Angel of Death (song)


Angel of Death (song)

Infobox Song
Name = Angel of Death


Caption = 1992 bootleg release
Artist = Slayer
Album = Reign in Blood
Released = October 7, 1986
track_no = 1
Recorded = Los Angeles, California
Genre = Thrash metal
Length = 4:51
Label = Def Jam
Writer = Jeff Hanneman
Producer = Rick Rubin
prev =
next = "Piece by Piece"
prev_no =
next_no = 2

"Angel of Death" is the opening track on the American thrash metal band Slayer's 1986 album "Reign in Blood". The lyrics and music were written by Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman and are based on Nazi physician Josef Mengele, who conducted human experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. "Angel of Death" led to the band facing false accusations of Nazi sympathizing and racism throughout their career.

Despite the controversy surrounding the song and its contribution to the delay in the release of "Reign in Blood", "Angel of Death" is featured on all of Slayer's live albums and DVDs and has appeared in several movies. The song was well received by critics; Steve Huey of Allmusic described it as a "classic."cite web
title=((( Reign in Blood - Review )))
author=
publisher=Allmusic
date=
url=http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=ADFEAEE5731ADE49A87520D0853B56C6B623A258FE4EFB87126E5F56C8FB304BC31777FD70C38F97E8F33DD235ADE02CA1450DD3CAE91AF8D665343789EFB61145&sql=10:7mdkyl7jxpvb~T1
accessdate=2007-07-03
]

Composition and origins

Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman wrote "Angel of Death" after reading books about Nazi physician Josef Mengele while on tour with the band: "I remember stopping someplace where I bought two books on Mengele. I thought, 'This has gotta be some sick shit.' So when it came time to do the record, that stuff was still in my head—that’s where the lyrics to “Angel of Death” came from."

The lyrics detail Mengele's surgical experiments on patients at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.cite web
title=SLAYER's KING Says RICK RUBIN's Collaboration With METALLICA Was 'Slap In The Face'
publisher=Blabbermouth.net
date=2006-06-01
url=http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=54475
accessdate=2007-03-21
] cite web
title=Slayer is up for a Grammy — before the end times, that is.
author=Brown, Ashley
publisher=Kansascity.com
date=2007-02-03
url=http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/entertainment/16608988.htm
accessdate=2007-03-21
] Mengele's explorations were conducted on such groups as dwarfs and twins, and included both physical and psychological examinations.cite web
title = Josef Mengele
publisher = auschwitz.dk
url =http://www.auschwitz.dk/Mengele/id17.htm
accessdate=2007-02-21
] cite web
title = moreorless : heroes & killers of the 20th century - Josef Mengele
publisher = Moreorless.com
date=2001-04-30
url=http://www.moreorless.au.com/killers/mengele.html
accessdate =2006-12-01
] Among the tests he performed that are mentioned in "Angel of Death" are experimental surgeries performed without anesthesia, transfusion of blood between twins, the sewing of bodies, isolation endurance, gassing, injections with lethal germs, sex change operations, and the removal of organs and limbs.cite web
title=Westworld Online interview with Kerry King
author=Roberts, Michael
publisher=Slayersaves.com
date=
url=http://www.slayersaves.com/interviews_kerry3.htm
accessdate=2007-03-21
]

Controversy

The lyrical content of "Angel of Death" contributed to the delay of the release of Slayer's 1986 album "Reign in Blood". The band were signed to Def Jam Records whose distributor, Columbia Records, refused to release the album due to lyrical themes and artwork concerns, deeming the artwork "too graphic". "Reign in Blood" was eventually distributed by Geffen Records on October 7, 1986. However, due to the controversy, "Reign in Blood" did not appear on Geffen Records official release schedule.

"Angel of Death" caused outrage among survivors of the Holocaust, as well as their families and the general public. The controversy lead to accusations of Nazi sympathizing which have followed Slayer throughout their career.cite web
title = An exclusive oral history of Slayer
publisher = Decibel Magazine
url = http://www.decibelmagazine.com/features_detail.aspx?id=4566
accessdate = 2006-12-03
] People took Hanneman's interest in Nazi history and his collection of Nazi medals as evidence of sympathizing – his most prized item being a German Knight’s Cross.cite web
title = SLAYER - Jeff Hanneman
author = Lahtinen, Lexi
publisher = Metal-rules.com
date = 2006-12-18
url = http://www.metal-rules.com/zine/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=737&Itemid=60
accessdate = 2006-12-27
] Hanneman counteracted asserting: quote|"I know why people misinterpret it – it's because they get this knee–jerk reaction to it. When they read the lyrics, there's nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he was a bad man, because to me – well, isn't that obvious? I shouldn't have to tell you that."cite web
title = Knac.com interview with Jeff Hanneman
author = Davis, Brian
publisher = Knac.com
url = http://www.knac.com/article.asp?ArticleID=3153
accessdate = 2006-12-13
]
According to guitarist Kerry King: "Yeah, Slayer are Nazis, fascists, communists—all that fun shit. And of course we got the most flak for it in Germany. I was always like, 'Read the lyrics and tell me what’s offensive about it. Can you see it as a documentary, or do you think Slayer’s preaching fucking World War II?' People get this thought in their heads—especially in Europe—and you’ll never talk them out of it."

The song drew accusations of racism, although the band denied these claims. In addition, the band's producer and close friend Rick Rubin has Jewish ancestry, their vocalist Tom Araya is Chilean, their drummer Dave Lombardo is Cuban, and King had a guest appearance on the Jewish hip hop group Beastie Boys' song "No Sleep till Brooklyn". The band members are often asked about the accusations in interviews, and have stated numerous times that they do not condone racism and are merely interested in the subject.cite web
title = Slayers Tom Araya on Satanism, serial killers and his lovable kids
author = Cummins, Johnson
publisher =MontrealMirror.com
url = http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2002/012402/music1.html
accessdate = 2006-12-02
]

In 2006, the song "Jihad" from Slayer's 2006 album "Christ Illusion" drew comparison to "Angel of Death".cite web
title = Slayer expects blacklash with 'Jihad'
author = Kornelis, Chris
publisher = spokane7.com
date = 2006-06-14
url = http://www.spokane7.com/music/stories/?ID=3613
accessdate = 2007-02-21
] "Jihad" deals with the September 11, 2001 attacks, and tells the story from a terrorist's perspective. Vocalist Araya was expecting the subject matter to create a similar backlash to that of "Angel of Death", although it did not materialise,cite web
title = LiveDaily Interview: Tom Araya of Slayer
author = Gargano, Paul
publisher = LiveDaily.com
date = 2007-01-25
url = http://www.livedaily.com/interviews/LiveDaily_Interview_Tom_Araya_of_Slayer-11402.html?t=1
accessdate = 2007-02-21
] in part, he believes, due to peoples' view that the song is "just Slayer being Slayer".cite web
title = SLAYER - Jeff Hanneman
author = Lahtinen, Luxi
publisher = Metal-rules.com
date = 2006-12-18
url = http://www.metal-rules.com/zine/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=737&Itemid=60
accessdate = 2006-12-27
]

Music and structure

"Angel of Death" is the longest track on the album "Reign in Blood", spanning 4:51 minutes, where the total duration of the album is 28 minutes. Additionally, it has the one of the most conventional song structures on the album, featuring prominent verses and choruses, where most tracks on the album eschew them. Hanneman and King deliver their 'intricate riffs', which offer the few hints of melody on the album according to Pop Matters reviewer Adrien Begrand, and Araya bursts out his piercing scream,cite web
title =The Devil in Music
author = Begrand, Adrien
publisher = Popmatters.com
url = http://www.popmatters.com/music/reviews/s/slayer-soundtrack.shtml
accessdate = 2007-02-22
] with Lombardo performing at an average of 210 beats per minute.cite web
title=Andrew Haug speaks with Dave Lombardo from Slayer
author=Haug, Andrew
publisher=Abc.net.au
date=2006-10-13
url=http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/racket/listen/audio_alpha_S.htm
accessdate=2007-02-09
]

When drummer Lombardo left the band in 1992, due to conflicts with band members and his desire to bring his wife on tour,cite web|title=Meet the new Slayer, same as the old Slayer|author=Patrizio, Andy|publisher= IGN|date=2006-08-14|url=http://au.music.ign.com/articles/725/725459p1.html|accessdate =2006-12-01] the band chose Forbidden drummer Paul Bostaph as his replacement. Bostaph made one mistake out of the nine songs the band trialled him with, on "Angel of Death".cite web |title= PAUL BOSTAPH of Exodus, ex-Slayer |author=Syrjälä, Marko |publisher=Metal-Rules.com |date=2007-02-05 |url=http://www.metal-rules.com/zine/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=797&Itemid=60
accessdate=2007-03-07
] Before the "big double bass part" there's a lead section, which Bostaph could not understand, as he had to learn from live records recorded with Lombardo. Bostaph could not tell how many revolutions the guitar riff goes before the bass sequence. The band members told him there was eight, "perfecting" the song after.

Reception

Although "Angel of Death" did not enter any charts, it received strong praise from critics in reviews for "Reign in Blood". Clay Jarvas of Stylus Magazine noted that the song "smokes the asses of any band playing fast and/or heavy today. Lyrically outlining the horrors to come, while musically laying the groundwork for the rest of the record: fast, lean and filthy."cite web
title = Slayer Reign in Blood
author = Jarvis, Clay
publisher = Stylus Magazine
date = 2003-09-01
url = http://www.stylusmagazine.com/reviews/slayer/reign-in-blood.htm
accessdate = 2007-02-18
]

Adrien Begrand of "Popmatters" remarked that "There's no better song to kick things off than the masterful "Angel of Death", one of the most monumental songs in metal history, where guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman deliver their intricate riffs, drummer Dave Lombardo performs some of the most powerful drumming ever recorded, and bassist/vocalist Tom Araya screams and snarls his tale of Nazi war criminal Joseph Mengele."cite web
title =The Devil in Music
author = Begrand, Adrien
publisher = Popmatters.com
date = 2004-01-23
url = http://www.popmatters.com/music/reviews/s/slayer-soundtrack.shtml
accessdate = 2007-02-22
]

Capitalizing on the publicity generated by the controversy, the band utilized Nazi imagery by adapting a logo to one similar to the eagle atop swastika, during the "Seasons in the Abyss" period. Hanneman placed SS stickers on his guitar, and wrote "SS-3" a song about Reinhard Heydrich, the second in command in the Schutzstaffel organization.cite web|title=Master of Death - Heydrich|publisher=Auschwitz.dk|url=http://www.auschwitz.dk/Heydrich.htm|accessdate=2007-01-26]

Appearances

"Angel of Death" has appeared in several movies, including ""; in a scene when the gremlin Mohawk is turning into a spider.cite web
title = Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
publisher = Joblo.com
url = http://www.joblo.com/arrow/reviews.php?id=399
accessdate = 2007-02-18
] It appears in "" during a car stunt,cite web
title = JACKASS CD
publisher = Cduniverse.com
url = http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/5272446/a/Jackass.htm
accessdate = 2007-02-18
] and features in the 2005 Iraq War documentary "Soundtrack to War", which details the role of music on the contemporary battlefield.cite web
title = Soundtrack to war
publisher = Soundtracktowar.com
url = http://www.soundtracktowar.com/
accessdate = 2007-02-18
] The half–time riff was sampled by Public Enemy in their 1988 song "She Watch Channel Zero", the song "Godlike" from "KMFDM", and featured in the multi–platform video game "Tony Hawk's Project 8". Nolan Nelson, who selected the soundtrack for the game asserts the song is "one of the greatest heavy metal songs ever recorded. Don’t know who Slayer is? I feel sorry for you."cite web
title = Electro vs. Metal – Music is the key of life.
author =
publisher = IGN.com
date =
url = http://blogs.ign.com/Project8team/2006/11/07/36240/
accessdate = 2007-02-18
]

A Slayer tribute band called Dead Skin Mask released an album with eight Slayer tracks, "Angel of Death" being one of them.cite web
title=SLAYER Tribute Band DEAD SKIN MASK To Release CD
author=
publisher=Blabbermouth.net
date=2004-12-23
url=http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=30716
accessdate=2007-03-11
] The death metal band Monstrosity covered the song,cite web
title=Interview With Monstrosity's Lee Harrison
author=Lehtinen, Arto
publisher=Metal-Rules.com
date=
url=http://metal-rules.com/interviews/Monstrosity-2003.htm
accessdate=2007-03-14
] and the track was featured on classical band Apocalyptica's 2006 album "Amplified / A Decade of Reinventing the Cello".cite web
title=APOCALYPTICA: 'Amplified' Collection To Feature New Recordings
author=
publisher=Blabbermouth.net
date=2004-04-04
url=http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=50571
accessdate=2007-03-21
] "Al Sur Del Abismo (Tributo Argentino A Slayer)", a Slayer tribute CD compiled by Hurling Metal Records, featured sixteen tracks covered by Argentina metal bands, Asinesia covered "Angel of Death".cite web
title=SLAYER: Argentine Tribute Album Detailed
author=
publisher=Blabbermouth.net
date=2006-06-10
url=http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=53522
accessdate=2007-03-11
] A compilation album of bands that have been featured in the Ozzfest line-up, of which Slayer have headlined multiple times, features "Angel of Death".cite web
title= Ozzfest: Second Stage Live
author=
publisher=Allmusic
date=
url=http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:kpfuxqq0ldte
accessdate=2007-03-25
] German Death-Metal band Debauchery covered Angel of Death on their 2008 album Continue To Kill.Also melodic death metal band Norther, Viking metal band Ensiferum, and Wintersun(multiple genres in metal) have played Angel of Death live together. "Angel of Death" is the first track featured on Slayer's compilation box set "Soundtrack to the Apocalypse". The song is also featured on the live album "Decade of Aggression" and the music DVDs "Live Intrusion", "War at the Warfield" and "Still Reigning".

References


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