Surprisingly, extreme metal was making its way into the charts. This explosion took violence and speed to new heights and cleared the way for even more ferocious groups who rushed to fill the breach. Slayer, a key group in the revolution, unleashed everything in one track: Angel of Death.
The song opens the album Reign in Blood with bassist/singer Tom Araya’s scream - something that’s gone down in history. The band keeps up this same level of intensity and speed throughout the album thanks to razor-sharp rhythms and powerful drumming from the often-imitated but never-equalled Dave Lombardo. Reign in Blood was more aggressive, brutal and fast-paced (it barely lasts 28 minutes!) than the albums released by their peers. It was the result of a collaboration between the group from Huntington Park and producer Rick Rubin, who founded the rap label Def Jam. This was the first time that Rubin had worked with a metal band. He made Slayer’s music more intelligible without ever watering it down. Everything pulsed higher than 200 bpm. The guitar solos flirted with an unsettling dissonance, the themes shook up the United States’ apparent prudishness (tackling subjects such as religion, death, war and the holocaust...) and the Dante-esque finale of Raining Blood ensured that it would be remembered as one of the greatest albums ever made.
Raining Blood is like Slayer’s Highway to Hell or Ace of Spades. It’s one of their most popular songs and permanent additions at live concerts. Slayer would reach their creative peak with the hellish Seasons in the Abyss, which turns 30 in 2020. Though Reign in Blood will always be the record that allowed it all to happen.