undoubtedly makes Slayer so exhilarating to listen to, with Dave Lombardo's best performance, and also one of the greatest drumming performances in all of metal, never mind thrash! In fact if there is a drummer who plays with so much adrenaline, power yet also subtlety (Like in the opening to 'Raining Blood', where the tom hits significantly add to the atmosphere), I have not heard him/her.
To expand on the “encyclopedia for brutality” metaphor, the album appears to show you how it's done in regards to being heavy in thrash metal. For example 'Angel Of Death' is intense, double bass driven madness, 'Necrophobic' shows a punkish agression in its simple riffs, 'Alter Of Sacrifice' has a Gothenburg-styled main riff which may have been an influence to it, Postmortem is groovy, head-banging mastery and so on.
To have any of these points would be an impressive feat indeed, but to claim all of them, contain unforgettable metal classics such as 'Angel Of Death' and 'Raining Blood' AND sell monstrously well for a previously underground band. That is simply phenomenal, and is a testament to the importance and relevance this album still has today. Who would have thought all this would come from a 29 minute album?