RICK RUBIN Reflects On His Work On SLAYER's 'Reign In Blood': I Wanted To Hear 'The Precise Tightness' Of The Music

January 16, 2023

In a new interview with Channel 4 News, producer Rick Rubin reflected on his work on SLAYER's classic third album, "Reign In Blood". Released in October 1986 through Def Jam Recordings, the LP was the band's first collaboration with Rubin, whose input helped the band's sound evolve. Kerrang! magazine described the record as "the heaviest album of all time," and a breakthrough in thrash metal and speed metal.

Regarding his approach to recording a band like SLAYER, Rubin said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "When you treat everything the same, it waters down what it is.

"Speed metal was a new thing. The people who were recording speed metal up until 'Reign In Blood' recorded speed metal more like other hard rock or heavy metal. And it's different. It's all different. Everything we make is different.

"If you look at it in hip-hop, if you make it like it's an R&B record, it's an R&B record with somebody rapping," he continued. "If you make it like going to the hip-hop club, It's hip-hop. With speed metal, if you treat it like BLACK SABBATH, it won't do what SLAYER does. In that case, SLAYER is… They play very fast — super fast. And the nature of things that are fast is they come very close together, like the kick drums are, like, super fast. When you listen to LED ZEPPELIN records, the kick drum goes [at a much slower pace]. So if you have someone playing [fast], and you treat it like LED ZEPPELIN, it's just gonna be a blur and noise; you won't hear any of it. And that's what was happening — up until 'Reign In Blood'."

Rubin added: "And this is really… In each case, it comes from my lack of experience, lack of the 'right way' to do it. The 'right way' to record rock drums is the way LED ZEPPELIN did it. But in my mind, not if you're SLAYER. So in some ways, because I wasn't experienced enough to know 'this is how you do it', I'm listening to it for what it is, and for what it is, is this very precise, tight thing. And you wanna hear the precise tightness of it. And up until that point, no one had recorded it that way, because that's just not the way you record things."

"Reign In Blood" was SLAYER's first album to enter The Billboard 200 chart (at No. 94). The LP was certified gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America) on November 20, 1992 for sales in excess of 500,000 copies.

"Reign In Blood"'s release was delayed because of concerns regarding its graphic artwork and lyrical subject matter. The opening track, "Angel Of Death", which refers to Josef Mengele and describes acts such as human experimentation that Mengele committed at the Auschwitz concentration camp, provoked allegations of Nazism. However, the bandmembers stated numerous times they do not condone Nazism, and are merely interested in the subject.

On the topic the controversy surrounding "Reign In Blood"'s lyrical content, SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman previously said, "'Angel Of Death' was a big problem. I remember getting a phone call after the album was done: Sony wasn't going to release it. I remember being at home, pissed, throwing things. What the fuck? I didn't think anything was wrong with 'Angel Of Death' or anything else we did, it's a documentary! There's no 'Heil Hitler' or 'white people rule,' it's a documentary; grow up, people. It took months before they picked it up again. Finally, we got signed by a distributor."

In a 2009 interview with Filter magazine, SLAYER frontman Tom Araya stated about "Reign In Blood", "On that first album [together], Rubin made sure that he recorded. He wanted to duplicate what he was hearing." Guitarist Kerry King added, "It was the first time you actually heard SLAYER in its pure ferocity, and it made a big difference. One funny thing about that album is if it came out today, no one would give a shit. They'd say, 'That's cool.' But at the time it came out it made such a difference. People still reflect on that as a poignant time, where shit changed."

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