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Erik Hinds - Reign in Blood

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Artist: Erik Hinds

Album: Reign in Blood

Label: Solponticello

Review date: Aug. 7, 2005

One would be hard pressed to uncover any metalhead that didn’t have a “relationship” with the greatest death metal album ever recorded, Slayer’s Reign In Blood. The aforementioned was the de facto soundtrack for weekend mayhem; suburban destruction; the selected sonics for LSD and malt liquor degradation; chest thumping, knuckle dragging, java man’d male bonding.

At one time, I owned Reign In Blood in all three formats, even going so far as to purchase the CD copy two years before I would save enough money to secure a second-hand Kenwood disc player. Myself and like minded rivet-heads “camped out” for Reign In Blood “Do You Want To Die?!” tour tickets: Forty-eight hours of Wild Irish Rose, MD 20/20, and Busch beer swill; blacktop tackle football; boundless car radio mixtaped madness: Overkill, Death Angel, Broken Bones, Megadeth, Samhain, Discharge, Possessed, Celtic Frost, and, of course, Slayer.

Lyrics were memorized. Air guitar and drums were sanded down; refined into the frayed jean-jacket wearing horde’s last recourse. Cover art was burned into the corneas: Jacket’s front showed the unholy marriage of Goya’s grimness and Otto Dix’s cutting collage; back espoused bogus malevolence with teenage bravado: Nail-bitten fingers tearing into a Stella Artois sixer like a possum on a cow’s carcass.

Reign In Blood is a “totalizing” experience; it infects the feet, runs up the limbs and into the ears; slips out of the scalp; covers the chest in a poly/cotton black tee affixed with “slaytanic” semiotic. That being said, if one’s going to tread through Reign’s unforgiving expanse, it must be done deliberately and with more than a modicum of discipline. Reign is not only an album; it’s a fucking mind-set: A time capsule that dissolves into a hormonal black pudding of brutish blood. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Thankfully, Athens’ Erik Hinds is – or was – a metalhead. Only a motorcycle jacket wearing geek could rehash these melodies so lovingly; only a marginalized hair farmer could “cover” an uncoverable album; strip it bare, and manage to come out unscathed, without even smelling vaguely of “Apocalyptica.”

Apocalyptica, looking more like a quartet of Vegas magicians than classical musicians, made the egregious mistake of reworking the majority of post-Cliff Burton Metallica into chamber music for high school band choads. Unfortunately, this misstep failed to call the process of “covering” into question. Ideally, “to cover” should not mean, “to shadow;” to lay a pale sheath of onionskin over an original. Covering should maintain some of the original tune’s integrity, but there’s got to be a contribution from artist to source material. Anything other than well-honed personal homage is cataclysmic karaoke.

Hinds certainly makes a contribution: Much liberty is taken with key and tempo. And better yet, instrumentation is so far from Hanneman and King’s preferred B. C. Rich “Bitches,” that the immediately recognizable opening track “Angel of Death” is rendered entirely unrecognizable. Credit Santa Cruz craftsman Fred Carlson, storied builder of original and traditional guitars for 30+ years, with Hinds’ weapon of choice: The H’arpeggione. With the H’arpeggione, Norwegian folk fiddle and Baroque era “arpeggione” come together in a most unlikely combo, shaping up an upright, 12-string guitar, whose sympathetic strings slip under their own “jiwari” bridge, allowing for the lysergic buzz most associated with India’s sitar or Shruti box.

In Hinds’ hands, the H’arpeggione drones, clicks, clacks, soars, sinks, gurgles and wakes through an odd amalgam of technique. Hinds, who has described his style as “Appalachian trance metal,” empowers his adjectives with Reign In Blood, cutting Bluegrass down to the quick and breathing circular patterns from the nuts and bolts of Hanneman and King’s harmonies, looking back to Evan Parker’s Monocerous and forward to the painfully drowsy permutations of Autechre.

Of Reign’s 10 tracks, only two come close to resembling the originals. “Postmortem” is dealt note-for-note; spidery changes slip into whitewater washes; somehow Hinds’ digits remain dry, flowing right along with relentless linear progression. “Criminally Insane” apes Lombardo’s ride/kick/snare reps with slaps, thumps, and spanks right out of the chamber work repertoire of avant composers Penderecki, or Crumb. Hanneman and King’s razor’d riffs are inhaled and bowed out in abstract smoke. Riff remnants pop up like heat lightning, and reveal themselves in short-lived summer showers. The vertiginous guitar attack of the title track’s body is gloriously gutted; what remains is exsanguinated form.

Where solo records can often walk off experimental cliffs as victims of their own pretension, Hinds’ Reign In Blood stands comfortably on the precipice, delighting in remaking classic riffs of unmatched dexterity, and offering – for once – a valid deconstruction of the original. This is work that whittles down Reign’s source timber, extracting essences from each track as an earthmover raises up roots with its toothy mouth. This process doesn’t hinge on realizing Hinds’ procedure as a bedfellow to process music; like the original’s visceral quality, one’s constantly aware of Hinds’ fingers, wrists, arms and breath.

Metalheads, a fiercely opinionated lot, rarely settle on a classic canon. Outside of Sabbath’s Master of Reality, and Candelmass’ Epicus Doomicus Metallicus the mass remains undecided. That Reign In Blood shares space with the aforementioned is to say much. Revisiting the record is indeed a ponderous dose of nostalgia, but Hinds is here to help those removed from their musical pasts rekindle the “relationship.” Long hair certainly helps, but isn’t required.

By Stewart Voegtlin

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