Sodom – “Genesis XIX” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Gotta had it to ‘Onkel’ Tom Angelripper, who’s getting close to 60 years old and whose band Sodom, formed in 1981, remain one of the cornerstones of German thrash! While others have folded or compromised, Angelripper has remained steadfast in his band’s position – remaining as extreme as ever, if not in sound, then in stance. Certainly members have come and gone over the years, the latest being the departure of man mountain drummer Stefan ‘Husky’ Hüskens, but Angelripper, who’s held the band together since founding it, has wasted no time in drafting in Toni Merkel (Sabiendas, Pestlegion, Interstellar Genocide), who of course drummed on guitarist Frank Blackfire’s 2015 album ‘Back On Fire’. “Genesis XIX” is the band’s 16th release and is the first time in Sodom’s history that they have recorded an album as a quartet rather than a trio. It’s also the first full length studio album to feature the returning Blackfire since he last performed on 1989’s “Agent Orange”. Continuing with Cornelius Rambadt on production, the sound is massive and booming in bringing out Sodom’s raw and visceral style, although the band continue to add stylish refinements to their fierce music while broadening the lyrical content of their songs in continuing the diverse dimension of their material, this time taking inspiration from Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ while reflecting poignantly on the state of western society. As such, the superb cover art from legendary Joe Petagno is equally apt in defining this stellar album. After blast beating in on ‘Nicht Mehr Mein Land’, the thick ‘n’ dirty riffs from Blackfire and Yorck Segatz add that industrial stamp to Angelripper’s hellish drawl in leading up to the football stadium chanting chorus that is truly impressive for its catchy singalong appeal – along with an exotic wailing tremolo – before ending, once again in a furious blast beating culmination. Like I said, today’s Sodom has as much finesse as frenzy in its exciting music! Inspired by the recovered comm chatter between two Vietnam pilots codenamed Pigpen and Waldo, ‘Waldo_Pigpen’ may open serenely enough amid touching guitar wails and delicately plucked bass strings, but as the atmosphere darkens, the pistoning double bass drums and percussion from Merkel add a militaristic beat that are a headbanger’s dream, and Angelripper brings in his deep drawl that now and then hints at a scream amid the superb chainsaw clash between Blackfire and Segatz as they pile in catchy riffs, warbles and licks all arranged to perfectionist precision and utilising the song’s tempo changes to maximum effect. Acknowledging the punk influence in thrash, ‘Indoctrination’ certainly has that element to its fast riffing along with hardcore shout outs from the band as does Angelripper’s punky bass, although his old school vocals are definitely early thrash while Blackfire’s solo is pure heavy metal – well, Tom did say it was gonna be diverse ha ha! Ending in the guitar screams of ‘Friendly Fire’ the band’s furor is nothing short of an artillery barrage with Angelripper straining to scream his rhyming lyrics over it all although once again, as with the rest of the 12 tracks on this excellent release, the riffs are par excellence in their catchiness and when added to by Merkel’s brilliant percussion, not only is Sodom’s tightness to be awed, but the precision and arrangements are something that both the band and thrash metal as a whole can be proud of. Kids from the Ruhr they may have been, but masters of metal they are now.