Reign in Blood, released on October 7, 1986, is the thrash album, and its first track “Angel of Death” is the Slayer song. The lyrics of “Angel of Death” concern the unspeakable deeds of the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, but I believe the real subject of the song is Tom Araya’s opening scream: an announcement that the Lord of Misrule is back from summer vacation, “shred-ready,” and about to make some total posers eat his dust. A call to mayhem, its effect on a crowd is instantaneous. Dropping the needle on side one of Reign in Blood can transform your garden party from a summer idyll into a hellscape of exploding crockery, crushed sandwiches, and arterial geysers of tea toot sweet.
Having thrown this number into a few DJ sets at bars, I can tell you that patrons enjoy it a lot more than management does. Its signal to kill and destroy emboldens the laborer and frightens the capitalist. Maybe this is a distinctly Southern California phenomenon. In these parts, when one is behind the wheel of one’s Japanese sedan and “Angel of Death” comes out of the speakers, one simply knows to start shrieking, floor the accelerator, and close one’s eyes (or, I suppose, if you are a person of wealth, whimper, pull onto the shoulder, and call for help).
Thirty years is a long time to be conditioned. By now, reaction to this stimulus is involuntary and probably unconscious, too. I’m not sure what my own Pavlovian response would be if I were at a loved one’s funeral and “Angel of Death” came on, but I would not be surprised to find myself whacking my late friend’s body against a load-bearing wall when the music ended and the fog lifted.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of Reign in Blood, the musician and producer Andrew Liles has created a 30-minute version of this monster song. The original was only 4:52. A simple calculation will demonstrate that your new best friend Andrew Liles just made “Angel of Death” six times better for free. It’s the latest in what Liles calls an “ad hoc series of massive extensions of classic tracks.” Like his previous creations, “45 Minutes of Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath for 45 Years” and the Motörhead tribute “Overkill Overkilled by Overkill,” the extended “Angel of Death” is longer than the album on which it first appeared. I can’t help you interpret Liles’ main addition to the track, a female vocalist speaking in German. A non-Germanophone, I can only make out the part where she’s saying “Angel of Death” over and over; as far as I know, the rest of what she’s saying is as likely to come from Sing mit Heino as Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.
This summer, Liles’ 50-minute version of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” spread the Fabs’ lysergic gospel of the void to thousands before it was shut down by the satori-hating copyright police. Get an earful of “30 Minutes of Angel of Death for 30 Years” before “the Man” outlaws it, too.
Incidentally, I highly recommend Liles’ remixes of the first five Current 93 albums, which I have come to prefer to the originals.