#7: Reign In Blood by Slayer
The top metal album of all time is Reign In Blood by band Slayer. At this point in time in the band’s history they had released the noteworthy Show No Mercy, the forward-moving Haunting The Chapel (EP), and the career-defining Hell Awaits. Rick Rubin had seen the band live at this point and he felt that the records hadn’t as yet captured the machine that was Slayer. And so he offered them salvation on his record label, American, and his hand in production which would prove to be the greatest metal production of all time. Slayer had had no intentions of making any concessions whatsoever to the mainstream when offered the opportunity and when it came time to deliver the goods they doubled down on everything they held dear as a group.
To start off the worst track on Reign In Blood is hardly arguably “Epidemic.” That track is still better than half of the cuts on Hell Awaits. (To note: “Hardening Of The Arteries”, “Necrophiliac”, and “Kill Again.”) But what is more notable is that every track featured on this incredible album is anchored by a great idea or a great riff. “Reborn” fetishizes revenge in only the most irresistible way, “Criminally Insane” builds from a killer drum riff, and “Altar Of Sacrifice” downright pummels before ingeniously seguing into one of the greatest slow sludge riffs of all time in “Jesus Saves” which doesn’t take long to break into pure speed in line with the rest of the monolithic album.
This is not to mention the greatest tracks on the album being the immortal “Angel Of Death” and “Raining Blood”, the opening and closing slabs of immortality that would propel Slayer into eternity. “Reign In Blood” plays out like a litany of awesome metal riffs simply stacked back to back in a way that achieves maximum impact and “Raining Blood” ends up being the greatest harmonized metal riff of all time, breathlessly summoning the demon to reclaim Earth for his rightful throne. There is no respite from Slayer as there shouldn’t be.
“Postmortem” shows Slayer still holding onto necrophiliac tendencies whilst composing the greatest riffs seen this side of the entire metal community. It’s also notable that Dave Lombardo, drummer extraordinaire, plays by far some of the best drum fills of his entire career on this track. “Necrophopic” plays out as perhaps the fastest Slayer track ever composed. Tom Araya even “apologizes” for having composed such a slow song during live performances. Even “Piece By Piece” nearly matches “Necrophobic” in speed and serves as the perfect counterpoint to prime track “Angel Of Death.”
Reign In Blood stands as the greatest metal album of all time in thanks to its steadfast commitment to quality control (unmatched in metal, honestly) and due to its then unmatched commitment to the lurid. They were bested in later years by more lurid bands, but their unmatched tabernacle of riffs has remained unchallenged. Even their rhythm guitar onslaught remains unchallenged, even made up of both guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. The truth is that Slayer were presented a chance to make concessions to a mainstream audience and they spat in the face of that and made the truest Slayer record ever recorded. And for that they are all the better. A similar achievement is Mad Max: Fury Road, an artistic achievement equally opposed to compromise. Slayer made their statement. The metal world listened. No bullshit.