Ominous thunder rolls. An eerie, screeching sound is heard above and around. A man, dressed in black, gazes dreadfully at the blackened sky. It begins to rain. It begins to rain blood. And as this dark character senses the blood dripping from his face, covering every limb, he screams, “Raining blood! From a lacerated sky…bleeding its horror. Creating my structure, now I shall reign in blood!” This scene is not from any horror movie, at least not in the classic sense. Instead, it is the climactic moment of Slayer’s new DVD Still Reigning.
The DVD, directed by Dean Karr, captures the band’s live performance on July 11, 2004, in Augusta, Maine. Though Slayer’s live performances can routinely be classified as intense, organized chaos, this particular performance holds savage significance. For the first time since the release of their legendary opus Reign In Blood in 1986, the band—which consists of frontman and bassist Tom Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, and drummer Dave Lombardo—performed the album in sequence, in its entirety.
But simply performing Reign In Blood was not enough for the metal quartet. Instead, the band added a horrific effect to enhance and punctuate the show’s dark aura: During the album’s last song, Raining Blood, a blood-like substance poured down upon the band, soaking them as they pummeled their way through the song’s final refrains. The result? If Slayer didn’t create the musical subgenre “death metal,” they certainly helped to define and popularize it with the release of Reign In Blood. Though clocking in at just over 30 minutes in length, the album’s blistering amalgamation of ferocious guitars, attack-style, machine gun drumming, and screaming, agonized vocals set a standard for musical brutality that still exists almost 20 years later.
But this brutality has as much to do with the lyrical content as it does with the music. Suspense, gore, and dark, frightening images collide in such tracks as Piece By Piece, Necrophobic, Criminally Insane and Postmortem.
“You have no choice of life or death, my face you will not see. I’ll rip your flesh ‘till there’s no breath, dismembered destiny.” —King, Piece By Piece
“Strangulation, mutilation, cancer of the brain/Limb dissection, amputation, from a mind deranged/Asphyxiation, suffocation, gasping for air/Explain to me the feeling after sitting in the chair.” —Hanneman & King, Necrophobic
“In the beginning (of the band), I especially wrote songs that were really horror movie oriented,” says King during the 17-minute documentary titled Slayer: In Their Own Words, which is also featured on the DVD. “Sometimes, I’d even see a movie and say, ‘I’m inspired to (write) something like that.’”
Though the aforementioned documentary discusses the early development of the band (which formed in the early 1980s), it unfortunately does not delve into the writing or recording of Reign In Blood. This certainly seems like a sin of omission, as the DVD is a true celebration of a classic metal release. The documentary does, however, show in some detail how the “Wall of Blood” effect, as it has been dubbed, was created. The effect requires more than 200 gallons of theatrical blood, which is dispersed by a truss and sprinkler system that utilizes a unique pump technology. (The effect was created by a U.S. company but was later recreated by a U.K. company to allow the band to use the effect on their most recent U.S. tour).
Along with the full Reign In Blood live performance, the DVD also contains live performances of six classic Slayer tracks including Mandatory Suicide, Spill The Blood and South Of Heaven.
For “horror music” connoisseurs, Slayer’s Still Reigning is an aptly fiendish representation of an album that helped define an entire genre of music. And hey, the price is right, too! The Still Reigning DVD retails for around $15.
Slayer: Still Reigning (2004)
(Universal Music & Video Distribution)
Directed by Dean Karr
Starring Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, Dave Lombardo
Slayer: In Their Own Words documentary
Booklet with lyrics and photos
Six additional songs
4 out of 5