It is safe to say that modern-day Extreme Metal, particularly thrash, would not be what it is today without the likes of Sodom. After bursting onto the nascent metal scene back in 1982, the oft-maligned group rose up and began to demand the utmost respect from critics, labels, and fans. Now, on the 27th of November in the accursed year 2020, they are about to release their 16th studio album. Entitled Genesis XIX, this latest slab of no-nonsense vitriol erupts via Entertainment One in the USA, along with Steamhammer Records in Europe, and while the name Sodom demands attention, will the cagey vets be able to remain atop the heap of younger bands vying for their throne?
There is something very subtle which can separate the wannabes from the tried and true greats of any artistic style. For Sodom, who do not try to release a ton of music just to remain relevant, the answer lies in a few key areas. As the songs of Genesis XIX strike like hammers from the speakers, it is evident that the ropey bass tone of founding vocalist/bassist Thomas ‘Angelripper’ Such, as it always has done, means nothing but business. From the Thrash-laden battery of the title track, to the double-bass assault of opener “Sodom & Gomorrah,” Guitarists Frank Blackfire and newcomer Yorck Segatz lay it down hard.
The songs leave nothing to be desired, giving those into Speed Metal a shot of adrenalin straight out of 1986. The fantastic “The Harpooneer” is a vintage Sodom burner, featuring massive percussion from newcomer Toni Merkel. Double-bass like 50 caliber machine guns, an engaging set of riffs, and the proper application of tension-building moments makes this song one of their best.
“Nicht Meir Mein Land” shows that Sodom can negotiate the slow burner too, not having to rely solely on a speed attack. And while this is a decent track, speed is where the band’s bread is buttered. “Glock’n’Roll” is the heart of Thrash done right, with some snare and high-hat aerobics and blade-sharp riffage pounding through.
The curiously titled “Waldo & Pigpen” gets going after a set of ominous leads. Referencing the Vietnam War and getting shot down during a mission, Sodom’s penchant for martial subject matter remains present. The song bludgeons the listener after its deliberate start, in much the same way a fiery bombing raid might begin. The quiet of the cockpit before ignition; the peace in the air before it is shattered. Sodom is able to take such atmospheres and translate them to a brutal Thrash attack that has not abated with time.
If the listener is searching for progressive leanings or something left of center, then Genesis XIX is probably not the place to land. Angelripper’s raspy screeds of war and destruction pulverize in sterling closer “Friendly Fire,” where his pipes are married to magnificent guitar work and neck-snapping percussive grace. Sodom keeps close contact with the sort of old-school sonic patterns which made them great, evidenced for sure on “Dehumanized.” The soloing in the song’s latter half balance between wanton chaos and calculated precision; this is something special.
So many Thrash bands lost the breakneck energy they started with, but not Sodom. For keeping true to their cause and releasing another excellent monument to real Metal sounds, Cryptic Rock gives Genesis XIX 4 out of 5 stars.