This song is about Josef Mengele (The Angel Of Death), a doctor at Aushwitz who performed gruesome experiments on prisoners during the Holocaust. Many people who don't fully understand metal or Slayer have branded them Neo-Nazis and Satanists, but the song was written by guitarist Jeff Hanneman because he has an interest in World War II. His father landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Suggestion credit: Steven - Penzance, England
"Angel of Death" has become one of Slayer's signature songs and a classic of the thrash metal genre. It is included in all of their live albums and band-produced DVDs. It also appears in the soundtrack to many films, including Gremlins 2, Jackass: The Movie, and the 2005 documentary Soundtrack to War.
This was one of Rick Rubin's early productions. Slayer were signed to Rubin's Def Jam label, which also had Beastie Boys (that's how Slayer guitarist Kerry King ended up doing the solo on "No Sleep Till Brooklyn"). Def Jam's output was distributed by Columbia, but they refused to issue this one, so Rubin turned to Geffen, which handled the distribution.
Rick Rubin took a different approach to producing this track in order to get a very clean sound. Since Slayer plays very fast, Rubin left the reverb off to keep it from turning to mush. He also boosted the drums, which kept the guitars at bay. He explained in Rolling Stone: "Dave Lombardo is this incredible, unbelievably great drummer. One thing that we did was make the drums louder. The nature of distorted electric guitars is that they sound loud regardless of how loud they are. Whereas drums, because it's a natural instrument, depending on how loud they are in the mix really changes that feeling of how hard they're being hit. If you're in a room with the drums and somebody's hitting them hard, they're much louder. So, psychologically, by making the drums louder, it made everything seem louder."
This song has also been covered by other metal bands, including Monstrosity, Apocalyptica, Asinesia, and the Slayer tribute band Dead Skin Mask. Slayer having headlined Ozzfest several times, "Angel of Death" is also found in compilation albums from the annual hard rock festival.
How did Slayer come to write a song about Josef Mengele, of all people? In the book Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, the interview for Reign in Blood reveals that while the band was touring from their previous album, they did not yet have a tour bus, so they were just driving around in a car, with not much for amusement but paperback books they'd buy at rest stops. Jeff Hanneman ended up reading a book on the topic which sparked his interest.
In Precious Metal, Slayer co-lead guitarist Kerry King has this to say on the controversy over this song: "People get this thought in their heads - especially in Europe - and you'll never talk them out of it. They try to talk you into what they're thinking. When you ask them a question and you give them an answer they don't want, they'll be like 'Well, don't you mean...' And I'm like 'No, dude, I don't mean that.' It's just like, wake up."
A mini-essay about controversy: Why does Slayer go through life with such a target on its chest? Dozens of bands produce material that's far gorier. Almost every heavy metal band you can name pins a pentagram or 666 or other "Satanic" imagery to their album cover. Here is the Reign in Blood album cover, which is part of the reason Def Jam's distributor, Columbia Records, refused to release it - compare it to the work of Hieronymus Bosch. As for subject matter, there's a song out there which makes light of violence against women, murder, mutilation, necrophilia, and cannibalism. That song is "I Hold Your Hand in Mine," by noted satirist Tom Lehrer. Now, where's the protests and picket groups and censorship and album-burning when it comes to Lehrer? Science needs to find out why bands like Slayer draw so much fire while others get a free pass. In the mean time, we're going to have to assume that Slayer is scary while Lehrer and Bosch are not, and so people are reacting based on raw emotions and not on any kind of logic at all.
Janeen Skokani from DearbornI at first thought slayer was just rambling about death and blood when I heard this song when I was 14... then I listened again and realized the lyrics were about the holocaust, specifically, Mengale. That's slayer for you.
Kieran from Brisbane, AustraliaTheir record label boss/manager/close friend Rick Rubin is Jewish FYI.
Luke from Manchester, EnglandJosef Mengale was an evil evil bastard. He'd take prisoners from the cells and experiment on them without anasthesia stopping halfway through without properly stitching the wounds. He'd also take two people and conjoin them, creating a vile, obscene set of "siamese twins" who would die due to the organs not matching up properly.
Eric from ., PanamaI think that we can't hide the real facts of history with a finger. That really happen, Mengele use to do many wrong things ...
Luke from Manchester, EnglandYoseph, why do you list the pyrics when you can get them on the net... just type your thoughts.
Al from Cleveland, OhMan's inhumanity towards man has been Slayers bread and butter for 2 decades!Their music isn't racist or pro-violence, they just state the facts.On the Rollins show on ifc.com they tell you if you don't like it, change the channel.You can't please everyone, and this is America, so we have a right to disagree. But some (not so nice persons) want to change that too.
Dylan from Topeka, KsGoodness gracious frank from philadelphia is so stupid. Why would one member being Chilean make Slayer immune to being racist or nazis?
Yoseph from Cupertino, CaLol the lyrics are so....slayerish....
Auschwitz, the meaning of pain The way that I want you to die Slow death, immense decay Showers that cleanse you of your life
Thats the first part >.>
Kodi from Sydney, CanadaYeah I think the song also has something to do with the Nazi's too. Not sure what though
Brittany from Rainy River, Canadato Brandon from Morristown-Josef Mengele did not favor identical twins, he had a fascination with them-a fascination that led to gruesome experiments. he did not give them better treatment, he just liked experimenting on them moreso than other subjects. and a note on this song-i also learned about the Angel of Death in history class, and as soon as i saw the songs' title, before i even listened to it, i made the connection. its a great song, in my opinion.
John from Hellsinki, FinlandTomás "Tom" Enrique Araya (6.6.1961 Valparaíso, Chile). Dave Lombardo (born February 16, 1965, Havana, Cuba). Frederick Jay "RicK" Rubin (born March 10, 1963 in Lido Beach, New York) is a multiple Grammy Award-winning American Jewish record producer. Josef "Angel Of Death" Mengele (March 16, 1911 ? February 7, 1979), born in Günzburg, Bavaria, eldest of three sons of Karl Mengele (1881?1959), was a German SS officer and a physician in the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Nick from Buda, TxThe Drummer is from Cuba but the 2 guitarists are white
Oliver from Hamburg, GermanyThis morbid fascination with evil is fed by the same childish pleasure as watching old films with vincent price. I love vincent price without loving the deeds protagonists that he plays are doing if they were real. I think, thats what Slayer is and metal has to be like
Joel from Columbia, ScMy Grandfather was in WWII and I have lots of Nazi stuff...Mengle or however it is actually spelled in German was one sick f*ck... Still this is an okay song, not one of my favorties
J from Nyc, NyThis is definitely one of my favorite Slayer songs of all time! The whole song is just constant attack and has great breaks. I never understood why they got so much flack becuase this song was about Mengle; these events unfortunatley did happen, sadly there is real evil in humanity. Oh, to add to band's ethnic diversity, Lombardo (the durmmer) is Cuban.
Brandon from Morristown, TnWhoa school taught me some thing,they did a presentation on this dude and I meade the connection metally,wow I was right.The so called 'Angel Of Death' for some reason loved twins and favored them by giving them easy assignments and better living quarters.He also expirimented with club feet,birth defects among other things.What an sadistic b*st*rd.
Devon from Westerville, Ohthis song is insane. Slayer's two guitarists tear it up on this song.
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI thought his name was Mengle not Mengel, either he was a terrible guy.
Frank from Philadelphia, MsSlayer's lead singer is from Chile and the rest of the band is white. this clearsd up the accusation that Slayer is racist or nazis...
John from Glasgow, Scotlandhey! i wrote that! its been changed!
but anyway, jeff hanneman actually has a penchant for nazis and nazi memorabaellia, after his dad gave him some german medals.