In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of “Reign In Blood”, the third studio album and the major label debut by the American thrash metal kings SLAYER, Asbjørn Slettemark (pictured below with SLAYER guitarist Kery King), host of the Norwegian TV show “Lydverket” (web site) and radio metal program “Pyro” (web site), spoke to members of DARKTHRONE, ENSLAVED and TURBONEGRO about the record’s tremendous impact and enduring influence.
Fenriz (DARKTHRONE): “After having bought ‘Reign In Blood’ for the money I made from work bicycling around with advertising papers on all Tårnåsen and Kolbotn, it was instantly a hit. I had the other albums from before and was already possessed. On New Year’s Eve 1985, I watched the live version of ‘Hell Awaits’ on Sky channel while everybody else was out shooting fireworks. This was in December 1986, I had just turned 15, and after Christmas dinner, I decided to take a new direction in life. I said no thanks to the following tea party — taboo, hahaha! — and instead went to my room and listen to ‘Reign In Blood’.”
Happy-Tom (TURBONEGRO): “My best memory from listening to ‘Reign In Blood’ comes from travelling on the Eurorail in 1987. We fell asleep hammered drunk in a crowded commuter train between Brussels and Paris with a huge ghetto blaster on full blast and ‘Reign In Blood’ on repeat. Obviously no one dared to approach the stop button.”
Ivar Bjørnson (ENSLAVED): “I saw SLAYER play at Rockefeller — with MACHINE HEAD as support — in 1996, and my neck is still sore after ‘Angel Of Death’. The most intense live material a band can cough up is from ‘Reign In Blood’. Unbeatable.”
In a 2009 interview with Filter magazine, SLAYER bassist/vocalist Tom Araya stated about “Reign In Blood”, “On that first album [together], [producer Rick] Rubin made sure that he recorded. He wanted to duplicate what he was hearing.” Guitarist Kerry King added, “It was the first time you actually heard SLAYER in its pure ferocity, and it made a big difference. One funny thing about that album is if it came out today, no one would give a shit. They’d say, ‘That’s cool.’ But at the time it came out it made such a difference. People still reflect on that as a poignant time, where shit changed.”
“Reign In Blood” 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. Kerrang! magazine described the record as “the heaviest album of all time,” and a breakthrough in thrash metal and speed metal.
“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 bandmembers stated numerous times they do not condone Nazism, and are merely interested in the subject.
On the topic the controversy surrounding “Reign In Blood”‘s lyrical content, SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman said, “‘Angel Of Death’ was a big problem. I remember getting a phone call after the album was done: Sony wasn’t going to release it. I remember being at home, pissed, throwing things. What the fuck? I didn’t think anything was wrong with ‘Angel Of Death’ or anything else we did, it’s a documentary! There’s no ‘Heil Hitler’ or ‘white people rule,’ it’s a documentary; grow up, people. It took months before they picked it up again. Finally, we got signed by a distributor.”
“Reign In Blood” was SLAYER‘s first album to enter The Billboard 200 chart (at No. 94). The LP was certified gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America) on November 20, 1992 for sales in excess of 500,000 copies.
Video footage of Asbjørn Slettemark talking to SLAYER guitarist Kery King about “Reign In Blood” can be seen below.