Happy Slayer Day! 6/6: Celebrating 25 Years of ‘Reign in Blood’
When he was told that Noisecreep was planning to run a tribute to Slayer today, 6/6, Anthrax’s Scott Ian wholeheartedly agreed. “Why not? Every day is a good day for Slayer,” he said. Yes, any day is a good day to celebrate one of the most influential metal bands of all time. However, this year’s Slayer Day is special because it marks the anniversaries of two distinct Slayer milestones.
The first Slayer milestone occurred 30 years ago in 1981, when Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King first formed the group in Huntington Beach, a Southern California coastal town. The duo then invited Tom Araya, who had previously worked with King in Quits, to join them. The rest, of course, is metal history.
The other milestone came in 1986, 25 years ago, with the release of ‘Reign In Blood.’ The band’s major label debut took Slayer from underground heroes on Metal Blade to true international metal icons.
“I first saw Slayer at a small club in Orange County California in 1983, said Brian Slagel, the chairman and CEO of Metal Blade, Slayer’s first label. “Their set consisted mostly of cover songs, but the few originals they player were really good. Also, they did the best cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ They were a really good band I knew I wanted to work with them.”
“I was a little late to the table when it came to Slayer,” said GWAR frontman Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus. “I was still into hardcore and metal had been s— for so long. It wasn’t until ‘Reign in Blood’ that I really listened to them. And that was probably good because their first couple of records sounded really bad. I remember the moment I became a Slayer devotee quite clearly. I was listening to ‘Reign in Blood’ and it was just crushing me. I couldn’t believe metal could ever sound that good, be that fast, or have so much aggression. And when I got to ‘Altar of Sacrifice’ with the famous ‘Satan’ chant… Well, I completely f—ing lost it. From then on, Slayer were gods to me.”
That revelation was felt by kids everywhere around the world. “The first time I saw Slayer was in 1986 right after ‘Reign In Blood’ came out at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC,” Dave Grohl told Killing Time Productions in this YouTube clip. “It was the last rock concert they had at the Warner because it was Overkill and Slayer. And after Overkill f—ing finished Slayer came on and the crowd f—ing proceeded to destroy the first 10 rows of seats.”
Critically, the album has also seen tremendous respect over the years. Kerrang named ‘Reign In Blood’ “The heaviest album of all time” and Metal Hammer declared it the best metal album of the last 20 years in 2006. In just under thirty minutes of frenetic energy, ‘Reign In Blood’ mixed the ferociousness of Iron Maiden with the pace of the Ramones and the Stooges to create an album that has since been dubbed by many as the ultimate thrash metal recording.
Watch the video for Slayer’s ‘Chemical Warfare / Raining Blood’ (AOL Sessions)
Part of the legacy of ‘Reign in Blood’ and its massive step up from the band’s two previous albums was the production of Rick Rubin, who signed the group to his Def Jam label. “It was like, ‘Wow — you can hear everything, and those guys aren’t just playing fast; those notes are on time,” Kerry King told Decibel magazine of the production.
The album’s sharper recording style allowed people to see that Slayer brought the musicianship of renowned virtuosos like Rush to thrash metal. “The first time I heard the double bass drum fill in ‘Angel of Death,’ I knew I really wanted to step my game up,” Municipal Waste‘s Dave Witte told Noisecreep. “It changed my life and raised the bar for metal drumming. Countless musicians have [Dave] Lombardo and Slayer to thank for their influence.”
Over the last quarter century Slayer’s impact has continued to grow, as evidenced by the diverse acts who have covered the band. Artists like Korn, Deftones, Cradle Of Filth, and Hatebreed as well as Tori Amos, ska band Less Than Jake, Modest Mouse, and Califone have paid tribute to Slayer.
To really understand the impact of Slayer, one only needed to be at Indio, California’s Empire Polo Fields in April of this year when more than 50,000 metal fans flocked to the desert to see the group share the stage with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax for the Big 4 show. The fact that metal still fills stadiums and sites like Noisecreep exist is due in large part to Slayer and their bretheren. So, yeah, we agree with Scott Ian: any day is a good day for Slayer.