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Into The Crypts

Regular readers of Distorted will be in no doubt as to where my first love lays - thrash metal. First getting into Rock via early Quo then progressing to Maiden & Twisted Sister, I'll never forget sitting in school one day back in 1984 and my good friend Dylan McGrath producing a tape bursting with, amongst others Accept's 'Fast as a shark', Helloween's 'Starlight', Metallica's 'Jump in the fire', Exodus' 'A lesson in violence' and, of course, Slayer's 'Black Magic'. What speed, such heaviness, those guitar leads! I had never heard anything like it before and like many of my generation I was instantly hooked.

Cut to 2002 and I look more like Kerry King now than he did back when they released "Hell Awaits", but I still listen to those timeless classics as much as I would Vader or Tool today. With interest in '80's thrash at an all-time high, I thought we'd take a trip back in time and revisit those Metal Thrashing Mad slabs of vinyl, so, whether you missed them first time round or simply wish to take a nostalgic look back to those long-haired, tight-jeans, big white sneakers days, let me take you

Into The Crypts Of

Slayer - Reign In Blood (Def American Records) 1986
What better album to kick start this new feature than with the Godfather of all Thrash Metal records, the voracious 'Reign in Blood'. Thrash metal had already bitterly divided the scene, you either loved it or you didn't, and what happened in that summer of 1986 was to shake the metal scene to its very foundations.

Signing from Brian Slagel's Metal Blade record label to the Rick Rubin run Def American label, Slayer caused uproar both musically and politically when they released 'RIB' in 1986. The label's regular distributors, CBS, refused at last minute to put the record out, leaving Def Jam to negotiate with Geffen for a US release. They apparently got cold feet over Side A track 1 'Angel of Death', a guts-and-all biography about the infamous Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele. Cut to record stores throughout the US pulling 'RIB' off the shelves and out of kids' hands. Press releases from the band, insisting they were NOT Nazi sympathisers, that the lyrics describe (in graphic detail) what Mengele did and got away it. Nowhere do they praise what he did.

Throughout all this, those who were fortunate enough to have heard 'RIB' were foaming at the mouth, raising the anxiety-level for the rest of us impatient at the suits to get their fingers out and release the damn thing.

And when the corporate bullshit was finally resolved and 'RIB' was unleashed to an unsuspecting public, the result was phenomenal. NO ONE had ever heard anything like this before. I mean, NO ONE. 28 minutes of the most blistering metal you ever carried home on the bus, knowing from what you heard through the Deathvine and the reviews you read that it was good, yet it wasn't until you put it on your stereo that you realised how good. You sat there, mouth agape, senses numb, wondering what the hell just happened to you.

It's the scream that does it, the opening shriek from bassist/vocalist Tom Araya on the aforementioned 'Angel of Death', and before you know it you're swept into this musical version of Dante's Divine Comedy. 'Piece by Piece' was the first metalcore track that inspired a whole new generation of noise bands who figured you didn't need a solo in the middle of your song. 'Necrophobic' is possibly the fastest track here, and then there's the double triumph of the album, the insanely satanic 'Altar of Sacrifice/Jesus Saves', Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's superb guitar leads all over the place here. And that's just side A.

The distinctive drumming of Dave Lombardo sets the pace for side B, that familiar double bass and cymbal beating in harmony to the twisted evil that is 'Criminally Insane'. 'Reborn' and 'Epidemic' zip by, the speed of both songs leaving you shaking, almost euphoric. Still a live favourite, 'Postmortem' stomps its authoritative boot right in your groin, and when Araya yells at the top of his voice 'Do ya wanna die!' it's almost a cry-to-arms.

And then you hear it - rain, thick, red rain. Is that tribal drumming? Distant at first, yet every second that passes it gets menacingly louder. You hear thunderstorms, the heavens opening, and the 10th and final track opens its gaping mouth and lets out a hellish roar, and as the frenzied noise that is 'Raining Blood' crashes through you speakers you cannot help yourself, you are on your knees, crying, laughing, praying at the altar of Slayer.

A landmark in heavy metal, this album, alongside Metallica's "Master of Puppets" broke down the snobbish walls of rock music of the '80s and allowed heavy music, as we know it today to become the accepted norm, and not the feared, rabid beast of the forest.

If you do not own this album, you are not a metal fan.

Ken Blackmore

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