33 1/3: Slayer – Reign In Blood by D.X. Ferris (Continuum Books)

Reign in Blood sounded like nothing else out there when it was released in 1986. Sure there was already a booming thrash scene, and even some early death metal and grind-core records on the market, but nobody matched Reign in Blood’s combination of sheer brutality and musical athleticism. Although my personal interest in thrash music waned when adulthood set in, I still found Ferris’ book one of the more interesting reads in the 33 and 1/3 series. He takes a clear and vivid dive inside every aspect of Reign In Blood, from the writing, recording, packaging, legacy, touring, reception and of course the ugly controversy caused by the lyrics to “Angel of Death” which are about Nazism and WWII (the verdict: Slayer are not Nazis). The book benefits greatly from Slayer’s participation, as well as producer Rick Rubin, engineer Andy Wallace, cover artist Larry Carroll, and a host of others who were involved in some way, or just huge fans. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the discussion of Slayer’s influences. Of course they liked all the metal groups you would expect, but they were also getting heavily into hardcore punk at the time, which was starting to meld with metal, as evidenced in crossover bands like DRI, Corrosion of Conformity, and Agnostic Front. Perhaps this is why the album lasts a brief 29 minutes and sheds the proggy song structures their peers (Metallica, Megadeth…etc.) were still using. Perhaps even more surprising is that singer Tom Araya is a huge Beatles fan. Go figure.