The word ‘masterpiece’ tends to be thrown about like so much confetti at a wedding. Things that aren’t masterpieces are described as being masterpieces: that new computer game for the Xbox 360 is a masterpiece, the new horror movie Slither, or was it the remake of The Hills Have Eyes?, well that’s a masterpiece. And that new band on Victory – can’t remember what they’re called – their new album – can’t remember what it’s called either – yep, that’s a masterpiece, too.
Slayer: Blood Brothers
Kerry King and Dave Lombardo celebrate the classic Reign In Blood album, perhaps the greatest thrash record of all, which was released on October 7, 1986
The focal point of this month’s Metal Hammer centres around a real masterpiece. A proper masterpiece; a masterpiece by any measure, not just by the measuring stick that is heavy metal. It was in the autumn of 1986 that Slayer released their third album, Reign In Blood.
Just three years previously the LA quartet – whose line-up then starred guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, drummer Dave Lombardo and bassist/vocalist Tom Araya – had unveiled their debut disc, the lightweight, cack-handed and thoroughly unconvincing Show No Mercy. Slayer, at this point, were the laughing stock of the nascent thrash metal scene.
While an improvement in the form on 1985’s Hell Awaits would redress this balance, a band such as Anthrax’s Scott Ian’s Stormtroopers Of Death side-project still felt justified in writing a song about Slayer and calling it Douche Crew. Its lyrics, in case you were wondering, were unequivocal: 'Wearing all their douchy clothes/They like to watch each other pose/You’re all the same/So fucking lame/We’ll shove your spikes right up your holes'.
Come 1986 though, no one was laughing or poking fun any more. The distance between Hell Awaits and Reign In Blood was vast – almost as if the music was made by a different band, from a different time. Listen to Slayer’s third album now and it still sounds feral, as if you need shots just to put the thing into the CD player. From the unnecessarily unpleasant Angel Of Death to the punishing Raining Blood, the sound here is taut, tortured, wired... aggressive and unrelenting. The tone is violent by design, the band infamous by reputation. There is no other album that could have made the top of Metal Hammer’s 20th anniversary metal list. To celebrate, we caught up with Kerry King, Slayer’s self-professed 'metal kid', and Dave Lombardo, metal’s drummer par excellence, to find out their thoughts on Reign In Blood and what they felt we could expect from Slayer in the near future.