Slayer – Postmortem & Reign in Blood

  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 […]


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 one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all time, thrash metal in particular.

Reign in Blood’s release was delayed because of concerns regarding its graphic artwork and lyrical subject matter. The opening track, “Angel of Death“, which refers to Josef Mengele and describes acts, such as human experimentation, that Mengele committed at the Auschwitz concentration camp, provoked allegations of Nazism.However, the band stated numerous times they do not condone Nazism, and are merely interested in the subject.The album was Slayer’s first to enter the Billboard 200; the release peaked at number 94, and was certified 2x Platinum on November 20, 1992.

Lombardo’s departure

Slayer embarked on the Reign in Pain tour with the bands Overkill in the United States and Malice in Europe; they also served as the opening act for W.A.S.P.‘s US tour in 1987. After a month of touring drummer Lombardo quit the band; he said, “I wasn’t making any money. I think I had just gotten married, and I figured if we were gonna be doing this professionally—on a major label—I wanted my rent and utilities paid.” To continue the tour Slayer enlisted Whiplash drummer Tony Scaglione.

Rubin called Lombardo daily to insist he return, telling him, “Dude, you gotta come back in the band.” Rubin offered Lombardo a salary, but he was still hesitant about returning; at this point Lombardo had been out of the band for several months. Lombardo’s wife convinced him to return in 1987; Rubin came to his house and picked him up in his Porsche, taking him to a Slayer rehearsal.


Reign in Blood is regarded by critics as one of the most influential and extreme thrash metal albums.In its “Greatest Metal Bands Of All Time” poll, MTV praised Slayer’s “downtuned rhythms, infectious guitar licks, graphically violent lyrics and grisly artwork,” which they stated “set the standard for dozens of emerging thrash bands,” while “Slayer’s music was directly responsible for the rise of death metal.” MTV described Reign in Blood as essential listening,and the album was ranked number 7 on IGN‘s “Top 25 Most Influential Metal Albums.”

“Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death” are played at almost every live show.

When asked during a press tour for 1994’s Divine Intervention about the pressure of having to live up to Reign in Blood, King replied that the band did not try to better it, but rather just wanted to make music.In 2006, Blabbermouths Don Kaye drew a comparison to the band’s 2006 album Christ Illusion, and concluded that “Slayer may never make an album as incendiary as Reign in Blood again.”

Rapper Necro was heavily influenced by the album, and has remarked that it takes him back to the 80s, “when shit was pure.”Ektomorf vocalist Zoltán Farkas describes the album as one of his primary influences.Paul Mazurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse stated Lombardo’s performance on the album helped him play faster throughout his career.

Hanneman has said that the album is his personal favorite, reasoning it is “so short and quick and to the point.”[28] Araya has remarked that Slayer’s 2006 album Christ Illusion “comes close,” but that “nothing can surpass Reign in Blood for intensity and impact. No one had heard anything like it before. In the twenty years since then, people have got more desensitized. What was over the top then might not be now.”Drummer Paul Bostaph who was a Slayer member from 1992 to 2001 first heard the record when he was a member of Forbidden. During a party Bostaph walked towards music he heard from another room, and approached Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero. When asked what music was playing, Locicero shouted “the new Slayer record.” After listening closely to the record, he looked at Locicero, and concluded that his band was “fucked.”

Live performances

The tracks “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death” have become almost permanent additions to Slayer’s live set, and are Hanneman’s favorite tracks to play live.The band played Reign in Blood in its entirety throughout the fall of 2004, under the tour banner “Still Reigning”. In 2004, a live DVD of the same name was released, which included a finale with the band covered in fake blood during the performance of “Raining Blood”.

King later said that while the idea of playing Reign in Blood in its entirety was suggested before by their booking agency, it was met with little support. The band ultimately decided they needed to add more excitement to their live shows, and to avoid repetition incorporated the ideas of raining blood.When asked about using fake blood in future performances, King remarked “It’s time to move on, but never say never. I know Japan never saw it, South America and Australia never saw it. So you never know.”

Although it was omitted from a number of concerts because of short time allotments, Slayer have often said that they enjoy playing the album in its entirety. According to Hanneman: “We still enjoy playing these songs live. We play these songs over and over and over, but they’re good songs, intense songs! If it were melodic songs or some kind of boring ‘clap your hands’ song, you’d be going crazy playing those every night. But our songs are just bam-bam-bam-bam, they’re intense.”The band was on stage for 70 minutes, which only allowed seven or eight additional songs to be played following the album’s play. King stated this arrangement “alienates too many people. In the Unholy Alliance Tour of 2004 however, the album was played in its entirety during Slayer’s set as the last ten songs to end the show.”



Def Jam’s distributor, Columbia Records, refused to release the album due to its controversial lyrical themes and cover art. Reign in Blood was eventually distributed by Geffen Records; however, due to the controversy it did not appear on Geffen’s release schedule.

The artwork was designed by Larry Carroll, who at the time was creating political illustrations for The Progressive, Village Voice, and The New York Times. The cover art was featured in Blender Magazine‘s 2006 “top ten heavy metal album covers of all time.”

Lyrical themes

For the album, Slayer decided to abandon the Satanic themes explored on their previous album Hell Awaits, and write about issues that were more on a street level.[36] Reign in Blood’s lyrics include meditations on death, religion, insanity, and murderers, while the lead track “Angel of Death” details human experiments conducted at the Auschwitz concentration camp by Josef Mengele; who was dubbed “the Angel of death” by inmates.The song led to accusations of Nazi sympathizing and racism, which have followed the band throughout their career.

Hanneman was inspired to write “Angel of Death” after he read a number of books on Mengele during a Slayer tour. Hanneman has complained people usually misinterpret the lyrics, and clarified, “Nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he was a bad man, because to me — well, isn’t that obvious? I shouldn’t have to tell you that.”The band utilized the controversy to attract publicity, incorporating the Reichsadler into their logo (also the S in the band’s name resembles the Sig runes used by the SS), and writing a song titled “SS-3,” which mentions Reinhard Heydrich, the second in command in the Schutzstaffel.

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