Review Summary: Sodom's second attempt is definitely their best. Hands down.
Sodom are one of the “Big Three” of so-called “Teutonic Thrash” that includes Destruction and Kreator, and share their country with other savage acts such as Tankard and Exumer. Their 1987 album “Persecution Mania” stands out as one of the highlights of an already-superb scene, filled with great vocals (delivered in a German-accented bark), blistering riffs, and energetic drum beat, delivered by the mighty Chris Witchhunter, who tragically passed away a few years ago. In many ways, Sodom’s musical output during this time period could be compared to the trajectory that Sepultura took, in the sense that both were sloppy, raw, extreme black/death metal bands that tightened their sound and changed direction to produce several fine thrash metal albums (and Motorhead covers!).
“Persecution Mania” is one of those albums that goes straight for the throat right from the beginning, kicking things off with “Nuclear Winter”, one of Sodom’s most well-known tracks. The five-and-a-half minute thrasher details the common thrash theme of, what else?, nuclear war, a theme that shows up consistently in Sodom’s lyrics. The music matches the intensity of the lyrical delivery, especially when a “Disposable Heroes”-esque bridge riff is played at around the three-and-a-half minute mark that places the listener in the middle of an apocalyptic wasteland.
Luckily, Sodom is not a band that uses up all their energy on the first track, and “Electrocution” matches “Nuclear Winter” in terms of quality and speed. In fact, the entire album is astonishingly consistent, which is one of the reasons that “Persecution Mania” is widely revered as one of Sodom’s best, along with their 1989 masterpiece “Agent Orange”. Even in the album’s slower moments, there are still plenty of spots that are meant to inspire whiplash-inducing head banging. The guitar solos are handled well, and are a little more melodic than the usual extreme thrash fare, although in this case, “melodic” means “as opposed to atonal” (for atonal solos, see anything off Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”) and shouldn’t be an indicator of commercial traits, as nothing even vaguely commercial appears on the album.
Other standouts include album closer “Bombenhagel” and the Motorhead cover “Iron Fist”. Keep in mind, there aren’t any real low points on the album, and while some would say that this album sounds monotonous due to the lack of variety in the songwriting, many fans would counter that remark with the statement that this lack of variation helps create a consistent feel throughout the album (see Sepultura’s “Beneath the Remains” for a superb album that has faced similar criticism). There is one track that stands out from the rest, the interlude “Procession to Golgotha”, which contains some doomy guitar playing accompanied by haunting keyboards that contribute a substantial atmosphere to the song, and one can imagine being led on a death march to the Place of Skulls, and given the song’s title, this is likely intended. It’s a perfect lead-in to the next song, “Christ Passion”, a six-minute riff monster that contains some of the album’s best moments.
The production is very clear and crisp on this album, particularly with regard to the drums, which rarely cease in delivering thrashy beats. Tom Angelripper’s bass often utilizes distortion to great effect, especially in the title track and the aforementioned “Iron Fist”. The guitar tone is just right for thrash metal, as it’s very crunchy and enhances the quality of the many riffs on this album. The mixing is very good as well, as all the instruments are located perfectly in the mix. Apparently, the band self-produced this one, which proved to pay off, as “Outbreak of Evil” would sound quite different with a change of production style.
If you want to purchase this album (and if you’re, a thrash fan, you probably should) acquiring the version with the bonus tracks is highly recommended, as “Outbreak of Evil” and “Sodomy and Lust” (a tune often covered by Texas thrashers Hexlust) are among the band’s best tracks. Even if you can only get the standard, nine-track album, it’s well worth it, since this is one thrash classic that headbangers shouldn’t be without.