Review Summary: A blast from the past
Sodom is somehow synonymous with nostalgia to me, as it was one of the bands that struck me the most in the late eighties while I was enthusiastically exploring the speed/thrash metal genre that had emerged a couple of years ago. I still remember the day I was listening to Slayer's Live Undead
with my mates, saying "Slayer was the heaviest band I'd ever heard" when one of my comrades replied "Wait till you hear Sodom!". I will never forget that day, for some unknown reason this moment was remarkable enough to be part of my gallery of memories, which, with age, becomes more and more selective. It didn't take me long to listen to Persecution Mania
and Mortal Way of Live
that, despite not having the colossal impact I expected, were interesting enough to arouse my curiosity about the band and towards thrash metal spawned outside the Big 4 bubble. I soon discovered a brave new world, boiling with creativity, excitement, and modernity. In Europe, more specifically in Germany, there was a triumvirate that stood out from the pack, namely Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom, undeniably Europe's greatest exponents of the genre at the time. While I was never an enthusiast of the former, the latter two quickly entered my daily thrash playlist alongside the American behemoths or Brazilians Sepultura. By now, thrash metal was already widely spread, being undoubtedly the most exciting and relevant heavy metal genre at the time.
Although Sodom was already an established and highly regarded name within the underground circuit in the mid-eighties, it was its legendary 1989 release, Agent Orange
, that catapulted them into international stardom. Together with Beneath the Remains
, Extreme Aggression
, and Alice in Hell
, Agent Orange
was considered by both press and fans one of the best albums of the year, making it not only a landmark of its time but also one of the greatest thrash metal albums ever recorded. Agent Orange
was able to perfectly encapsulate the band's style which blended a distinct primary signature, reminiscent of Motörhead and Venom, with a modern riff package that mirrored not only the band's maturity but that of the genre itself. The album's aesthetic, sometimes close to death metal, captured me in such a way that I still consider it one of my all-time favorites. Angelripper's distinctive imprint, together with Blackfire's lethal riffs and Witchhunter's colossal drumming, produced a formula so unique that it will never be replicated again.
The reason I'm focusing on Agent Orange
is not only because it is the band's most relevant work, but also because it's the main creative core through which Genesis XIX
orbits. As we dive into the brief instrumental 'Blind Superstition' we are immediately propelled to 1989, not only by its overall vibe but also by Toni Merkel's drumming that reminds of Witchhunter's tempo dynamics. This Agent Orange-esque approach remains in the following tracks, 'Sodom & Gomorrah' and 'Euthanasia', with the former additionally carrying the band's early black metal resonances. This move towards the band's golden era is also due to Frank Blackfire's return to the death squad, which now performs as a quartet for the first time in its history. His riffs, along with Angelripper's distinctive delivery, ensure a bridge with the past, soaking the songs with a familiar and nostalgic layer. However, the album's greatest particularity lies in the way it balances its vintage signature with a more contemporary twist, embedded with blast beat tempos. 'Nicht mehr mein Land', 'Dehumanized' and 'Friendly Fire' are examples of this more contemporary layer that stands out from the rest of the familiar landscape. Personally, I think the inclusion of blast beats to the band's signature was a wise decision, which should not only be replicated but even reinforced in the future. It is something that places the band within a more up-to-date and relevant musical spectrum. As expected, Angelripper's punk-ish roots are still very much alive in songs like 'Indoctrination', which carries a well-known formula already explored in classics such as 'Ausgebombt' and 'Bombenhagel'. This more straightforward approach not only reinforces the band's renowned trademark but also perpetuates the strong influence that Motörhead and Venom had in the making of Sodom's DNA. The doom-ish segments in songs such as 'Genesis XIX', 'The Harpooneer', and 'Dehumanized' should also be mentioned, as they bear the contrasts that enhance the album's dynamics.
brings back Sodom's old-school sound under a more up-to-date, contemporary flavor, echoing not only a certain revitalization but also a willingness to embrace the new decade with renewed ambition and enthusiasm. This unshakeable resilience deserves to be celebrated, not only for mirroring Angelripper & Co's longevity but also for succeeding in taking us into its glorious past. And for a brief moment, here I am once again, younger, skinnier, proudly wearing my denim jacket and my old torn elastic pants, shouting "AGENT ORANGE, BURN!"