Sodom - In War and Pieces
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
To say Tom Angelripper and Sodom have been on an odyssey over the course of more than 25 years is like saying gasoline costs too goddamn much these days. Nobody would've given Sodom a chance in hell when In the Sign of Evil and Obsessed by Cruelty were released in the mid-eighties of becoming a refined speed-thrash band that has won the hearts of many speed junkies over the years. Persecution Mania and Agent Orange quickly changed that perception. Sodom swiftly developed prowess from clunk, and like Destruction, Running Wild, Kreator and Warlock, they hefted some German might into the eighties underground. In all cases save for Warlock, each has enjoyed lengthy if not entirely prolific careers.
Sodom, like Destruction and Kreator, quickly fell into the schisms of befuddled experimentalism through the nineties, even if Sodom took the more brutal route on 1992's Tapping the Vein, 95's Masquerade in Blood and '99's Code Red. Unfortunately, only the devout were dialing in.
2006's self-titled Sodom was something of a return to favor for Angelripper, largely by benefit of a reawakening of metal in North America. Global interest produced a pretty worthy album in 2006 and even though Angelripper took the ill-advised opportunity to re-introduce Sodom's early din via new recordings on 2007's The Final Sign of Evil, we've been waiting to see how he would follow-up Sodom.
If The Final Sign of Evil was an indication Angelripper and his current Sodom cohorts Bernd "Bernemann" Kost and Konrad "Bobby" Schottkowski were opting for a cop-out return to the ear-scraping chaos of Obsessed by Cruelty, forget that. No, Sodom instead keeps to the scripts of what won them notoriety via Agent Orange, which is to say, they mosh and blitz with a passion on their latest work, In War and Pieces.
Following the death of original Sodom drummer Chris "Witchhunter" Dudek a couple years back, it's no surprise Tom Angelripper has taken his time getting In War and Pieces laid down. Yet, he could've made this album a vat full of unyielding screech if he wanted to. That might've been an appropriate coda for Witchhunter, but it hardly would've served Sodom's purposes for continued public interest.
Instead, Sodom goes to the Slayer playbook and dials up some steamrolling tunes like "Hellfire," "Nothing Counts More Than Blood" and "Storm Raging Up." It's no secret Angelripper has a tendency to replicate Tom Araya, and the whirlwind riff structures are pure doppelgangers. Ditto for the solo placements. No slouch in the shredding and soloing department himself, Tom Angelripper may be a click behind Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, but that doesn't mean he can't peel the paint off.
If Sodom didn't change up the game plan on this album, it would be easy to dismiss it as a Seasons in the Abyss wannabe. But never forget Sodom has been a metal household name for years as well, even if on a tier below Slayer. The title track issues the album's declaration with a steady double hammer bob and later swerves from its Slayer-cidal tendencies on the well-written "Feigned Death Throes," one of the most signature-swapped efforts on the album. Unafraid to mix power metal, mid-tempo thrash and doom, "Feigned Death Throes" is one of In War and Pieces' statement songs.
Ditto for the neck-snapping thunder groove of "Soul Contraband." Yes, it has Slayer stamped all over it, but Sodom dabbles a clear hook into its straightforward pogo trip and some snazzy bridges as well. Opening "God Bless You" with a delicate acoustic intro, the song maintains a confident stride even as one of the slower songs on the album. Angelripper bleeds his guitars into this one, so stick around. By all means, stick around, because Sodom picks up the pace on "The Art of Killing Poetry," a steady pounder which switches gears from fifth to fourth to fifth gear. You want to talk some slick transitions and choruses, this one is masterful in its nut-busting business.
The German-sung "Knarrenheinz" is one the album's fiercest payouts, and "Styptic Parasite" rounds In War and Pieces on an agreeable toe tapper, which leaves for a mostly-satisfying bit of old school mayhem. No, this is not Persecution Mania and Agent Orange, but who cares? It's a damned fine metal album unafraid of its more recent past and it hardly betrays the confusion of direction ol' Angelripper suffered through during the nineties when blistering didn't always equate into respect. In War and Pieces should easily win his band some of that back.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sodom - In War and Pieces