Review Summary: Sodom fizzle out as opposed to firing on all cylinders.
As a vital part of the “Teutonic Thrash Trio”, Sodom really don’t need an introduction. Long-time fans of Thrash Metal will have at least heard the chaotic sounds of “Persecution Mania” and “Agent Orange”, those obsessed with the origins of Black Metal will have discovered “Obsessed with Cruelty” and even those with a passion for war-related extreme metal albums will have cried out for another version of “M-16”. Yet as much as I’d like to say that Sodom are firing on all cylinders in the year of 2013, no less than thirty-three years after the band’s formation, I cannot. The main reason for this is because those who are expecting the band’s latest offering, “Epitome of torture”, to surpass the quality found on “In war and pieces”, will be disappointed.The point here is that “Epitome of torture” is everything you would expect from Sodom, and for those who have never heard the band’s chaotic and powerful style of Thrash Metal before, this album could be a decent starting point. Yet with so many other consistently great albums under their belt, it seems that Sodom have finally managed to create an album that underwhelms the expectations of their most devoted fans.
As usual Angelripper’s enigmatic vocal styles are matched by solid instrumentation and well-written yet very predictable lyrical content. “Epitome of Torture” is the first album to feature new drummer Markus “Makka” Freiwald, and on some of the songs such as the thundering anthem ‘S.O.D.O.M’ and equally as brutal ‘Stigmatized’ his drum work powers through mercilessly, albeit not too differently to Bobby Schottkowski. The guitar work as usual is solid for the most part, but it is only when the solo work comes in and eviscerates all other sounds on the title track and ‘Shoot-today-Kill tomorrow’ that Bernemann proves to everyone that his age hasn’t quite caught up with him yet. The heaviness that is given off by his choppy guitar style largely complements each song, even if it isn’t always as consistent as it should be.
Angelripper is well known as a highlight of the band itself, and it cannot be ignored that on songs such as ‘Final bullet’ and ‘Katjuscha’ his throat-ripping vocal style brings a new level of chaos and destruction to the sound. Unfortunately for both Angelripper and Sodom’s fans, you can’t help but feel that on songs such as the rather average ‘Cannibal’ and painfully boring ‘Invocating the demons’ the man’s voice bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Tom Araya’s, and whether he can help it or not, he really sounds on these two songs as if his age has caught up with him. Credit should certainly be given to Angelripper when he tries to ‘sing’ with a somewhat cleaner voice at various points on the album, most clearly on ‘Cannibal’ than any other song, yet this only emphasizes the weaker and more boring aspects of his voice.
“Epitome of torture” isn’t bad in any way, yet with a dedicated fan-base as large as Sodom’s, it would seem that the band had toned down the aggression and chaos that charged albums as excellent as “M-16” and “In war and pieces”. “Epitome of torture” has its brilliant moments, as on the title track, ‘S.O.D.O.M.’ and ‘Stigmatized’, but they are often overshadowed by a hefty amount of average instrumentation and rather weak vocals. Even if this album does complete the album cycle formerly started by Kreator with “Phantom Antichrist” and Destruction with “Spiritual Genocide”, it still cannot be ignored that “Epitome of torture” should have been something better than it actually is. If you’ve heard every other Sodom album, prepare to be disappointed. If you need a decent introduction to Sodom’s trademark sound, you could check this out, but you would be well-advised to check out other albums with a much more interesting sound.