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Sodom frontman Tom Angelripper was featured in the most recent issue of Decibel with an enlightening Q&A. It revealed him to be a man from a blue collar background (he's a former miner) with a lot of respectable opinions that are unpopular in the metal world (such as his disdain for drugs, and his criticism only of religious fanatacism rather than religion in general). So even though Agent Orange is the only album I had from the band, I decided to get the new one, In War and Pieces.
Even though 21 years have passed between those two albums, little has changed for Sodom. They're still clearly masters of Teutonic thrash metal, with a straight-forward approach to writing music that's seemingly immune to any change happening elsewhere in the genre. It's produced better--but not overpolished--and you can hear the bass throughout the album. The sound has lost its punk aftertaste, and they have more skill on their instruments.
It's still full speed in a few places, like the title track (with its awesome if cliche shout-along chorus), "Hellfire", and "Knarrenheinz" (named for the band's gas-maskot). The latter is also proof that they can still shred out an extended solo when they want. But on the whole the album has slowed down to mid-pace, with some of it getting more melodic than you might expect ("Through Toxic Veins" or closer "Styptic Parasite"). Sometimes this mid-paced approach to thrash leads to mediocrity, like "Feigned Death Throes" or "The Art of Killing Poetry", but there's enough aggression and headbanging rhythm to make the album work.
The best surprise on the album is "God Bless You", a track about sending young men off to war. It starts out slow and melodic, and ends up mid-paced, but it's startling for its unlikely combination of sadness, hope, and anger.
The Verdict: By all accounts, Sodom is as reliable and unchanging as Motörhead, and In War and Pieces is enough evidence to believe that. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's very much worthwhile.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/