September 10, 2010

DVD Review: Slayer - Still Reigning

Slayer is one of those metal bands that have left an indelible mark on the genre of thrash metal. They are one of precious few bands that even non-fans have heard of. There is always talk of the big four, and while there are always other influential bands, these four are widely known for a reason. They are that good and have attained a popularity level that transcends their style. In many cases there is an album or two that have pushed them across the line into something of legend. In the case of Slayer I can think of two, one is my favorite album of theirs Seasons in the Abyss and the other is the subject of this concert, Reign in Blood from 1986.

At the time of the albums release I had not yet discovered the power of Tom Araya and crew. While I may have been late to the party, Reign in Blood represents one of my earliest exposures to the band. My childhood friend and huge metal fan, Matthew Byrne (of Hatebreed fame), helped me along my path o metal fandom. The record clocks in at a mere 28-minutes but it is packed with some of the heaviest, fiercest metal you are likely to find.

In 2004, Slayer celebrated the 18th anniversary of the classic's release by taking it on the road and performing it in its entirety. Of course, they play a few other songs leading up to the epic presentation that closes the evening. These songs, at least six of them (I am not sure if this represents the full set or not) include cuts such as "War Ensemble," "Mandatory Suicide," and "Necrophiliac."

The main program for this DVD is the Reign in Blood performance as captured at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine from June of 2004. The band is captured in fine form. There is nothing quite like the charisma that they carry on stage. Considering how little they actually move during their set, they certainly can stir up a lot of energy.

Despite the Reign in Blood set being presented as the bulk of the DVD, I think it is actually a good idea to check out the other six tracks first. Think of them as the warm up to the main event. Get the blood flowing a little, get the energy up, and then you can move onto the primary concert.

From the opening of "Angel of Death" you will be completely in the thrall of metal legends doing what they do best. Yes, it is odd to hear that classic at the beginning of the set, but you have to get the full effect by playing them in order. The cumulative effect is phenomenal as you know what is coming.

There is something else that makes this show special. During the finale, "Raining Blood," they use a specially made sprinkler system to make it literally rain blood on the stage. This show was the first one to feature the blood effect so they were a little anxious to whether it would work or not. Just think about having to play as fast as they do while red fluid is raining down upon you and your instrument. It couldn't be easy, but the effect looks great.

This DVD features something else special. Original drummer Dave Lombardo rejoined the band in 2001 following the release of God Hates Us All and subsequent tour. This is the first released recording of the original four members since 2001's Decade of Aggression. It is like the return of an old friend. Paul Bostaph is a great drummer too, but when it comes to Slayer the guy you are going to think of is Dave Lombardo.

The concert is presented widescreen but for some unknown reason is non-anamorphic, meaning it plays on my widescreen television with bars all the way around. I am sure if I zoomed in it would fill the screen nicely but at a lose of resolution. I can only hope that the screener disk I was provided with was misflagged and that the official release has this corrected as I cannot see it being like this on purpose. As for the rest of the image, it looks decent enough. It has a distinctly video look that features good color representation yet  pretty low level of fine detail. It is fine for the material but it lacks any wow-factor.

Audio is provided in both stereo and 5.1 surround. If you want to feel like you are there, this is definitely one to check out. Whichever flavor you choose you are going to hear Slayer ripping through tunes as if you were there. While it is not the best audio, it does a fine job of translating the live sound to a home experience.

The one lone bonus feature is an interview with the four band members where they talk about the band's origin and how their sound developed. Also included in the 17-minute clip is information leading up the this show from the creation of the sprinkler to hitting the stage for sound check. Not as in depth as it could be, but still worth checking out.

Bottomline. Still Reigning is a phenomenal show, one that any fan of Slayer will want in their collection. From the form the band is in to the fact this is a live performance of one the most memorable metal albums of all time, there is no reason not to have this. This is the third of three Slayer concert releases of late and while I love the performance here, I think that War at the Warfield is the best of the bunch. Don't misunderstand, I may prefer that other release, but I still love this one.


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Article first published as DVD Review: Slayer - Still Reigning on Blogcritics.


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