I was asked the other day, “Grant, out of all the music that’s available to you, why do you listen to thrash metal the most"!”
I responded by reaching into my desk, and pulling out the cover of “Sodom
” and showing them the picture of the half-man, half-cyborg machine with a mini-gun and a chainsaw for arms.
I figured I had proven my point, until he said that it was the lamest picture that he’d ever seen, so I actually had to vocally explain myself. So, with only mentioning Slayer
about 12 times, I told him how much I enjoyed the aggression, the simplicity, and the frantic feeling it puts out. I brought up other bands like Kreator
, and Destruction
, and pointed out why I enjoy each band as much as I did. And of course, I talked about Sodom
After repeated listens, Sodom
might be one of the most original thrash bands to come out after “The Big Four” (Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer), since they originally started off as a black metal band. After a few tweaks here and there, Sodom
began to slowly transform in a pure-breed thrash attack, but they never really lost their sense of extreme metal roots. Bits and pieces of black and death metal can be found all across their work, mainly in albums like “Tapping the Vein
” and “Code Red
”. And while they’ve had their fair share of lackluster albums (one needs to look no further than “Better off Dead
”), they’ve always seemed to come right back out, fists swinging left and right.
And then, came their masterpiece: “M-16
”. While many fans will probably whine and argue with me and proclaim “Agent Orange
”as their pinnacle, I’d have to disagree. “M-16
” was a truly rare thrash album, complete with no filler, amazing instrumentals, and an actual purpose. But unfortunately, after such a complete album, bands usually dip. And this is almost the case with their self-titled debut, which still had much of the sound from “M-16
”, but lost some of the unique flavor that it brought to the table.
Containing hard-hitting riffs and a blasting double bass, “Sodom
” fits right at home with any other thrash album. Brutal songs such as “Lords of Depravity
”, “No Captures
”, and “Nothing to Regret
” are fired straight out of a gun, hurling at you with no signs of slowing down and a power that is a force to be reckoned with. Bernemann’s guitar work is still incredibly unique, as while he still is imbedded in the common use of grinding palm mutes (as with most thrash guitarists), he seems to vary them up, creating a more intriguing sound. Just once listen to that flamenco guitar intro to “Blood on Your Lips
” should be proof enough. But “City of God
” is another prime example of this, since it starts of with just a straight ahead guitar before Bernemann takes off and creates an almost Gothenburgish riff that propels the song to a whole new level. And he also infuses some melody on that track, as well as on “Buried in the Justice Ground
”, “Nothing to Regret
” and “Lay Down the Law
”. On “Lay Down the Law
”, he once again unleashes another stunning Gothenburg type riff that takes an ordinary chorus and causes it to be stuck in your head. But when he wants to get the point across, he can get it done with ease. “Bibles and Guns
”, while being the best on the album, features some of the most simple riffs, as their purpose is strictly to overpower you. “Wanted Dead
” and especially the lighting-fast “Lords of Depravity
” follow in the same footsteps. One of the cooler moments on this album is during “Axis of Evil
” where he quickly shifts from a vicious riff to an undistorted, serene one within a matter of seconds ; a complete turn around that is a welcome change.
His solos, also, are of top quality. Just like on “M-16
”, he wails all over the place. The whammy-bar dive bombing on “Wanted Dead
” is not only by the books, but he mixes in some effects near the end to give off a slightly spaced-out feeling, which surprisingly makes it more enjoyable. Most of his solos are of that nature, except on tracks like “The Enemy Inside
” and “City of God
” where he incorporates some great use of melody on the solos to make them flow easier into the songs atmosphere. “Bibles and Guns
” probably takes the cake for the best solo on this album, with a perfect switch off of insanity and tranquility.
Tom Angelripper’s vocals are still as they have been: rasped and cruel. While he isn’t as fanatic and psychotic as on “M-16
”, he still does a great job here. His fast-talking approach on “Lords of Depravity
” and “No Regrets
” rockets the song forward, while his slower wail “Axis of Evil
” give off a sickly feel. And while he doesn’t really go outside his vocal range on the melody infuses tracks like “Buried in the Justice Ground
”, he doesn’t really have to since Bernemann matches his sound for him. He also uses an almost death-growl on the opener, which gives off a slight bit of insanity. But once again, the best work is on “Bibles and Guns
”, since he seems to sound a bit annoyed and frustrated throughout the whole song, giving off a wonderful atmosphere. His bass work is also slightly better on this album, as more songs take a quick pause to let him throw out fills, like on “Bibles and Guns
” and his slight mini-solo on “Axis of Evil
”. But is it anything to gawk at" Not really; it’s just a nice change-up in the sound.
Tom’s lyrics aren’t nearly as creative as the last few albums, however. On “Lords of Depravity
”, Tom shouts out the painfully dull lines of “Now I'll rape, I'll slash, I'll dominate, I will degrade
”. Yawn. Honestly, it seems like he wants to fall into the stereotypical lyrical theme for thrash metal. I mean, with other lyrics such as “These haunting memories, The evil men are killing blindly
” (“Blood On Your Lips
”), it just doesn’t seem Tom is really trying compared to the ones that he had on “M-16
”. But tracks like “Bibles and Guns
” and “Law Down the Low
” offer redemption. “Lay Down the Law
” cries out : “So take my hand I'll be your guide, Bloodstains on the desert ground. On the battlefield of wrath, Who starts the war machine"
”. “Bibles and Guns
”, yet again, has the best performance, mostly due to Tom’s annoyed voice when he shouts out:“When even life's collapse begins, it’s just what we need: bibles and guns!
But there are some small things that really keep this album down. For starters, most of these riffs, while unique in thrash, just don’t come close to most of their earlier material. And some of these songs fall into the repetitive factor, especially when “Nothing to Regret
” and “Lords of Depravity
” almost sound alike except for some melody on “No Regrets
”. This could be blamed on Schottkowski’s drum work, since most of it is really the same. It’s not bad by any means; it’s quite good. But he uses the same beats for almost every song and they begin to all sound like one, giant blob. Not that good for a genre that is already criticized for its lack of song distinction. And “Blood on Your Lips
”, while having great vocal work and an amazing intro, is by far one of Sodom’s
worst attempts. For starters, it begins to become bland after the first minute, and it becomes a matter of “Damn, when is this over"!”. And the worst part is there’s not even a solo on that song, and when Bernemann doesn’t solo, the song loses some sense of being complete. And my biggest gripe about this album is that most of these songs, save “Bibles and Guns
” and “City of God
”, don’t really jump out at me. Everything else just feels good, but not great. A rather annoying factor coming from a band that previously released an album filled with 11 songs that I absolutely loved.
All in all, this is still a strong Sodom
release. The guitar work is as strong as ever, Angelripper's vocals are still crisp, his bass playing has improved, and the songs are enjoyable. However, some repetitiveness and lack of stand-out songs really hamper the trip here. If you enjoy thrash, pick this up. If you’re looking to get into this band, I’d suggest starting with “Code Red
” or “M-16
Bibles and Guns
City of God
Lords of Depravity
Lay Down the Law