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Once Upon A Time In The West - 80%

Metal_Thrasher90, August 9th, 2013

“We said it's time for a live album again because we stand in the tradition to do a live album after 4 studio recordings. Many people say that's unnecessary but I think it shows where the band stands. The whole thing was recorded in Hamburg and Bremen. Ultimately only the recording from Hamburg was used for the live album” – Tom Angelripper

6 years after the illustrative Mortal Way Of Live was originally unleashed, Sodom decided to put out another live concert recording, the second of the 3 live albums available in their discography catalog to date (if we exclude that Greek magazine rare cassette). Those might not looked as the appropriate times for documenting the band’s stage act, but these Germans took the risk and results turned out to be favorable. The last studio album they released that same year featured a stimulative collection of punk cuts with guts and attitude that proved the remarkable levels of creativity and inspiration from these guys in the darkest hour for thrash. The often underestimated line-up Angelripper-Brings-Steif had proved to be harmonious and confluent in the studio; this concert now gave us the opportunity to check how they would interact on stage.

The introducing music of Ennio Morricone from the epic Sergio Leone spaghetti western classic Once Upon A Time In The West is a suitable intro for the punkish metal attack the audience is about to experience. Once Bronson’s harmonica has been replaced by a thundering shoot of decibels from the band, Angelripper stands face to face in front of the audience, ready to fight a peculiar, friendly duel with them – the objective is not to see who draws and shoots first like in those old movies, but to perform the most honest, professional way possible to satisfy the fans, and both Charles Bronson and Sodom emerged victorious. “Outbreak Of Evil”, “Jabba The Hut” and “Agent Orange” open the gig with the front-man’s vocals sounding particularly hoarse, backed by Brings and Steif uncompromising speed beats. The immaculate execution of the song-structures might not differ from the studio originals but the intensity and perspiration displayed reaches new peaks. The talent and abilities of each member converge in strident harmony, making these raging thrash tunes sound not just violent, but coherent and lucid – something remarkable when you think of the extra speed the band adds emphatically to already accelerated tunes like “Tired And Red”, “An Eye For An Eye” or “Tarred And Feathered”, which are sounding far more robust, feverish and devastating than the studio attempts. It might seem as if terminal velocity came naturally for these Germans, as blast-beats dominated Get What You Deserve without a trace of clumsiness on their perpetration – so it came as no surprise either that these arrangements are being exuberantly quickened on stage.

As for the set-list, it unfortunately leaves out most of the late-80’s classics, criminally ignoring the recent, extraordinary effort Tapping The Vein as well, with 2 exceptions, namely “One Step Over The Line” and its plodding cadence driven by thick, monster riffs, and the punkish, hard rock fun on “Wachturm”. They sound very close to the originals as expected, and the listener may wish they went for a more sensible choice in the form of the title-track or “Body Parts” instead, to name a few. The band predictably focus on the latest album stuff, obviously offering no alternative arranging from the studio versions, except for the intro speech of “Remember The Fallen” and the “Stalinorgel” medley, which interpolates one brief, catchy Persecution Mania fragment.

The performance of the newest numbers doesn’t differ from what we already heard on the album, in fact there’s an undisputed similarity and uniformity between both live and studio versions, except for a few distinctly-envisioned, spontaneous solos. The energy and conviction from the players, though, is admirable and augments the credibility of this proudly-raw punk stuff with bigger aplomb but no real technical effort, naturally. Most of mid-90’s Sodom stuff was conceived with blatantly-simple, technically-bare motifs, with each tune hardly reaching 2 or 3 minutes, so we ain’t expecting amazingly consistent, progressive music here. Sometimes it’s the atmosphere and attitude which stands out from the music, specially on compositions as “Die Stumme Ursel” and the hilarious adaptation of the Udo Jürgens’ hit, during which the audience sings along encouraged by the more accessible pace and constitution of the songs. Those fans reacted very well to the new songs Sodom were introducing, being absolutely devoted and interactive – screaming, shouting and surely banging their heads.

As for the players, Andy Brings might not shine technically in this live recording but the efficacy and aptitude displayed on each of those piercing, slashing riffs proves he was the right replacement for Blackfire – regardless of his whammy-bar dive bomb abuse – while Atomic Steif drumming makes life so much easier for his band mates, as usual exhibiting unusual precision and accuracy on his ultra-fast beats. In the meantime, Mr. Angelripper is feeding off his musical partners, being strongly connected with them both, allowing them to give their best. Brings declares:

“The Get What You Deserve tour was really nice, because it was May and the weather was great. The shows were great too. With that lineup we really kicked ass. It was cool. Of course we also had a hard-hitting album out with songs like “Freaks of Nature” or “Gomorrah”. Mighty as hell. We had a great time playing that shit”.

And the last 2 studio unreleased cuts are a nice bonus: “Fratricide” is driven by one earsplitting, thrash riff of underlying punk detail, progressing menacingly, backed by one dynamic groove – while “Gone To Glory” remains faithful to the punk values and noise of the prior album, fueled by nearly-uncontrolled guitar lines of grating texture, total speed drum beats and more of the front-man’s nicotine-pitch shouting vocals. Honest stuff.

This is one great live album that every Sodomaniac should listen and love. We don’t have the chance to hear much of these songs in their concerts these days, so this cool set-list is a priceless gift for that minority of fans that enjoyed Sodom’s short-lived punk/hardcore adventure. We would have to wait until 2003 to be rewarded with another live CD from Tom and co., and we sure hope it won’t take that long again for Sodom to document their stage act. And as usual, live CDs often mean the end of an era for a group, something proven right again in this case. Next: Strahli, Yeltsin, Gorbachov and masquerade ball masks.

Marooned in its present - 60%

autothrall, February 15th, 2011

Marooned Live is the second live album in Sodom's career, and a fraction more substantial than its predecessor Mortal Way of Live, even if my enjoyment was not necessarily on par with that. For obvious reasons, of course: Sodom had become a more diverse entity in the ensuing years, with a number of lineup changes, and thus a lot more of their heavily war punk inflections were present in the set list. That list is considerable, with 23 tracks present (21 live), but a lot of them are quite short, 1-2 minutes and change, so the purpose here was much like a live hardcore set, to flatten you repeatedly with tight and energetic material and then see you off to the nearest biergarten, or whatever was available in Hamburg where this was recorded.

Tone-wise, it's basically the companion piece to Get What You Deserve. The bass is pretty loud here, though the balance of the guitars is a little stronger than the studio album. But they also draw over a third of the set list from that album: "Jabba the Hut", "Jesus Screamer", "Eat Me!", "Die Stumme Ursel", "Erwachet!", "Silence is Consent", "Sodomized", "Gomorrah" and "Freaks of Nature" are all present, which is not really ideal for the old school Sodomaniac, but makes sense since the drummer was new to the band and they probably wanted to play a lot of the material he had helped execute in the studio. The rest of the set is divided pretty equally among older recordings: "One Step Over the Line" from Tapping the Vein; "Aber Bitte Mit Sahne" and "Abuse" from the Aber Bitte Mit Sahne single; "Stalinorgel", "Tarred and Feathered" and "An Eye for an Eye" from Better Off Dead; and Agent Orange is paid special attention with four cuts: "Agent Orange", "Tired and Red", Remember the Fallen" and "Ausgebombt".

It's surprising to not see "Nuclear Winter", "Sodomy and Lust" or "The Saw is the Law" here, and Persecution Mania (their best album) completely ignored; but perhaps the band was tired of performing these, and that album's content was featured heavily on the prior live album. At any rate, there are also two unreleased studio tracks: "Fratricide" being an escalator of rampant, melodic thrash metal with better guitars than most on Get What You Deserve, despite the remaining prevalence of the bombed out, distorted bass; and "Gone to Glory" which is quite a nice punk thrash piece, though brief. For myself, these were more of a treat than the live stuff, even if neither is quite a classic Sodom track. Choosing favorites among the set is difficult. I'm drawn to the older material from Agent Orange, but doesn't sound quite so powerful or effective with this lineup, who are clearly more fixated on performing the more recent belligerent punk material that they were promoting.