Review Summary: Sodom's masterpiece, this tale of the Vietnam War is one that you will not forget
For a band like Sodom, making a good thrash album is little more than a walk in the park. Their discography has consistently yielded great albums and every thrash fan should be safe in the knowledge that every two or three years they will have another marvelous release from one of Germany's premiere bands in the genre. Formed as a means for Tom Angelripper to escape his future as a coal miner, Sodom are one of the most highly respected bands in the thrash genre. From their inception with great albums such as Persecution Mania and the incredible Agent Orange they then went on to produce one of the best thrash releases of the 90's in Tapping The Vein before marking their own seal of approval on the "thrash revival" of the 2000's with M-16. Beginning with occult-themed lyrics on Obsessed By Cruelty, the band shifted into taking a highly anti-war perspective and will forever be remembered for the legacy they have laid down. The question of what their best album is has been widely debated with the eventual answer usually either being Persecution Mania or Agent Orange but one of their albums actually beats out both of these releases. This is of course the aforementioned 2001 album M-16, containing 10 original songs and one cover across forty nine minutes of aggressive thrash metal released to high praise.
The album title M-16 should say a lot about the album. The M-16 was a highly damaging weapon used by the majority of the US soldiers during the Vietnam War and that is pretty much the best way possible to describe this album. M-16 is a violent attack on the Vietnam War telling morbid stories of the situations soldiers found themselves in. To many, this may sound like a match made in heaven and they would not be wrong at all. On each of these songs Sodom takes the subject matter and adds their own signature brand of thrash metal to it, creating one of the best albums in the genre. Lightning fast riffs are coupled with slower, more deliberately paced crushing ones and Tom Angelripper roars and sneers his way through the lyrics. Couple this with an amazing drum performance from Bobby Schottkowski starting with the opening military drum beat on Among The Wierdcong and the puzzle is complete. Each man holds his end up really well, with some of the highlight riffs being the slow and evil-sounding one that kicks off the title track and the ridiculously heavy riffs to Genocide. Guitar-wise, this album really does stand up well amidst this band's previous albums. On some songs they decide to abuse tremolo picking to a ridiculous amount, such as on Among The Wierdcong and Minejumper but others manage to create a really brooding atmosphere such as that on Marines.
The stand-out songs on here are Among The Wierdcong, Marines, Napalm In The Morning and the title track. The former is a blitzkrieg of anger and hate that steamrolls forward, crushing anything in its way. It opens with a barrage of military drumming and then takes some time to build up before launching into an insanely fast-paced tremolo picked riff during the chorus with Angelripper roaring over the top of it all. Marines has the most infectious chorus on here and is one that will have you attempting to mimic Angelrippers's snide, sneering tones all day. The solo to M-16 is one of the best the band have ever recorded and does not require on playing as fast as the band can as with many thrash bands out there. Napalm In The Morning opens with the immortal quote of "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" from Apocalypse, Now and then proceeds to show off a beautiful, atmospheric section. Then, in comes the riffs and when they hit they hit hard. The verse riff to this song chugs along at a slow pace and is a guaranteed moment for any listener to thrash their neck off.
Overall, this album stands out in my opinion as the best in the band's discography but the cover of of The Trashmen's Surfin' Bird is absolutely unnecessary for this album. Sodom covering a garage rock song was the worst idea on earth and it transfers to recording every bit as bad as it sounds on paper. Stay away from this cover, and what you have is the perfect Sodom album. Every song is very well structured with a huge variety of well paced riffs and headbangable sections aplenty. Make sure to listen to this.