Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: Our Father in Heaven, before we go into battle, every soldier among us will approach you each in his own way. Our enemies too, according to their own understanding, will ask for protection and for victory. And so, we bow before your infinite wisdom. We offer our prayers as best we can. I pray you watch over the young Jack Geoghegan. That I lead into battle. You use me as your instrument in this awful hell of war to watch over them. Especially if they're men like this one beside me, deserving of a future in your blessing and goodwill. Amen.
2nd Lieutenant Jack Geoghegan: Amen.
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: Oh, yes, and one more thing, dear Lord, about our enemies: ignore their heathen prayers and help us blow those little bastards straight to Hell. Amen.
The Vietnam War; the black sheep in our militaries history. On paper, we won. Our casualties were fewer than theirs, but what's on paper isn't always correct. The Vietcong, as they were called, were determined fighters, and poor military strategy lead to our loss. Not only were we shamed, but during the war, our country was fiercely divided. A strong left-wing movement viciously attacked supporters of the war, troops, and the government which sent them there, as a strong right-wing movement demanded more action to be taken in this seemingly small, God-forsaken country. Many claimed it wasn't our war; others believed it was necessary to be there to fight off communism. Whatever the belief, it is widely accepted that we went in confident with our military, assuring the masses back at home that we'd emerge victorious within a few weeks. A few weeks became a few months, and a few months blurred into a few years. And overtime, it became common to turn on your TV to the horrors of war, displayed for all to see.
There's no doubt that we could've won that war in my mind. We were superior fighters, had access to more sophisticated weaponry, and we had better training. But the Vietcong had two things going for them: Determination, and the home-field advantage. Put those two together, and its enough to make any General's head hurt. But now, even nearly 30 years later, the horrors of Vietnam still ring throughout our society. Veterans from that war are still plagued with the atrocities committed: The ransacked and brutalized villages, the dehumanizing of life in the jungle, and the brutal traps the Vietcong laid in store for them on their patrols. The heat and humidity of the country was enough to drive a man insane, which many did, and if that didn't get you, the Vietcong would.
Maybe that's why I found the album "M-16
" so interesting. I had never heard of the band Sodom
before, until I was browsing the internet a few days back and stumbled across them. It listed them as 'Thrash' so I took a look into what they had done. Immediately, "M-16
" caught my eye, just from the name of it. At first, I thought it was just a smart-use of well-known weapon name, but after reading about it, I understood that it was more. It was Sodom's
attempt to recreate the Vietnam war through their music. Yes, this is a concept album, and I understand that no matter how hard Sodom
tried, they could never fully achieve to resurrect the sins of this war into their music. But oh, how they came close...
Marines: This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.
It might be hard for many others to do besides myself, but when I close my eyes and let my mind drift, "M-16
" carries it the jungles of Nam, were my family fought, were men died (physically and mentally), and humanity turned its head. The songs off this album not only demonstrate this, but they paint the picture of the war. "Among the Weirdcong
", "I Am the War
", and "Minejumper
" are all thurst-forward guitar assaults, with enough hot lead to pierce through a bunker. Each of these songs attempt to imitate the insanity found during the conflict, and the buzzing guitar from Bernemann only intensifies it. Others, like "Little Boy
", "Cannon Fooder
", and "M-16
" are all inhumane in their own right; featuring sinister and malicious riffs that reflect the soldiers thoughts of horror. It's not so much that the riffs are enjoyable, which they are, it's more so that throughout the trip of this album, images of our troops fighting and dying can be seen. Bernemann's guitar work is astounding, as his arsenal, while implemented in the basic-thrash category of palm mutes, is complexed by his desire to be uncertain, much so to mirror the uncertainty of war. His guitar could be considered this albums own standard issued M-16 rifle, as not only is it reliable throughout all the songs, it packs more than enough punch to take down even the most picky listener. It's a brilliant take that will intrigue not only musicians, but thinkers as well.
Jenny Curran: Were you scared in Vietnam?
Forrest Gump: Yes. Well, I-I don't know. Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out... and then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bayou. There was always a million sparkles on the water... like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It's so beautiful.
There's beauty to be found in destruction at points. During war, a common sight, such as a sunset, can seem like the most beautiful display amidst the carnage. Such is another take that Bernemann has achieved. Actually, the best songs off this album are when Bernemann advances his style to a more calm/melodic approach, giving off a sense of wonder and serenity. Take for instance "Napalm in the Morning
". Think of it for a second: Napalm, a gasoline based weapon that incinerates everything it touches, and combine it with the tranquility of morning. It's like mixing beauty and the beast. And Bernemann accomplishes just that. A slow, soothing guitar that seems to float across the sky before it plummets straight down to Earth with a roar of power underneath it, only to still be met with a beautiful lead part before it crunches onward with a barrage of brutal riffs. It's as if a soldier were to pause during the middle of battle to look at a wild flower in its beauty, only to be shot in the gut and reminded where he was. And "Genocide
", while upfront and violent, has an underlined sense of melody scattered throughout. "Marines
" experiments even further, with an Eastern-sounding lead guitar that seems to want peace before it's met with a furious chugging riff that shows no limits in its mercilessness. Both of those songs imitate that even though a country is shredded and torn apart, there is still beauty to be found, but there will always be grave signs of war throughout.
Private Joker: Are those... live rounds?
Private Gomer Pyle: Seven-six-two millimeter. Full metal jacket.
If Bernemann's guitar work in the riff category can be compared to a rifle, then his solos are the ammunition. High-piercing, chaotic, and in a pure frenzy, the solos that he fires off left and right only reflect the magnitude of insanity found in the tracks. There's hardly any melody scattered throughout them, save maybe on "Napalm in the Morning
", and when he mixes some melody on "M-16
". The rest are straight up shredders, mowing down anything in their path. On "Among the Weirdcong
", Bernemann sets the tone for the entire album, matching the songs ferocity with his own. The solos are truly a sight within themselves, and they are no small feat to accomplish. They ricochet off every surface and will always redirect straight for your cranium.
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: Broken Arrow!
Artillery support is critical in every battle. He who controls artillery controls the landscape. And what better way to compliment the artillery than with Bobby Schottkowski's drum work? Fast paced, death-pounding, and destructive, his double-bass pedal-and-snare combo knows no boundaries or borders. His opening military-style drum roll to "Among the Weirdcong
" is enough to make anyone snap straight to attention, arms clasp to their sides. And when things get complex, like on "Lead Injection
" or "Marines
", you better believe he's right there, dropping bone-crushing drum patterns and keeping the songs together. His drumming, however, doesn't really compliment the theme of Vietnam as much as the other elements though, but a drummer with skill was necessary to keep the feel of the song together, and Bobby is a superb candidate for that.
Willard: Hey soldier, do you know whose in command here?
Soldier: Ain't you?
This experience would be nothing without Tom Angelripper's vocals and lyrics. His part in this album is so crucial that without it, it would fail miserably. You'd be left with some great muscianship, but the feeling of the concept would be lost, and this was not the point of the album. Tom's vocals are frantic, throaty, and gurgled. They give off a sense of urgency and mental lunacy that makes each song feel as if it was part of the war. Take for instance on "Marines
" where he changes his voice from a frothing scream to a more sneering sound as if he were to be mocking himself to mimic the shock-syndrome rampant throughout the Marine Corp. Or on "Minejumper
" where he continually chants his lines as if he was going paranoid. On the opener, "Among the Weirdcong
", Tom goes into such a maniacal rant during the chorus that a picture of him with his eyes rolled-up white and drooling is implanted into my mind. During the track "Cannon Fodder
", he chops up his voice with such growing ferocity that it demands respect in its own. And his lyrics, also, border between the line of sanity and insanity with every word. Take for instance when he starts to viciously rant out "Free fire zone with my M-16, Vendetta burns inside!
" on the title track. And when he begins to reflect on the uncertainty of enemy locations on "Cannon Fodder
" by screaming out "I feel like someone's watching me, Don't know where the enemy is. The night brings bad dreams to my mind...
", the tension level only builds. Relating pleasure to combat, Tom snarls "Caught beneath my blood erection, Lead Injection!
" on "Lead Injection
". Perhaps the best lines deal with the actual army itself on "Marines
" with Tom snickering out lines such as "You hear the mine clicking under your feet, You know you have to go. You hear the trigger of a foreign gun, To bury all your hope!
And two of the best moments, vocally, off this album aren't even from Tom. They're from audio samples from the movies "Apocalypse Now
" and "Full Metal Jacket
". "Napalm in the Morning
" uses the infamous quote of "I love the smell of napalm in the morning...smelled like...victory
" to kick the song off before Bernemann comes in with his passive guitar lead. And during the bridge of "Marines
", a cadence chant is used for added image for the song.
Lance: Disneyland? F*ck, man, this is better than Disneyland!
This album is one in a few. The level of intensity that's present throughout is almost unmatched, just because of the fact that it's about Vietnam, one of the most tragic events in our countries history. I understand that a movie can only portray a small fraction of the destruction of real war, and therefore, this album must display an even smaller fraction. But while it only does that, it seems to walk away with more accomplished. It's frenzied and luniatical approach to the war worked more than I believe it was intended to, and if you are like me and can truly let your mind drift to this album, you'll find yourself in the jungles of Vietnam...
Honestly, I can't decide. Sometimes I think I've figured out what the best tracks are, and then I'll start to love two others. But if I really had to choose four (which are currently my favorites):
Napalm in the Morning
Quotes (In order):
We Were Soldiers
Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket
We Were Soldiers
Apocalypse Now (last two)
NOTE* - For those of you who aren't that big into Thrash, I have a hard time seeing you enjoy this. If you can't sit through a Thrash album and leave happy, then this really isn't for you. Yes, the concept is great, but if you can't stand the music, how will you enjoy it? Bottom line is if you love/enjoy Thrash, get this now. If you don't, you probably won't view this as dramatic as I do.