Review Summary: A fire that stopped burning
1990 must not have been a very good year for Sodom. While their thrash brethren across the sea were creating some of the best albums of their careers, Sodom decided to follow up the undisputed classic Agent Orange
with Better Off Dead
, an album that focused less on the ripping intensity that made Agent Orange
and Persecution Mania
stand out. While not a bad album, Better Off Dead
cannot touch much of Sodom’s discography, with only a few highlight tracks to offset the mediocrity.
One standout track and the pinnacle of the album is “The Saw is the Law” (screw Whitechapel, they did it first), a plodding, chugging, headbanging track reminiscent of “Remember the Fallen” from Agent Orange
. While “The Saw is the Law” can sit with some of Sodom’s better works, the rest of the album simply can’t hold up.
Opening tracks “An Eye for an Eye” and “Shellfire Defense” thrash hard, but the style is less the teutonic thrash of Sodom’s early days and more reminiscent of the Bay Area thrash movement of the 80s. Therein lies the biggest problem of “Better Off Dead”: instead of ripping your face off with blistering riffs and crushing breakdowns, it focuses on acting like a half assed late 80s Bay Area thrash album. There is absolutely nothing here, aside from perhaps “The Saw is the Law”, that can’t be heard in “Peace Sells” or “Reign in Blood”, and those albums pull it off much better. When they aren’t copying a sound in their genre that’s already been done better, they are not even thrashing at all. “Cold Sweat” is a slower, early NWOBHM style track, and “Turn Your Head Around” is a copy of pre-thrash speed metal.
If you can plod through the boring midsection of the album, the last two tracks are highly enjoyable, if still wholly unoriginal. “Tarred and Feathered” absolutely rips throughout, and “Stalinorgel”, while yet another NWOBHM influenced track, is bombastic and catchy. These two tracks show that Sodom didn’t completely lose their touch, and are worth a listen from any Sodom fan.
Perhaps Better Off Dead
suffers because Sodom had run out of steam and didn’t take enough time to recharge after Agent Orange
, since only a year separated the two. Aside from a few standout tracks, Better Off Dead
is an unoriginal thrash album that does absolutely nothing to place it above the other albums released the very same year. Sodom fans deserve to give the entire thing a chance just because it’s Sodom, but for everyone else, only the standout tracks need apply.