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“Persecution Mania” was the definitive proof of early Sodom’s extraordinary talent and potential. On other hand, by the year this record was released, there were many rival groups who offered very solid material as well. The sub-genre was still developing and improving since the primitive noisy evil beginnings of the mid-80’s into something more consistent and mature. The third album of Angelripper and co. is the epitome of that big improvement, and leaves some cliches and topics behind, showing the intentions of the band, that finally seemed to find their own distinctive style and direction. With this release, back in 1989, Sodom made clear what they wanted, how they wanted it and also demonstrated that they had nothing to do with the bunch of generic thrash bands of those glorious times.
I must highlight, from the very first beginning of this album, their amazing sound. The fierce opening title-track, a stunning composition which is the perfect example of Sodom’s slightly different, more elaborated song-writing patterns. The changes from what we already heard on the previous album are not that significative or radical, though. The riffs are still powerful, violent and straight. The aggression is omnipresent as usual, and the proper song-structures, featuring the common bridges, breaks and several necessary riff alterations are as efficient as before. Each cut in this pack is musically as strong as any of the second LP raw thrash anthems, there’s no crucial improvement or modification of the group’s skills and ways. So brilliance is guaranteed, no way you won’t enjoy this stuff. However, it’s easy to notice the big effort of these guys to provide their tunes of lengthier instrumental passages and increase the complexity of the compositions, attempting to reach some progression. The results are absolutely effective as you can check out in the various breaks and instrumental sequences of “Tired And Red”, for instance. They even pay attention on melody at times, particularly in those quiet breaks I mentioned, which give certain sophistication to these straight thrash songs. Although sonic violence, raging insatiable riffs and relentless hooks are the main attraction on the whole record. The velocity of the tempo, which is completely frantic and outrageous, make these tracks perfect for some insane headbanging. Witchhunter’s loose double bass-drum beatings are uncontrolled, hyperactive and lead the rest of instruments into totally rampant speed thrash. The influence of Motörhead, Raven, Venom, Jaguar or Exciter becomes evident. There’s also time for low-tuned riff series, like you can listen on “Magic Dragon” or “Remember The Fallen”, which lose speed but gain intensity, thanks to those effective weighty guitar lines of Blackfire in state of grace.
Each cut is instrumentally fine, well-executed, and plenty of passion and energy. The limitations of Blackfire are easy to notice sometimes, though. He’s a great guitarist without doubt, but a few solos here are too sloppy, predictable and poorly performed. Other are admirable and properly elaborated. So the guitar work is acceptable, even impressing at times but lacking some technique and abilities from Frank. Angelripper’s voice sounds wicked and sick during all songs, ideal for the nature of this music, featuring a decent modulation. Even if Tom’s teenager tone and pitch can be annoying and weak, the final result of the vocal work is pretty good. The lyrics got more and more focused on war with each Sodom album, although we can find some amusing controversial words about lust and depravity (“Incest”), which I have always prefered to tanks and bombs. And of course, I must make a special mention about Chris’ outstanding drum work. The music wouldn’t sound so great without the superb contribution of this guy. His skills are far superior to the many clumsy embarrassing double bass-drum rhythms that others tried to perform in vain back then. Maybe none of these 3 musicians has an extraordinary technique or impressing charisma, but their creativity, inspiration and musicianship have no rival. That’s the reason why they got so far while many of their peers had to give up and retire. Another essential element that made this LP so unforgettable and supreme is Harris John’s priceless support. Everything now is clearer without being excessively cleaner, without losing violence or power in the splendid final mix, due to a bigger budget production I guess (as usual in these cases!). The result is an incredibly solid and the well-balanced sound engineering job was indispensable. Without a superb production like this, I doubt this album would have become that popular. Luckily, these guys put their trust in the right person to make their killer music sound lethal.
So even if there’s only 9 tracks, you can find something special and unique on each one, because variety can be found here. You can sing along “Ausgebombt” and the funny Tank cover “Don’t Walk Away”, or if you prefer it, you can destroy your neck headbanging like a maniac to “Baptism Of Fire or “Exhibition Bout” instead. Amusement and action are guaranteed with this legendary pack of perfect cuts which still sound fresh, heavy and rough more than 24 years after. The debate about which is Sodom’s finest album goes on, but one thing is clear: “Agent Orange” is their most famous, consistent and convincing release, a true vintage classic thrash masterpiece that still has a lot of influence and impact on many thrash fans from all over the world.