An original middle 1980s black metal/thrash crossover that quickly became highly refined speed/black metal with albums such as "Agent Orange" and "Persecution Mania."

Persecution Mania
Production: Bass and treble balance for a meaty sound that is still somewhat flattened by its democratic mixing.

Review: Representing the confused mixture of styles that was metal in the 1980s, the most advanced record from Sodom combines speed metal, heavy metal and nascent death/black, but never manages to fully anchor itself in any one direction, despite producing the genre-definitive songs "Nuclear Winter" and "Persecution Mania." Tremolo strumming in the death metal style is enmeshed in the chorus-indicative cadences of speed metal, and the bouncing recursive riffing of heavy metal defines verses, but where this album shows promise is in its escape from strict verse-chorus structure into designs that use extensive introductory material and thematic bridges between associated motifs that, sestinatically, diverge into returns of the major divisions of song. At moments it seems like the band is going to abandon their chanted lyrics and bouncing denouements entirely, but it is as if a spirit rising above the morass of rock music gets re-infested with it like a cancer, perhaps only so that we can tap our feet to the music.

1. Nuclear Winter
2. Electrocution
3. Iron Fist
4. Persecution Mania
5. Enchanted Land
6. Procession To Golgatha
7. Christ Passion
8. Conjuration
9. Bombenhagel
10. Outbreak Of Evil
11. Sodomy And Lust
12. Conqueror
13. My Atonement
Length: 54:23

Sodom Persecution Mania 1987 Steamhammer
Copyright © 1987 Steamhammer

In addition to structural inventions that survive in the genetic lineage of death and black metal, Sodom contributed several important ideas: ambient drumming, which rarely ends phrases with fills but continues often across riff changes at the same tempo, allowing the artist more flexibility in composing lead rhythm playing as one might in a classical piece, in the narrative style; serial drumming, where tempo does not change but texture does, creating a displacement that can complement a thematic change in riff; use of chord voicings beyond the standard power chord in sequential alternation, using harmony as a contextual and melodic device simultaneously; change in texture between different speeds of tremolo strum, muted picking and open chording, giving more emphasis to phrase and less to rhythm and harmonic synchronization of riff. All of these were essential contributions that have since been expanded upon to flesh out the language of underground metal, and if you listen here between jubilantly syncopated choruses and warmed-over heavy metal riffs, they are used to great effect, in the advantage of retrospect eclipsing the formula-proven elements of this album. This can be seen in a small degree on the cover of "Iron Fist" which outdoes the Motorhead original in precision and impact.

Finishing with stripped down and re-arranged versions of older songs, "Persecution Mania" is on the whole mid-paced and often lukewarm owing to its lack of clear vision, both aesthetically and musically, yet can be a fertile ground of study for those who are curious as to the prototypical state of death and black metal. Its highlights, the two tracks mentioned above, are essential study for any musician wishing to explore this field, and the album as a whole has aged better than other Sodom releases, but its state of incompleteness - halfway to a new vision its authors clearly are unwilling to adopt, and reliance on older forms they can only partially stomach, producing anomie of musical development - makes it at best an occasional listen.

sodomy in the sign of evil/obsessed by cruelty 1984-1986
1. Outbreak Of Evil
2. Sepultural Voice
3. Blasphemer
4. Witching Metal
5. Burst Command Til War
6. Deathlike Sentence
7. Brandish The Sceptre
8. Proselytism Real
9. Equinox
10. After The Deluge
11. Obsessed By Cruelty
12. Fall Of Majesty Town
13. Nuctemeron
14. Pretenders To The Throne
15. Witchhammer
16. Volcanic Slut
Length: 57:09
In the Sign of Evil/Obsessed by Cruelty (Steamhammer, 1984/1986)
During the early 1980s, a proto-death/black metal form emerged which was represented by Hellhammer, Bathory, Slayer and Sodom. Clearly inspired by the more venal and outsider heavy metal of the previous generation, such as Venom, and the pulsating rhythm and tremolo strumming of punk hardcore bands like Discharge, this forerunner diverged into death metal, which was more rhythmic and structured, and black metal, which was more melodic, until the two synthesized in the modern black metal of early 1990s Norway - a postmodern rendering of metal as a final language, a clearly grown-up and defined form. While these two releases from Germany's Sodom were clearly instrumental to reaching this stage, they are perhaps best reserved for historians. Although the below-average musicianship is acceptable for this genre, what makes these releases disturbing is their unevenness: hooky choruses, catchy cadences, and yet an overabundance of repetition that leaves a feeling of incompleteness to these songs, no matter how definitive they remain. Most of what they capture is a simple and direct atmosphere, combining occultism and a cynical look at society as detached from reality, that created what punk hardcore never could: a perspective external to the conditioned values we have as modern citizens. Their song titles and ideas live on in the work of newer bands, and while listening to this once can give an insight into the past, listening to it repeatedly might drone the listener into a coma.

sodom agent orange 1989 steamhammer
1. Agent Orange
2. Tired And Red
3. Incest
4. Remember The Fallen
5. Magic Dragon
6. Exhibition Bout
7. Ausgebombt
8. Baptism Of Fire
9. Don't Walk Away
Length: 40:12
Agent Orange (Steamhammer, 1989)
In midlife Sodom faced a crisis, in that they had to decide whether to immerse themselves in the rising genre of underground metal or stick to the more listener-friendlier speed metal ("thrash metal" as called by the uninitiated). On "Agent Orange," Sodom straddled the line, and what results is a series of cadenced riffs and shouted choruses that are not without merit but are not particular exciting either. The speed metal influence is present in muffled strumming and offbeat chording supplementing a primal rhythm in counterpoint, and the underground music sneaks through in technique and vocals, but the hybrid has little overall direction that allows it to make a clear statement of anything. This can even be found in the lyrics, a word salad weeping over war and destruction, but without any values of its own. Probably this album should be swallowed by time and better works remembered.

sodom code red 1999 drakkar/bmg
1. intro
2. code red
3. what hell can create
4. tombstone
5. liquidation
6. spiritual demise
7. warlike conspiracy
8. cowardice
9. the vice of killing
10. visual buggery
11. book burning
13. addicted to abstinence
Length: 40:29
Code Red (Drakkar, 1999)
While using the anthemic faceplate of their 1980s album, Sodom have produced a new style which is more of a chant-along roller coaster of raging media-age heavy metal than anything else. Many songs use long-phrase melodies, with some narrative interludes on the level of riff and rhythm variants, put together in such a way that the tonal motion suggests a fast, loose, and somewhat unorthodox movement; however, it is unfocused, playful but empty, almost unfinished sounding music. It does achieve an undulating bass effect that makes it satisfying, rhythmic, stomping "party music." Where Sodom still thunders is in the capacity to architecturally conceive of the kind of tonal motion needed to convey with rhythm a mood of storming power and alarm. While that may be true, this album reveals its simple ballad-anthem soul immediately and with that Sodom dispense with their past and open a dubious future.

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