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Persecution Mania was the consolidation of these Teutonic thrashers’ own sound; the record defined the identity and essence of the band, pushing away the clichés of the enjoyable early stuff. The line-up Angelripper-Blackfire-Witchhunter was proved competent, capable of doing something even bigger and achieve a higher level in the following album Agent Orange. It was certainly a good idea putting out a live record by 1988, when these guys were at their finest to prove their efficiency on stage. There weren’t many live thrash records by that time, so definitely Mortal Way Of Live had a positive reception by the subgenre fans. The magic of the unique Teutonic old school thrash magic is captured and preserved on each of these vibrant tunes, which feature Sodom performing their classics with remarkable passion and attitude in front of an enthusiastic audience.
The new material from the latest album which the group is introducing to the fans is the most musically solid and powerful. Classics like “Christ Passion” or “Nuclear Winter” sound splendid, more violent and harsh than the studio originals. The production on Persecution Mania was pretty bad, so on stage those thrash anthems reach greater vigor and consistency. The energy of the early Sodom material of the legendary In The Sign Of Evil EP is renewed and increased, performed here with greater skills and competence, particularly Blackfire’s contribution made them become more precise and professional with his undoubtedly superior talent to Grave Violator’s. “My Atonement” and “Conqueror” are also proving the progression and improvement of Sodom ‘s potential and maturity as musicians, executed with no astonishing perfection or technique, though more convincing than the studio versions. Each member contributes essentially to that instrumental improvement, as I mentioned Blackfire might not be a virtuoso but his solos and riffs beat the work of each preceding guitarist of the band, from Frank Aggressor Terstegen to Michael Destructor Wulf, incorporating new possibilities and bigger ambition to the group’s more advanced sound. Frank’s lines are leading the pack of each naturally guitar-based title, supported by an effective rhythm section. Angelripper’s bass is omnipresent, designing the tempos along with Witchhunter’s humble efficient percussive abilities. You clearly notice the drum solo on “Obsessed By Cruelty” is absolutely limited and easy, at times inconsistent, though it’s an honest effort anyway on the same level of most thrash metal drummers’. In fact, none of these numbers is supposed to be complex or incredibly technical. This performance came naturally with all its imperfection and goofs, fluent and honest, avoiding the overdubs or studio traps to make it perfect others would’ve definitely made use of.
So I’m sure Sodom didn’t disappoint anybody on the audience, the reaction of the crowd speaks for itself: they go crazy on each title, screaming so loud, nearly deafening the music itself, singing the lyrics passionately (terrific on “Sodomy & Lust”). The fans didn’t care about the mistakes and the uncontrolled chaos on some songs, either about the occasionally lack of synchronization of the rhythm section and the sloppy solos of Frank (particularly the band is out of tempo on “Bombenhagel”), they enjoy the magic, the energy and overwhelming aggression of these guys on stage, who define the essence and nature of the distinctive Teutonic brutality composition after composition. So naturally, you’d better not expect any kind of alternative arrangement, improvisation, lengthy jam or something distinct to the studio configuration of the tracks, everything remains nearly the same with the exception of most Blackfire’s solos, which include inevitable changes. Thrash performances live have always avoided to offer significant modifications from the album material and Mortal Way Of Live is no exception, it’s the power and enthusiasm what is renewed here. It’s evident as well that Angelripper & co.’s abilities have obvious limitations; the concept of thrash itself has never demanded incredible difficulty or precision either, as I mentioned already Sodom are only playing what comes naturally for them, being themselves, refusing to emulate anybody else. However, they’re taking an explicit influence from their admired icons Venom and Motörhead, particularly Tom sounds almost as raspy and dirty as Lemmy, not only on that amusing “Iron Fist” cover, generally developing his definitive lower-range vocal style. So they know their roots, though they don’t intend to be another vain tribute group, their sound is becoming more and more characteristic, their own style more accurately defined, concerts like this contributed to that process for sure.
This is one of the most remarkable live records of the subgenre; expect no perfection or complexity here because this is honest imperfect thrash at its best. Angelripper & co. have released other live CDs in their career (Marooned, One Night In Bangkok) but never reached the splendor and brilliance of this one, so any Sodomaniac or thrash fan shouldn’t miss this amazing performance. You can clearly understand why these guys became one of the most respected and influential European metal bands with all honors on the late-80’s, Mortal Way Of Live was another proof of their potential.
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.