6. Slayer, 'Reign in Blood' (1986)
Reign in Blood, the first and last word on speed metal, starts at 210 beats per minute with the song "Angel of Death," and it barely lets up for the next 29 blistering minutes. Its 10 songs are built on Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's rigid guitar riffs and abstract-expressionistic solos – metal's equivalent to a Pollock paint splatter – all while drummer Dave Lombardo pounds out Olympic-ready tempos and singer-bassist Tom Araya hails Satan. But what set the band's third album apart from Metallica, Exciter, Venom and all the other speed demons of the era was the way producer Rick Rubin, who'd made his name in hip-hop working with the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, stripped the album of the echoey reverb in vogue at the time for a sound that seemed to punch you in the gut. "With their super-fast articulation in a big room, the whole thing just turns into a blur," Rubin said in 2016. "So you don't get that crystal clarity. So much of what Slayer was about was this precision machinery." It's what makes whirring declarations in the name of death like "Necrophobic" and "Criminally Insane" all the more impactful and the record's final cut, "Raining Blood" – with its ominous intro – all the more terrifying. And it no doubt did them no favors with "Angel of Death," a song about Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, which has lyrics that would have been incoherent with the typical rock production of the day; its lyrics outraged Holocaust survivors and cost the LP a distribution deal with Columbia, leading it to come out on Geffen. Writer Hanneman claimed the tune was a "history lesson." Nevertheless, it solidified Slayer's legacy of controversy and their need for speed. "We were young, we were hungry, and we wanted to be faster than everybody else," Araya once said. K.G.