Now this is going to be different, for me and I guess most of my readers. I’m going didactic. There would be no point of me writing about Slayer, Thrash Metal, Reign in Blood or whatever remotely related.
I very rarely listen to this music, I don’t own the album. The macho, symbolic, aggressive, ‘bloody’ philosophy that rotates around the genre (I know I’m simplifying) is far away from what I am.
Nevertheless I am interested and attracted to any live music so I didn’t miss the occasion to see, live, one of the main thrash metal bands (can someone explain to me why there is an additional ‘h’ in thrash?) playing their most famous album in its entirety.

These are Slayer shot live in London at the ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror festival. 25 May 2012.
A note from a friend, Gary Holt replaced guitarist Jeff Hanneman on this tour because Jeff has been beaten by a spider and can’t play properly!

Click here to play Reign in Blood on Spotify I actually enjoyed listening to it while putting together this post. Below there are some insightful intro and track by track review, and my photos of a memorable night. Enjoy.

“Heavy metal (often referred to simply as metal) is a genre of rock music[1] that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and in the United States. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are generally associated with masculinity and machismo.” (wiki)

“Thrash metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that is characterized usually by its fast tempo and aggression. Songs of the genre typically use fast percussive and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work. Lyrics of thrash metal songs often deal with social issues, often using direct and denunciatory language, an approach which partially overlaps with the hardcore genre. The “Big Four” bands of thrash metal are Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax who simultaneously created and popularized the genre in the early 1980s.” (wiki)

“Slayer is an American thrash metal band formed in Huntington Park, California, in 1981 by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. Slayer rose to fame with their 1986 release, Reign in Blood. The album is considered to be the foundation and inspiration of death metal.

Slayer‘s musical traits involve fast tremolo picking, double bass drumming, and shouted (or chanted) vocals. Hanneman, King, and bassist/lead vocalist Tom Araya, contribute to the band’s lyrics. King and Hanneman create and arrange the music with additional arrangement from drummer Dave Lombardo and sometimes Araya. The band’s lyrics and album art, which cover topics such as serial killers, Satanism, religion and warfare, have generated album bans, delays, lawsuits and strong criticism from religious groups and the public.” (wiki)

“Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast beat drumming, minor keys or atonality, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes.
Building from the musical structure of thrash metal and early black metal, death metal emerged during the mid 1980s. Metal acts such as Slayer, Kreator, Celtic Frost, and Venom were very important influences to the crafting of the genre.” (wiki)

“Reign in Blood is the third studio album and the major label debut by the American thrash metal band Slayer. It was released on October 7, 1986 through Def Jam Recordings. The album was the band’s first collaboration with record producer Rick Rubin, whose input helped the band’s sound evolve.

Reign in Blood was universally well received by both critics and fans, and was responsible for bringing Slayer to the attention of a mainstream metal audience. Kerrang! magazine described the record as “the heaviest album of all time,” and a breakthrough in thrash metal and speed metal. Alongside Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Anthrax’s Among the Living and Megadeth’s Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?, Reign in Blood is considered by critics one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all time, thrash metal in particular.

October 7, 2011 marked the 25th anniversary for Slayer‘s third studio album Reign In Blood. To celebrate the anniversary, the band will be performing Reign In Blood at the All Tomorrow’s Parties “I’ll Be Your Mirror” festival at Alexandra Palace, London.
It will be the third time ever.
The band played Reign in Blood in its entirety throughout the fall of 2004, under the tour banner “Still Reigning”.
In 2008 the band performed Reign in Blood in its entirety once again, this time in Paris, France during the third European Unholy alliance tour.” (wiki)

[All Music – 5/5]
“Widely considered the pinnacle of speed metal, Reign in Blood is Slayer‘s undisputed masterpiece, a brief (under half an hour) but relentless onslaught that instantly obliterates anything in its path and clears out just as quickly.
Reign in Blood opens and closes with slightly longer tracks (the classics “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood“) whose slower riffs offer most of the album’s few hints of melody. Sandwiched in between are eight short (all under three minutes), lightning-fast bursts of aggression that change tempo or feel without warning, producing a disjointed, barely controlled effect. The album is actually more precise than it sounds, and not without a sense of groove, but even in the brief slowdowns, the intensity never lets up. There may not be much variation, but it’s a unified vision, and a horrific one at that. The riffs are built on atonal chromaticism that sounds as sickening as the graphic violence depicted in many of the lyrics, and Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman‘s demented soloing often mimics the screams of the songs’ victims. It’s monstrously, terrifyingly evocative, in a way that transcends Reign in Blood‘s metal origins. The album almost single-handedly inspired the entire death metal genre (at least on the American side of the Atlantic), and unlike many of its imitators, it never crosses the line into self-parodic overkill. Reign in Blood was a stone-cold classic upon its release, and it hasn’t lost an ounce of its power today.”

[METAL STORM – 10/10]
“The greatest metal record of all time. This topic is often debated upon in the Metal Kingdom and to most there is no definite answer. A worthy contender for this title is Slayer’s 1986 masterpiece, Reign In Blood. Few albums withstand the test of time as well and even fewer have had such a huge impact on the metal world as this one.

The opening track is the legendary ‘Angel of Death‘ and starts things off with a scream. Tom Araya‘s voice is at it venomous peak having shed the “I have no testicles” sound of their earlier releases. He shouts gruesome lyrics, song after song with such serial killer conviction it sends chills down your spine upon first listening. The speed in which the vocals are delivered makes for a fun along with the lyric book, that is of course until you learn all the songs word for word.”

“Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman have crafted some of the most brutal guitar riffs in history. These riffs reach super-sonic speeds while never compromising their heaviness. King and Hanneman may not be the most technically dazzling players in the world, but their solos in Reign In Blood are nothing short of awesome. In ‘Necrophobic’, ‘Jesus Saves’, and ‘Raining Blood’ you would swear you were hearing animals being slaughtered in front of you and can practically feel King‘s fingers stabbing your skull each time he hits the fret board, not typical metal solos by any means.

The key element to Slayer has always been Dave Lombardo‘s stellar drum work. His amazing drum fills had already been demonstrated in the past [‘Chemical Warfare‘] but Reign In Blood shows that Lombardo is the double bass pedal master! Look no further than his spectacular drum solo at the end of ‘Angel of Death’ as proof. His uncanny ability to garner such pummeling momentum, and then slow down and create such a groove on the cymbals [the breakdown of ‘Altar of Sacrifice‘ and intro of ‘Criminally Insane‘] is remarkable. Not to mention he is FAST AS HELL……I pity his snare.

With a running time of 28 minutes, listening to Reign In Blood is like a quick kick in the nuts and is guaranteed to knock the wind out of you. While it may not be the greatest metal record of all time, it is without a doubt the greatest Thrash record. Reign In Blood‘s content and brutality shocked the world in 1986 and is the basis for what would become Death Metal. ALL bands in extreme music today owe something to Slayer and this album.”

[SPUTNIK MUSIC – 4.5 Superb]
“Imagine you were in 1986. The year of Peace Sells, Master Of Puppets and various other thrash metal landmarks. But you do not wish to stay with traditional thrash, for you are Slayer, renowned as being the most evil, disgusting, brutal, cruel band out there. You are the band who released the controversial Show No Mercy and the even more controversial Hell Awaits, albums that many families banned from their homes, on the grounds that their satanic content could damage children’s morality. What do you do?

The answer is you release ***ing Reign In Blood, something that took most the aspects that made Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits so well known, and amplified them ten fold. The controversial lyrics? You show Slayer Hell Awaits, they show you Angel Of Death. The speed? You show Slayer Antichrist, they show you Necrophobic. The controversy? You show Slayer Necrophiliac, they show you ***ing Raining Blood. Now do you see the picture. If not, maybe the tracks will convince you.”

1. Angel Of Death– Starting strong, with a fantastic technical opening riff, that is straight away balls out heavy and sets the atmosphere for both the song and the rest of the album. Then add in Tom Araya, with THAT high pitched scream, and the most graphic lyrics written to date. However, you really do not get this songs genius until it slows down before the solo’s. Here is where the best riffs found in this song are played, and here is the most disgusting lyrics. Sheer genius, and the solo merely add to that. 5/5

2. Piece By Piece– What the *** is “modulistic” terror? That was actually my FINAL thought on this song, after the tornado of riffs that picks you up and hurls you away had passed. This song is fast, brutal, and evil, similar to the past song. I think you are beginning to see the template on this album by now. Evil, cruel, nasty, disgusting, vile. Those are the five top words you would find in a survey if you were to ask what this album represented. Fantastic. 4.5/5

3. Necrophobic– The shortest, fastest, heaviest song on the album, and possibly the heaviest song that had ever been written at the time. Araya spits his lyrics out at the same speed as Busta Rhymes on this track. However, as Angel Of Death proved, the speed isn’t always the best side, and this song therefore comes off as feeling rather average when compared to the better tracks of the album. 3/5

4. Altar Of Sacrifice– Unfortunately, we have reached a bit of a weak side to the album, in that this song does nothing that has not already been done thrice over on this album, and it is beginning to get a little boring. Sure, it is good, but not THAT good. 3.5/5

5. Jesus Saves– Starting off a lot softer, this builds up until it explodes, and from there, every bit of blaspheme imaginable is thrown at the listener, and you have to just marvel at it. This is another special song, combining incredibly riff work with sheer insanity in the vocal department. Brilliance perfected. 4/5

6. Criminally Insane– Another one that starts off a little slower before exploding, this and Altar Of Sacrifice have at least a LITTLE variation in them, which makes them great to listen to, and this song is the better of the two. This track picks up, and from there never lets go. 4.5/5

7. Reborn– “i will be rebooorrrnnn” shrieks Araya in another great, heavy song. This is another of the fastest numbers, but this one has a little more substance to it than tracks 3 and 4, and that is what makes this a higher scoring song. Araya is the high point of this song, easily. 4.5/5

8. Epidemic– This is Dave Lombardo‘s swansong, containing an AMAZING drum intro, that he would never match on and of the albums to follow. No matter how intense the drumming on Raining Blood, War Ensemble, or any of the other names you want to throw out there is, it can not compare to the opening fill. Other than that, i always find this is a rather average song, and am therefore forced to give it a 4. 4/5

9. Postmortem– Starting off slow, this contains the slowest moments on the album, but is also one of the better tracks on the album, FOR this variation. It builds up for a while, before exploding into a section at the end that can only be matched in speed by Necrophobic and the solo section to Raining Blood. “do you wanna die”. 5/5

10. Raining Blood– If you don’t know the main riff to this song, what ***ing rock have you been hiding under? An amazing song, this is some of the tightest riffwork on the album, and Dave Lombardo’s intensity during the solo is insane. However, once again, the slowest section is the highlight. “Your time slips uh-way” shouts Tom Araya, and you have to stop to wonder how he gets his lung power. 5/5

So, an album that blazes past in half an hour, this is one of the most intense slices of thrash metal you will ever hear, and never lets up in the intensity even when it slows down. Sheer brilliance.

…and this is what I managed to photograph.

more about Slayer on the web? There’s the official stuff.

Photo tip

One of the reasons I went to see Slayer is because I believe hard and heavy acts are very photogenic. Having some Slayer pictures on a live music portfolio is a nice completeness.

One other is because metal fans are a lot of fun to photograph. Since I saw Motorhead first time, quite a while ago I always took some fan pictures. As it is nice to take pictures of what happens in the pit, as this impromptu reunion by the security to get prepared to the ‘just-about-to-happen’ storm.

To take fans and audience shot has only one problem, but is a big one. They are not lit. So either you shoot before the gig starts, wait for the moment when lights are turned from the stage to the crowd, you are at a daylight open air gig or you use flash.

None of the options meet my appreciation.

Before the gig the excitement is not peaking, apart from the split second when the aired music is off, before the light are switched off and the fans perceive the moment has come and they get hyper-excited. Be quick. Leave the band on stage alone for 5 seconds and think at the audience.

To wait for the moment the light technician turns those white spot on the crowd to lighten up a see of adoring people gives incredible shots. The problem is that it is difficult to know when that moment arrives. Very rarely it happens at the beginning of the show, sometime it happens just before it begins. So again, be quick and ready to be disappointed.

A daylight open gig is ideal, apart the fact that I hate photographing daylight open gigs. I believe that almost all the atmosphere of a concert vanishes when the sun is still shining and there’s no coloured light to saturated your sensor.

Flash. Flash always works but you need to be allowed. That usually is not in the pit. So you have to smuggle one. Than you want a ceiling quite close in order to bounce the light back. And you would want it to be clear and neutral, ideally white. Have you ever seen a white ceiling in a rock venue? Right.
The on camera flash is usually warranty of useless shots, but you can try. This photo below has been shot with it.

For a documentary photographer as I like to think myself, shooting people is always the most interesting side of photography. Universal problem of shooting people is that mostly people don’t like to be photographed. Even when they agree reacts to the camera breaking the moment and killing the image. Sometime they may not notice the camera and the photographer but when they do, photography wise it’s over.

Heavy metal fans are an exception, that is why I am attracted by them. They tend to love to show off, they “don’t give a fuck” by default. They wear t-shirts and any sort of cliché accessory. They have the gestures, the hair, the attitude that makes the portrait usually more interesting then, said, an indie fan.

~ by Valerio on June 1, 2012.

5 Responses to “Slayer”

  1. reign in blood is the point of no return for heavy metal music. i actually still feel bad when i listen to ‘piece by piece’.
    it is so over-everything (cruel, negative horrible) that makes me actually agree with those bigots (mums assciations, priests, etc) that see in this stuff a cause of moral corruption of young minds
    well, i don’t actually agree, but i think that by recording that slayer scored a very good point in their favour.

  2. Stunning post, mr. Berdini!
    Even if the boundaries of my “heavy world” are not so wide to include death metal. I agree that “Reign in blood” is a point of no return, that is one of the masterpiece to keep in mind for those who deal with heavy rock. But this work is like Hercules columns. Too much, indeed. Don’t go beyond.

  3. …Any comments of yours on how they sound like? I’m curious about it!
    Never been to a Slayer gig, I only listen to “Reign…” and no other of their records. That one is PERFECT, no matter if you don’t dig the genre.

  4. nice writeup as always Valerio. You should definitely try to cover Roadburn one of these days if you want some more excellent metal opportunities.

  5. Slayer is best thrash band and Tom is devil!
    Get well soon Jeff!!

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