Slayer - Reign in Blood (1986), 6/10

Slayer’s Reign in Blood represents the best of thrash. That being said, I don’t particularly enjoy thrash metal, so what makes it any different? Well for one, it has one of the best openers of the genre and undoubtedly the best closing track of metal in general. Beyond that, I feel that the majority of thrash is crippled by simple percussion and a reliance on repeating riffs to carry lesser songwriting, while Reign in Blood has varied percussion (for much of the album and its strong points at least), genuinely evil sounding riffs, and its own identity beyond the tropes of thrash or even death metal. There are some moments where the novelty lags in quality like “Altar of Sacrifice”, but much of the album sounds fresh and genuinely brutal. “Angel of Death” is the perfect opener for such an aggressive album and sets the stage for its tone, both in theme and sound. There isn’t really a major standout track again until the closer, however, but when “Raining Blood” begins it is clear why it has such a strong reputation. It is genuinely ominous and even thrilling, even if it makes me wish there was more metal exploring its sound and atmosphere building. Tom Araya is at the peak of his powers, clearly, and while I find him to be inconsistent and even makes some wholly questionable choices, here he is focused enough to be quite powerful. Most importantly, the majority of the music sounds genuinely vicious and even vile, it achieved its aim successfully. The guitar work needs no more praise, but suffice to say Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's solos are a major part of what make the album worthwhile. It starts and ends quickly enough to maintain your attention with almost no interruption, all the while drawing some unique enough imagery, especially for its release in the mid-eighties. It could in fact be much better if the band took the time to flesh out its middle portion rather than essentially presenting basic hardcore thrash with a mandatory guitar solo rounding out every single song, but its iconic songs together with a solid thematic showing overall still make it one of the best thrash has to offer.