“Angel of Death” from Reign in Blood
This song is the national anthem of heavy metal, it’s own “Stairway to Heaven.” From the earth shattering scream that Araya hits as the song opens to the breakdown that’s been sampled by Public Enemy and KMFDM, Hanneman’s ode to Dr. Josef Mengele sets the tone for the rest of Slayer’s finest 29:03. It’s Slayer at their most aggressive, and it’s all Hanneman.
– Bram Teitelman
“Altar of Sacrifice” from Reign in Blood
It’s not the most popular song from their most popular album, but “Altar of Sacrifice” may be the most underrated song Jeff Hanneman ever wrote (at least that he penned on his own, minus the lyrics).
One time a pretty girl asked me why I loved metal music so much and I put this album on and forwarded directly to this track. She sat there, somewhat horrified, simultaneously listening to the lyrics and my story of how this song was the first song I had ever heard that actually scared me as a child, that actually made me fearful that Satan himself was stealing my soul upon first listen (Which, of course, meant that I must dig further into the depths of metal to reveal more about what makes the human heart beat faster in the dark). There were songs I’ve loved more, songs that had a bigger impact on my desire to search out heavier music. But when I wanted a song that I knew, deep down, was going to truly convey the fear and the awe that I felt when I first heard this track at the ripe old age of 11 (a thousand thank yous to my boyhood friend and his trashy older brother with the massive metal collection) I reached for this song before any other.
When the final notes came to a slowing halt, and the echo of a surreal and ghoulish guitar solo was still hanging in the air, just before “Jesus Saves” kicks in, the pretty girl turned to me and in complete seriousness and concern said, “Where was your mother?!?” Mom couldn’t help me on that fateful day…
– Chip McCabe