August 25, 2016 Sodom – Decision Day (Album Review)
With the saturation of Thrash and Blackened Thrash bands flooding the market, fans of the genre will certainly wish to pay attention when one of the style’s originators hits the studio and burns a new recording into the annals of history. For German Thrash trio Sodom, whose gnarly roots date back to 1981, consistency is key to staying relevant. Credited with being one head of the Cerberus-like Teutonic Thrash monster, Sodom, along with Destruction and Kreator, pretty much invented a style plied by many, many bands of today. Sole founding member Tom Angelripper, whose grating growl and plunking bass tone has piloted Sodom since day one, has rarely lost the script when it comes to making solid albums. For fifteenth studio album Decision Day, Tom and 20 year Guitarist Bernemann (Bernd Kost) seek to tell the world that the old guard can still kick all the young kids’ asses out there. Venerated history aside, does the album by itself succeed in standing out from the pack?
Anyone whose paid attention knows that Sodom’s last slew of albums were exceptionally good, so expectations with this one are indeed high. Looking back at 2013’s Epitome of Torture, the one difference that jumps out when spinning Decision Day is the slight uptick in production. Where the former had a bit of a dirtier sound, Tom’s bass licks jump out of the speakers enough to make D.D. Verni from Overkill proud. On the latter, the bass is an ever-present thump below the guitars, but it does not seem quite as articulated. For the title track and the catchy “Caligula,” Sodom experiments with vocal effects on the choruses, using gang vocals similar to such epic-production-loving bands as Iced Earth and Rotting Christ. These histrionics augment but do not take away from what is essentially the beloved, down-home Thrash Metal that put Sodom on the map in the first place. Speaking of bass guitar, “Caligula” does feature some cool bass guitar solo phrasing, along with wicked solos from Bernemann.
It has been a long time since the In The Sign of Evil EP, and since then, Sodom’s lyrics have taken on a much more socially conscious leaning, exposing the horrors of war and the decay of modern society. On “Blood Lions,” Tom Angelripper – who has taken pictures decked out in camouflage with hunting gear in hand – rails about the atrocity known as canned hunting. Lions specifically bred to be shot at close range for the pleasure of rich sociopaths is the subject, and Tom’s disdain for reducing “king of the animals to a common sheep” is elucidated in a short, bursting Thrash anthem guaranteed to please fans old and new.
On “Who is God?,” Sodom shows us the old one-two punch of straight-ahead headbanger Thrash. The double bass freight train attack with dancing riffs and pounding bass rhythms is a staple of this sound that Sodom helped create. Much like when Motörhead is on, the youthful exuberance of a genre now grown long in the tooth shines through; fans will be pleased. If noodling Prog passages or expansive Power Metal sagas be desired, look elsewhere. This music will thrash off your face, and 36 years later, Sodom makes it sound as fresh and new as it did in the Cold War clubs and theaters of their youth.
“Strange Lost World” begins with Tom’s bass guitar, sounding almost crusty and Grindcore in tone. The song comes in at a slower pace, pulling the listener in as Tom’s raspy lines build the tension. Bernemann almost serenades with a careful bit of soloing in the middle. Definitely a contrast to the sonic storm preceding it, it never really gets up and asserts itself. Those first few minutes seem to want to say something, or explode, but, to quote some Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same.
On Decision Day, Sodom have crafted an album that does credit to their legacy while birthing some tunes guaranteed to enter and remain in their live set. “Rolling Thunder,” for instance, absolutely stands up to the litmus test of past glory, and is most certainly an album highlight. Sodom’s strengths lie in strafing riff attacks and no let-up. Songs like “Strange New World” and the slightly better “Sacred Warpath” are good, but the tiny drop in intensity is noticeable. Nevertheless, for an education in German Thrash Metal, Sodom never disappoints. CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.