Friday, March 1, 2013

Slayer, "Raining Blood"

Heaping praises on Reign in Blood is akin to bringing coals to Newcastle. It's almost ubiquitous on Best of Metal lists, and outside of Metallica's first four albums, it's the only thrash metal release that people who don't usually like metal own. But with Dave Lombardo being replaced over a silly contract dispute (it doesn't whose story about the terms you believe--there's no sane reason that an able Dave Lombardo shouldn't be in this band) this week, I'm going back to one of metal's only flawless tracks.

Several bloggers have already compared Half-Slayer (guitarist Jeff Hanneman is still recovering from an incapacitating spider bite) to KISS without Ace and Peter, but this is actually much worse. For all that the original KISS lineup is, the band doesn't compromise any of their nonexistent integrity by breaking up. Slayer has almost epitomized metal's integrity over the past few decades. Despite a few questionable business decisions, they've been the same straight-ahead, thrash-out-and-leave-the-room force of nature for almost 30 years.

The steady, ominous drumming that introduces "Raining Blood" is as iconic as any sound in metal. Lombardo's pacing isn't to take a breath, but to build suspense, which pays off at the infamous "In the Hall of the Mountain King"-emulating riff ("duh-nuh-nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh") that kicks in around the :33 mark. When it does, Lombardo steps right back into the war zone, directing the progression that a South Park would later honor as the ultimate hippie buzz-killer.

I once saw a pre-stardom Lamb of God open for Slayer, stepping up to one of metal history's greatest honors and challenges. Shortly before they closed, Lamb of God held a note and let Chris Adler drum the intro to "Raining Blood." "You all know why we're all here," Randy Blythe bellowed. He could have been talking to the crowd, or to any extreme metal fan in the cosmos, but he didn't need to say anything else.

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