Monday 21 December 2020

Sodom - Genesis XIX (2020)

Country: Germany
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 27 Nov 2020
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Oh, I like this! Once Sodom have got their slowly chugging intro out of the way and they launch into Sodom & Gomorrah, I thought I was listening to an extreme album from the early eighties. This isn't late eighties thrash heyday material. It's early eighties heavy metal from the era when those extreme genres we know and love were still being defined. This reminds of early Sodom and satanic era Slayer too, but also the holy trinity of Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost. It's fast but it's rough and dirty and evil and it isn't hard to see why this album is getting a heck of a lot praise.

Sodom has been Tom Angelripper for the longest time. He co-founded the band way back in 1982, when he was just the bass player. He also took over lead vocals in 1984 and he's fulfilled those two roles ever since, even if he still embarks on strange side projects, like his schlager band, Onkel Tom Angelripper, and his spaghetti Western themed band, the Desperados. However, this also marks the return of one Frank Blackfire on guitar, whose previous Sodom album was Agent Orange way back as 1989.

And, if that's what's making the difference here, I'm all for it. Maybe it's the fact that they've become a quartet for the first time on record, after almost four decades as a trio. Whatever it is, it's working wonderfully.

I've always liked Sodom but they've also always sat behind Destruction and Kreator in my mind. Even back in 1986, when I was devouring the second Speed Kills compilation, their contribution, Sepulchral Voice from the In the Sign of Evil EP, was hindered by the drummer failing utterly to keep up with the rest of the band. They got better, a lot better, but I was a big Destruction fan from their initial album and became a big Kreator fan after seeing them live when they toured Extreme Aggression. Sodom in my book were always third. This may change that.

Wow, this takes me back. There's a lot of proto-black metal in Sodom & Gomorrah, but Euthanasia is straight ahead thrash with bare bones production and a vocal style that reminds more of Hell Awaits-era Slayer than Bathory. It's the sort of song that we'd have believed was recklessly fast in 1984 before our expectations were changed forever by Reign in Blood. Now it impresses as much for a dirty feel as for its pace. It sounds like it was recorded on a four track in a shed but recorded well, given the crazy technical limitations of the time.

This sort of proto-extreme exploration continues throughout. The title track kicks off with feedback and distortion reminiscent of Hellhammer but then becomes a slow rendition of the Inspector Gadget theme tune, as if channelling Destruction's sense of humour. When it gets moving, it reminds of early Onslaught. Indoctrination starts out like Motörhead and adds Discharge, who are quite the common thread here. The speedy Glock 'n' Roll is early Slayer with a firm side of Discharge. Occult Perpetrator merges Discharge with Celtic Frost. For a while, Friendly Fire is pure Discharge but it adds Bathory.

Sodom & Gomorrah was always going to be my favourite song here, from the moment it kicked in, but there are quite a few others that I adored from my first listen. I particularly liked Occult Perpetrator, Euthanasia and the way Waldo & Pigpen begins with real delicacy but also heaviness that steadfastly refuses to get on with things. When it finally does, it doesn't warn us that the unbearably slow will be suddenly ramped up to evil Venom territory musically and Sodom's incessant war theme lyrically. The Harpooneer is particularly strong too, even at over seven minutes.

I really dig this album. It's yet another one to look back from 2020 to the fertile eighties but not to a usual spot. This is an unusual nostalgic album and it's right up my alley. If you remember those proto-extreme metal years with fondness, it's probably right up your alley too.

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