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The third album from German thrashers Sodom, “Agent Orange,” is one of the bands’, and the thrash genre as a whole, more hallowed works and is certainly worthy of such praise with a slew of stand-out tracks and plenty of charging songs that certainly appeal to their fans.
Following in the footsteps of their previous effort, there’s not much here that’s really all that different in terms of the sound of the album. Fueled by ferocious, tightly-executed riffing and intricate bass-work, the songs here are fast and up-tempo with a darker sound than would be the norm for the bay area type of thrash bands, with a similar life to them that comes from the dexterous drumming on display. The riffing also has a much more heavier atmosphere to them than the typical thrash band, aided by the stylistic incorporation last album of lengthy instrumental segments mid-way through the song to let the main riff breathe for a while, and that lets the album’s few tracks to generate a heavier, darker atmosphere than normal when the one stellar riff in the song is given plenty of time to ingratiate itself with the listener. Wisely chosen among the style to do this tactic is the fact that it’s fast and up-tempo traditional thrash riffs this is employed for, making it all the more enjoyable. Again, the drumming is another stand-out factor here with a dexterous display that features everything from simplistic punk fills to raging hyper-speed blasts and double-bass fills that give it an extra intensity, all the while delivering a pounding, thunderous production job that makes them even more forceful and devastating. By this time, the vocals have changed slightly as they’re now slightly coherent instead of the raspy, dirty growls that permeated their early works, so much like the cleaning-up and streamlining of their sonic attack the vocals do so as well. It’s taken a little longer, but even with a nasty snarl and a few growls this is the most audible the lyrics have been yet and makes the songs stand-out quite a bit with a new trick up its sleeve, regardless of how important the matter actually is.
Surprisingly, there’s no real trick to this album in terms of splitting it up into sides. The songs throughout are all stylistically the same, though if one were to make a quick overview of the album it would seem that the more intense, charging tracks are uploaded in the front half while the second half contains more of a varied overview of the band’s career. Now, it’s not varied so much in the sense of featuring wild experimentations, but more along the lines of minor stylistic differences that seem to stem from their numerous influences. One is a dirty streamlined bout of thrash that wouldn’t be out-of-place on their first full-length, another’s a little slower and forsakes the speed and intensity in favor of the more chaotic material that they used to play, one’s pretty punk-like in its simplicity and intense energy while the last one is a tight, aggressive thrasher the likes of which was found on their second album. While this may not seem like it’s much compared to the more straight-forward and streamlined efforts on the front-half, it does allow the album a slight amount of difference between the two parts, and is certainly part of what gives the album a real energy as it blasts through.
The songs on the album are some of the finest of their career, including many absolute stand-outs and feature several career highlights. It’s starts with a bang as the immortal title track starts it off with a crushing intro featuring stellar drumming and moody riffing that blasts into an intense thrashing break before mid-tempo break mid-section that turns into hyper-speed instrumental break, becoming one of their more immortal highlights. Almost as legendary is ‘Tired and Red,’ as it starts with a hyper-speed guitar-and-drum heavy intro with a frenetic mid-tempo groove that gets incredibly interesting midway through with a moody acoustic guitar interlude of melodic riffing that segues back into a full-on thrash assault, generating it’s second absolute classic. The outright pounding thrash of ‘Incest’ comes complete with crushing drums and intense riffing that, unfortunately, doesn’t do anything special after the catchy chorus and stellar soloing that run rampant throughout which leaves it lagging slightly behind the two landmark tracks that came before. Thankfully, we get another classic in the absolute majesty of ‘Remember the Fallen,’ switching things up slightly with a groovy mid-tempo chug that drops the thrashing bombast and dirty vocals for a powerful, overwhelming experience in a mid-tempo bombast that’s almost foreign to the sound, yet the fact it comes off as classy as it does makes it one of the bands’ better tracks.
The second half, while it may be considered experimental, is pretty much more of the same as what was found in the upper half. ‘Magic Dragon’ starts off with a slow, dirge-like intro with plenty of intense drumming and frantic riffing that falls flat on the intense sections due to a recurrence of a minor flaw found in the previous album with an inability to really write intense drum patterns that fit the material, and the predominant doom-like riffing and pace overall bring this one down somewhat. The slightly better ‘Exhibition Bout’ features more of that dirty aggression found on the first album with mid-tempo riffing, explosive drumming and utterly darker vocals mixed with a fine solo flair, creating a solid if unspectacular effort. It all ends with a bang as we get two more stand-out tracks, starting with the infectious and simplistic ‘Ausgebombt,’ which is a blast of pure punk feel with dexterous drumming, chaotic bass-work and thrashy riffing explodes in blast of pure energy and speed that’s one of their more timeless tunes. It all ends with ‘Baptism of Fire,’ a blast of blazing speed with furious riffing, pounding drumming, backing chorus shouts and shifts between utterly extreme hyper-speed thrashing and mid-tempo breathers, bringing in another fantastic track to book-end the album with two standouts on either end.
Overall, this album is a total masterpiece and really stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the preceding album as outright classics of the genre. They’re both, especially this one, are near flawless, featuring so many worthwhile elements that are part and parcel of the thrash genre and are definitely among the top echelons of the genre, while as for which one works better is a matter of mere taste. The previous one is slightly more experimental and takes a few different twists and turns whilst it experiments with the new sound, while here it’s content to just utilize that streamlined blasting to maximum effect as it devastates all those around it with air-strike efficiency. It’s more devastating and certainly more polished at what it does, leaving this one another mandatory requirement for all thrash fans or those looking for the complete German thrash experience.