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By around 1988, thrash metal had become a dominant enough force that we were starting to see an influx of EPs and live albums, and the Germans were no exception. First to the fore were Sodom with Mortal Way of Live, perhaps one of the better known thrash lives of its day due to the provocative cover art, which had everyone giggling in high school as they passed it around during lunch hour. I suppose it's no surprise that the cover finally features 'Sodom' itself as its subject material, a striking and humorous color spread that was censored on the CD release. Pay particular attention to the swinging, satisfied man on the left, one hand down the nearest harlot's shift, his tongue probing the rectum of a horrified black cat...priceless?
Fortunately, there was more to this album than just shock and awe for our parents and principals to discuss at the next PTA meetings. There was also a pretty good selection of music to piss them off. I can't promise that the recording quality is top notch, but for 1988 and a band who were only recently evolved from their punkish, raw infancy into the guys who wrote "Nuclear Winter", it's slightly more than acceptable. There are 13 tracks here, with a great selection from In the Sign of Evil, Obsessed by Cruelty, Persecution Mania, and even the Sodomy and Lust EP. All told, that's over an hour of music, and though a few of the selections are not my favorites, like the punk/rock "Bombenhagel" or the cover of "Iron Fist", it hits you where it counts with "Sodomy & Lust", "Enchanted Land", "Nuclear Winter" and "Christ Passion", all of which sound about as tight as they can for a three-piece.
You'll have to pardon the lack of rhythm guitar during the solos, etc, but the band certainly channel their vivacious bombast here into an incessant onslaught recorded throughout their Sodomania tour earlier in '88. I was more impressed by the sound here than I was for the Kreator Out of the Dark...Into the Light and Living Death Live EPs, fully functional and workmanlike without any real disappointment in the track selection. Perhaps a more apt comparison should be made towards Destruction's Live Without Sense, but then it really all comes down to personal preference. I enjoy that band's music more, and so I naturally would rather sit through that, but any Sodom maniac craving his or her chance to experience the band live in their formative, important years would certainly not feel too much of a sting in the wallet for acquiring this.
With a damn near perfect mix (the bass actually nearly drowns out the guitar for once during the verses & choruses, with the solos rising higher to be heard) and a good solid choice of material from all their releases at the time, Sodom showcased their tighter and more mature approach on this album in style.
The drums are loud and booming, and unfortunately this shows the time issues Chris Witchhunter often had with the rest of the band. He often rushes ahead of the rest of the band, making them sound more than a bit off-kilter at times. Other than that, his hard-hitting enthusiasm really carries the songs to a new level of power and aggression, and his drum solo in the middle of "Obsessed By Cruelty" is actually pretty damn good. Frank Blackfire's technical expertise also assists to this end, adding a more professional edge to their otherwise raw sound--his guitar solo section is pretty impressive. Tom, well, he sounds like Tom Angelripper, spitting his angry and venomous vocals over his "set controls to ANNIHILATE" fuzz bass to perfection.
As mentioned, a good variety of songs are covered, from opener "Persecution Mania" going right into "Outbreak of Evil", they cover the whole spectrum of what they'd done and remake those clunky and sloppy older songs like "Blasphemer" into roaring engines of destruction. The Motorhead cover of "Iron Fist" does feel a bit perfunctory, though, like it was tacked on for the hell of it. Coulda done with another original, thank you, boys. The audible chants of "Bombenhagel!!!" are finally rewarded, of course, with a ripping run-through of the song in question to end the set.
Perfect? No, not quite--the loose drumming and lazy Motorhead cover detract from this album. Other than that, this needs to be in your collection, and I don't normally endorse live albums by anybody. This is a perfect snapshot of where these seminal Deutsch thrashers were at this time and for that reason alone it needs to be in your home wrecking your speakers. Hunt it down, it will be worth your time and money.