From The Vaults: Slayer Celebrate 25 Years Of ‘Reign In Blood’:
Words: Dave Everley
It was towards the end of the sessions for Reign In Blood when the nickel finally dropped for Tom Araya that he and his bandmates were sitting on something unique. Slayer’s singer and bassist was sitting in the control of Hollywood’s Hit City West Studio with Andy Wallace, the engineer on their third album and the man charged with capturing a band who had reached terminal velocity in every respect. They had just finished mixing Raining Blood, the perfectly compressed epic that closed the album in a deluge of torment and viscera, when Tom glanced up at the monitor on the wall. The 10 songs that made up the album were listed on the screen, as was a time: 28. He wasn’t sure what the number represented. Twenty-eight seconds, maybe? But that didn’t make sense. Perplexed, he turned to Andy. “Andy, is that 28 minutes?” he said. “Yeah,” came the engineer’s reply. “Is that for all the songs?” said Tom. Andy looked up from his desk to the monitor on the wall and back down to the screen on his console. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s 28 minutes.” Unsure of whether 10 songs that ran to 28 minutes – or 28 minutes and 58 seconds, to be exact – actually constituted an album, or whether they’d have to come up with more music, they decided to take their concerns to Rick Rubin, the album’s producer.
The bearlike Rick had steered the band through the sessions with a mix of fanboy enthusiasm and Zen master calm, and the answer lay with him. If he said yes, everything would be fine. If he said no, this perfectly balanced fusion of speed, aggression and provocation could be ruined. More than a quarter of a century on, you can hear the admiration in the frontman’s voice when he recalls Rick’s answer. “His only reply,” says Tom, “was that it had 10 songs, verses, choruses and leads and that’s what constituted an album. He didn’t have any issue with it.” Rick’s judgment sealed not only Reign In Blood’s fate as one of the crown jewels of thrash metal’s Golden Age, but also ensured its status as one of the great albums of all time. What Tom and his bandmates didn’t know then, but what they certainly know now, is in 28 minutes and 58 seconds, they had changed the game forever. In May 2012, more than a quarter of a century after its release, Slayer will play Reign In Blood in its entirety as part of ATP’s I’ll Be Your Mirror, a three-day festival at London’s Alexandra Palace where they’ll be sharing the stage with a wilfully eclectic mix of bands.
“Nah, haven’t heard of any of ’em,” says Kerry King, in the sort of clipped, no-bullshit tones you’d expect of a man who has pursued an unswerving musical vision for the last 30 years. Few musicians sound as comfortable in their own skin as Kerry and Tom, but few have had the luxury of making an out-of-the-park classic so early in their careers. Reign In Blood tapped into a reservoir of confidence so vast that even the very serious tribulations of the past two years couldn’t shake them off course. In 2010, the band were forced to cancel several shows when Tom required urgent back surgery. A year later, in 2011, guitarist Jeff Hanneman nearly died after contracting the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis, after being bitten by a spider in his jacuzzi. “He’s playing again, but we’re letting him go at his pace,” says Tom. “Will he play the show in London? Well, we’re gonna see how well prepared we are. We’re hoping that he can step in, but that’s basically where we’re at with it.” Right now, the band are prepping for their 12th album. They have nine songs written (“All the stuff I wrote, it seems like it’s more on the thrash side,” says Kerry. “I gotta pull myself back and make up some heavy stuff”). The plan is to enter the studio with producer Greg Philbin in August, though drummer Dave Lombardo suggests there might be a stop-gap EP before the album emerges. Of course, the 800lb gorilla in the corner of the room is the fact that any Slayer album, no matter how good, will always exist in the shadow of Reign In Blood. The mere fact that it’s the only album they choose to play live in its entirety speaks volumes.
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