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There is a huge underground fanbase which goes nuts for that raw, unrefined and unadulterated kind of thrash/death/black metal; these are probably the most “elitist” metalheads of the whole metal scene, since they can’t handle anything that sounds “well-recorded” and “well-played”: rawness and sloppiness is the rule. The most appreciated names of that scene are bands like Sarcofago, Venom, Hellhammer, early Bathory, early Sepultura, early Kreator, Necrodeath, Sextrash, Possessed, Napalm Death, Schizo, Mutilator, Blasphemy, Beherit and, well, early Sodom too. The latter is, undoubtedly, my absolute favourite name of this circle. I am myself a sucker for that kind of raw and sloppy extreme metal devoid of compromises, played at maximum speed in a chaotic and messy fashion (though I’m absolutely open-minded to modern styles and productions, if the substance of the music is actually good); and, without doubt, early Sodom is what gave me this sick passion, in times when I still was a “naive” rock/metal listener. Their first full-length “Obsessed by Cruelty”, along with their debut EP “In the Sign of Evil”, played a fundamental role in my musical development.
I remember myself, years ago, as a 13-year old teen: I was pretty much new to metal, and I already was addicted to Iron Maiden, Metallica and some hints of Slayer, Black Sabbath, Manowar, Motorhead and Megadeth’s material, plus some modern “commercial” stuff and just few spins of death/black metal (but very, veeeery superficially, and knowing little to nothing about the genre’s history: I used to search on YouTube for random modern underground slam/brutal/goregrind bands, while never having heard of essential names such as Death, Possessed and Carcass). When I began getting deeper into discographies of various bands, I also began seeking for other names, in order to form a good knowledge of the genre I listened to (this factor already distinguished me from other random metal listeners of my age, which just listened to what was mainstream in the modern scene and never went deeper). I already was pretty excited by thrash metal, thanks to “Kill ‘em All” and some random Slayer cuts such as “War Ensemble” and “Raining Blood”, but Sodom is the name that really got me into the realm of “extreme thrash”. I began listening to Venom and Sodom’s discographies exactly in the same period, and both bands introduced me definitively to underground “raw/extreme” stuff, especially the latter.
Sodom’s debut, “Obsessed by Cruelty”, has always been a very controversial release even in the most underground circles. Many people debate about it being not enough valid in comparison to what came before (the EP “In the Sign of Evil”) and after (the two thrash classics “Persecution Mania” and “Agent Orange”); but the factor that turns most people off is the absurdly sloppy production. Many people dig Cogumelo stuff without problems but can’t handle the way “Obsessed by Cruelty” was engineered and produced back in the day. They accuse the drums of being too prominent in the mix, leaving few room to guitars, which are almost unintelligible between all that chaotic mess (something that doesn’t happen even on albums like “Morbid Visions” or “Immortal Force”). An average 13-years-old “metal” listener (where the “metal” definition is highly questionable, or still mostly limited to the 80’s classics) would instantly vomit if exposed to such a poorly-produced, raw and undoubtedly “extreme” album; so, what’s the funny fact? The sloppiness of “Obsessed by Cruelty” never bothered me. I didn’t even notice it, at first: I just fell in love with that fucking music. And, very soon, I would have come up to love that kind of rawness and sloppiness in obscure old school records. This album has surely worked well for me as a “gym” to get used to messy productions, “training” me to recognize and figure out the guitar riffs even when they’re difficult to understand because of the mix and/or the chaotic musical structures: it surely helps me nowadays with albums like “Reek of Putrefaction” or “Drawing Down the Moon”, for example.
But, apart from all the lateral discussions about the album’s aesthetic (at this purpose, I could also mention the bloody awesome artwork), the true force of “Obsessed by Cruelty” stands, obviously, in the music itself. Though I didn’t instantly notice the controversies about the album’s presentation, I did surely notice the actual musical content, which was something amazingly alien and delightfully “horrific” to me. Many people consider this record a minor episode in Sodom’s early catalog, but that’s absolutely false: “Obsessed by Cruelty” is one of the greatest examples of all times in term of raw, extreme, occult old school metal. After listening to this, Hellhammer’s demos and Bathory’s first two albums will sound almost like Judas Priest to you. Even “Morbid Visions”, which came out in the same year, is less “over the top” than this record. And, wanting to be more drastic, I think that in 1986 there was no band which played faster, louder and rawer than Sodom (though Kreator, Schizo and Sarcofago came very close to those levels in the same period).
As said before, most listeners complain about the drums being too loud: well, this is surely something very noticeable in an album like this, where the drumming is almost constantly fast and relentless. Witchhunter’s skills have noticeably improved: on this record, he keeps the pace way better than on “In the Sign of Evil”, hammering like a beast and beginning to put here and there some of his trademark drum fills (for example, on the intros of “Deathlike Silence” and “Volcanic Slut”); his work with double bass is very skilled and noticeable too (and this is perfectly hearable on the masterful intro of “Equinox”) and, at least under this point of view, we can recognize a certain level of professionalism.
So, Witchhunter’s merciless drumming drives the main formula of the album, consisting in insanely chaotic primordial thrash/proto-black metal songs which don’t give a moment of pause to your ears. On this formula, Tom Angelripper’s vocals have high space to express themselves: they sound a bit less “hellish” than on the previous record, but they’re still unbelievably ugly, pissed off and insane, switching from unadulterated shouts to spine-chilling evil rasps which sound way more expressive than most standard black metal vocal performances; since the lyrics have noticeably improved, going beyond the basic satanic formula and dealing more deeply with occult/anti-religious thematics (showing also a great vocabulary), Tom often finds himself having to follow the pace of the songs and yelling a huge quantity of words at the same time, and this does nothing but increase the level of rawness and chaos of the songs. This is the main formula of unbelievably insane tracks like “Equinox”, “Nuctemeron”, “Fall of Majesty Town” (where Tom displays a great ability at singing complex lyrics on hyper-fast paces), “Volcanic Slut” and the old demo-outtake “Witchhammer”. Find me a band which was already able to write faster, rawer, more intense and more horrific songs than these in 1986, and I’ll offer you a fine beer.
Of course, the riffs are buried under this mayhem of drums and vocals, like a “hidden treasure”: you just have to strive your ears a little bit in order to find this treasure. Despite being pretty difficult to hear in many parts, I can guarantee you that these are some of the most remarkable and personal riffs in the whole realm of extreme/occult metal. The main influences are Tom’s heroes, such as Slayer, Venom, Raven, Tank and Metallica (actually, a paragon with “Kill ‘em All” would be very appropriate), but the direction is even more extreme, wicked and diabolical. For example, the killer intros of “Nuctemeron” and “Brandish the Scepter” or the fast relentless riffs of “Equinox” show perfectly this intense, yet sinister vibe. Despite the proto-black metal nature of this stuff, the primitive influences from speed metal give a very fresh and varied nature to the songwriting, featuring a lot of original chord progressions, razorblade-like palm-muted fast notes and hyper-fast phrasings typical of early 80’s speed metal, when thrash metal hadn’t yet encapsulated itself into a precise scheme of cliches (and this is the definite point in common with “Kill ‘em All”, which makes both albums very fresh in terms of songwriting and riffs).
Some songs have even some occasional breaks from the regular speed, and in these parts the atmosphere is more tense and almost “solemn”: it’s the case of “Fall of Majesty Town”, “Pretenders to the Throne”, “Brandish the Scepter” and, most of all, the almighty hit “Deathlike Silence”, whose “solemn breaks” will offer you some of the most memorable and dramatic riffs of the whole record. Also “Brandish the Scepter” would deserve a specific mention: it shows a breath-taking succession of majestic and suggestive breaks, which culminate at 01:25 in one of the most evil, wicked and evocative melodic constructions of the whole Sodom discography, perfectly accompanied by Witchhunter’s pounding drums: that part sounds exactly like what Satan would create if he was a composer himself, and I’m not exaggerating. Obviously, slow/mid-paced parts are very frequent, often showing a strong influence from NWOBHM (a genre that already contains some hints of potential “satanic atmosphere”) especially in the respective intros of “Fall of Majesty Town” and “Pretenders to the Throne” (the latter, especially, is a total NWOBHM worship, sounding very vicious, over-the-top and sulphurous).
But the best moments of this category are undoubtedly the doom-influenced tracks: “Proselytism Real” and “Obsessed by Cruelty”. The doomy intro of “Proselytism Real”, just by few disturbing notes, evokes an incredibly gloomy and occult atmosphere, accompanied by Tom’s excruciating yells; then the pace speeds up with one of the most biting and high-pitched riffs of the whole album, totally influenced by classic speed metal, but with a definite occult vibe which even Venom could envy. But the real highlight is surely the title-track, which is probably the song that influenced me the most when I first listened to this album, and deserves an accurate description.
It begins between some random guitar cacophonies, which actually manage to create an oppressing and menacing atmosphere (Beherit seem to have taken a lot of inspiration from this track, for their “noisy/industrial” experiments with black metal), and some of Tom’s most evil laughs ever; there’s a remarkable gloomy bass line upon which some cacophonous solos increase the panic; then, the band builds up a dramatic crescendo, with Tom’s vocals in evidence and an impeccable sense of pathos; at its peak, the crescendo ends up in a merciless cascade of hammering drum beats and schizophrenic riffs. The guitars switch very frequently from one riff to another, creating more panic and dram. And, between other slow breaks and Tom’s cynic laughs, the song reaches its most excruciating moment, consisting in the insane refrain:
”I am... obsessed by cruelty!
Impalement for destroy!
Obsessed by cruelty!
Deadly, cold and grey!”
The final part of the song is fucking iconic: here come again the doomy riffs, and Tom exhibits himself again in some passionately, spontaneously morbid yells that know no rivalries in extreme metal. This is probably the most excruciated and tortured vocal performance I’ve ever heard, inspiring an unexplainable sense of sadism and agony at the same time. When I first listened to this song, even as a “noob” listener, I instantly noticed the genius and the passion behind it, and this was just my first step into the unholy realm of “mentally insane art”. Nowadays, I’m very happy to have become part of this morbid world.
In the end, “Obsessed by Cruelty” is a somewhat mysterious work that would need to be rediscovered by the legion of thrashers which just praise endlessly albums such as “Agent Orange” and “M-16” (not that they don’t deserve the praise... they’re both fucking masterpieces!). This debut, though apparently seeming immature and pedestrian, if listened deeply reveals a band which already possesses a clear concept in mind about darkness, satanic atmospheres and morbid feelings, and wants to bring these elements to their most extreme consequences, breaking the boundaries of their masters Venom and Slayer and giving their own musical conception about evil and darkness. This album has been massively influential on death and black metal (does “Deathlike Silence” remind you to something?) and, nowadays, if more people took influence from the main concept of this opus and tried to bring it in different directions, exploring it from different points of view, the current extreme metal scene would be much more interesting. This record planted a lot of seeds, but few people are actually able to recognize and develop them further.
So, if you haven’t listened to this mighty masterpiece yet, or you just never cared too much about it, prepare your ears and rediscover it! If you’re enough predisposed to sloppy productions and you’re a fan of albums like “Kill ‘em All” and “Endless Pain”, you can’t live without “Obsessed by Cruelty”, which represents the peak of the whole “occult extreme metal” current along with “In the Sign of Evil”. Listen or die!
Sodom were another of the many promising acts of the first wave of mid-'80s Teutonic thrash, by those early years still not the underground icon they became later, but showing remarkable passion and attitude on what they were doing. By 1986, it was no exception being generic and predictable; the sub-genre was on a primitive phase of absolute brutality and lacked refinement and maturity, so most of bands’ style wasn’t developed yet, stuck in the usual clichés of those days, an inevitable stage for those young groups on which a bunch of truly magic extreme records were conceived, remaining still nowadays as unpolished jewels. Obsessed By Cruelty is way too unpolished indeed, but certainly unique, far from being a masterpiece though has plenty of amusing rabid tracks of completely unadulterated thrash.
Right after that unnerving intro, Sodom attack so intense with “Deathlike Silence”, a song constructed by direct riffs offering certain structure variety of tempo changes and few alternative sequences that's mostly dynamic, but not totally focused on speed and aggression, a methodology other numbers like “Pretenders To The Throne” or “Fall Of Majesty Town” embrace too. So in their own particular way they’re trying to play something slightly ambitious (for their level, of course) at times successfully, yet other times getting technically clumsy and uncontrolled, though at least there seem to be intentions of improving the consistency of their music. On other hand, there are other cuts explicitly intended to thrash relentless and lethal as “Witchhammer” and “Brandish The Sceptre”, defined by less diverse guitar lines that are generally reduced to palm-mute riffing, supported by absolutely energetic rhythm bases, designing the ideal climax for headbanging, but lacking the sense and grace of much versatile compositions like the title track and “Proselytism Real”. Those 2 slow down the usual vigorous tempos to achieve greater strength and presence, determined by obscure down-tuned riffs and darker, low-range vocals by Tom.
“Obsessed By Cruelty” soon turns into raging fast thrash again while the others' heavy rhythm and riffing remain untouched, denying velocity and sonic violence at the service of intensity and weight instead. So you can find some exceptions here, tenuous and rapidly transformed into usual early Sodom aggression and speed like the ephemeral casual intro of “Volcanic Slut” or the clearly NWOBHM riffs of the extra composition “After The Deluge” that soon get predictably thrashy and common. Vocals have also a notable presence, particularly repetitive and numerous on “Equinox” and “Nuctemeron”, though lead by riffs which obviously take complete control.
A solid album for the time it was conceived, similar to most of Teutonic metal debuts, showing no notable difference between the cleaner, better produced original US edition the record label rejected and the second European one, although there’s a big contrast between the richer superior solos of Ahäthoor and the chaotic poor pickin’ of Destructor, and of course Angelripper’s voice is cleaner and better defined on the first version. As you might know already, 2 versions were recorded as Tom recalls: “We recorded this album twice actually. The first version was recorded in Berlin and the record company said that:“No, it is awful - so bad and shit”. We had to record it twice and the second recording we did nearby in Nürnberg, Germany. This recording has 1 bonus track because we had another guitar player called Ahäthoor. It was a completely different recording and as for that trash press made in Berlin, it was just for the US import. And it was a mistake of the company as they changed the tapes, so there was a complete new recording”. Both versions include the same honesty, limitations and objectives; after all, because back then Sodom still had to develop their own style and determine their identity, leaving behind the topical dark imagery and evil vocals that, on other hand, contributed successfully to design the nature of these compositions which undoubtedly featured the usual handicaps of a debut. Starting with the simplicity of song configurations, because riff variations are there, but not specially numerous nor inspired, and fortunately those leading guitars manage to construct distinct sequences, bridges, and breaks efficiently, providing Sodom’s stuff of admirable continuity sometimes.
On the contrary, there are some other unreasonable rhythm alterations and guitar line changes that make a few of these tunes technically chaotic and unstable. Well, don’t forget the guys were still young and inexperienced in that aspect. The limitations of both Destructor and Ahäthoor on respective US and European pressings were explicit along with Witchhunter & Angelripper’s mostly generic rhythm bases, though the band was competent enough to make their humble songwriting process take from into that discreet instrumental execution that reflects the passion and energy of the Lords Of Depravity in their early years. All those weak spots can have an alternative interpretation and contribute to make this album special in case you’re not that perfectionist and you can tolerate them.
In conclusion, a cult essential release for the evolution of Sodom’s sound and one of the most vivid reflections of what thrash was all about in the beginning - no melody, no refinement, no cheesy cuts. Still there’s some debate about the proper tag for Angelripper and co.’s old stuff. Is it speed, thrash or black metal? No matter how you label it, this material has plenty of aggression and power. Sodom clearly knew their roots, generally thrashy heavy groups like Jaguar, The Rods, Tank or Exciter. Shortly afterwards their identity would be definitely defined and their style would become more characteristic, no longer being so excessively inspired by their idols. These tracks contributed to that process.
The debut effort from German black/thrash metal pioneers Sodom, “Obsessed by Cruelty,” is actually more of an influential record than a good one, as while there’s certainly a lot of quality to be found within, it’s actually more of what’s going on in it that’s inspired what came after that really drives this one.
At first, this seems like a traditional thrash album but almost immediately signs pop up indicating otherwise. While the riffing takes plenty of cues from the punk scene in terms of its simplicity and explosive imagery, the fact that it manages to contain a bestial quality about it missing from even the more extreme thrash acts at that time which comes from the way the whole of the material is recorded. Rather than a cacophonous wall-of-sound that typified the production found on most thrash records, the album has a dissonant, almost hell-ish quality to it that really seems like an accident to make it sound as otherworldly as it does here, and this is aided in no small part by the flurry of activity coming from the guitars. They’re very involved and busy in the album producing a rather chaotic vibe that dominates the mix, and at the level of their production manage to have a lasting impact as part and parcel to black metal in terms of how a record is produced rather than in how to write and record a black metal song. This is not a true black metal release by any stretch, but the way it’s produced and sounds is of great importance for the emerging black metal scene that’s spawning a few years away.
All that aside, the music on here is quite good if not exactly stand-out worthy. The guitars here do get a lot of attention, as there’s a lot going on with them. At times, they feel heavily influenced by punk in the form of simplistic riffing that has a chaotic, unrefined feel to it which just adds to the overall atmosphere of the album. There are indeed bursts of some technicality struggling to breathe in several of the songs, but it gets drowned out in the frantic fury of the riffing as they blast their way through the songs. Those bouts of technicality move the album away from the realms of the hardcore punk scene and into the thrash realm quite handily, as well as well the outstanding drumming on display that really just adds an insane quality to the overall music. Featuring double-bass fills when it’s required but more often just blaring away with a cacophony not usually associated with the genre where it comes off as thunderous and propulsive in most of the songs, there’s a rather brutal element to the drums when it stays with those simplistic blasting formula and not feature the double-bass when it would make most sense to do so is a courageous step that the band deserves credit for and allows for a rather nice added perk of their sound. Complete with a blaring bass sound that never contends itself with following the rhythm of the music and acts as its own instrument that adds atmosphere and fragments the fury quite nicely and a rather dirty style of vocal that’s far more evil and demonic than the traditional thrash style rounds off the effort.
In the two parts of the record, there’s not much difference between the first and second halves. The first half has perhaps more of a chaotic thrashing vibe that really doesn’t have too many differences between them. Full of wild, off-the-rails style riffing that adds a dimension of unchecked aggression and intensity into the music that would otherwise never be utilized by the band as there’s never been a band that crosses over into that darker realm as comfortably and easily as this album, and this is reflected with the thrashier pieces placed up front with the later half featuring shorter, sharper bursts with more of a punk-like feel than the top part of the album. It’s almost a full-on guarantee, where those looking to get richer, fuller and more textured compositions are going to do so with the tracks in the front half while those that like the quicker, more simplistic blasting songs are going to get their fill with the later half. It’s not so much a difference in composition style but rather presentation of the performance that gets the two separated.
There’s a lot to like here at times as many of the songs range from decent to above-average. The opening ‘Intro (The Rebirth...)’ sets the mood quite early with its creepy basement-like produced feel and spooky vocals that create an unnerving effect of this being quite a different thrash effort than most of its contemporaries. Proper first song ‘Deathlike Silence’ is a stunner with its crushing drumming, extremely nimble bass work that gives off a dissonant vibe, some innovative change-ups from simple riffing to slightly chaotic and dirty but not growling or screeching vocals that evoke the emerging black metal scene quite nicely while still staying firmly rooted in the thrash arena. Follow-up ‘Brandish the Sceptre’ is almost as wild with more of that chaotic riffing that retains feel of thrash but comes off with blackened touch, great drumming and dirty, filthy vocals, only in a smaller package to generate the same effect. The first real change-up is the slightly doom-like ‘Proselytism Real,’ which eases off the throttle in favor of a down-tuned tempo with simplistic riffing, competent if not stellar drumming and fine vocals that never kicks into higher pace regards of the bands’ urge to explore faster tempos and stays in the simplistic realm more than usual. Another minor change is ‘Equinox,’ as it also forsakes chaos-riddled thrash for a mid-range tempo with a great punk-rock drumming intro, frantic and desperate riffing and great filthy vocals that isn’t quite as intense as the opening few numbers but certainly feels more connected in spirit than the track before it.
As mentioned, the later half is more of where the simpler tracks are found, even though it starts off somewhat differently. The title tracks’ middling intro gives way to a full thrashing attack with plenty of chaotic riffing, blasting drumming and full-on dirty vocals with great bass-work that utilizes multiple change-ups in epic frame, sounding more in vein of the upper half than those that will come after. ‘Fall of Majesty Town’ falls into the same range with expansive, mid-tempo riffing that tries to be grander than it is with explosive riffing, blasting drums and chaotic vibe as it merges the two styles nicely if slightly uncomfortably. Things then take a different turn with four similar songs in a row, starting with the proto-thrash riffing in ‘Nuctemeron’ which has a punk-like feel that merges with hyper-speed blasting drumming, stellar bass-work and frenzied riffing that’s far too short to really develop anything special. This is continued in ‘Pretenders to the Throne,’ which has more of a pure punk-rock feel with simplistic riffs, blazing drumming and lack of real changes in riffing patterns or attack, again carried over from the preceding track. The chaotic ‘Witchhammer’ is the best of these shorter blasting tracks as it features some outstanding frenzied riffing with pure blazing drumming and absolute disregard for anything as it just pounds away in stand-out fashion. It tries to change slightly with ‘Volcanic Slut’ by incorporating an atmospheric drum-and-bass intro with chaotic drumming, frantic riffing and explosive energy, succeeding quite nicely and ending the album on a strong note.
While this is quite an enjoyable album, and certainly worthy as a debut of a band with such a legacy as theirs, the fact that this one falls more in line as a historical landmark record than anything else is of some concern. Some of this is due to the records bizarre strategy of uploading the quality, rather involved tracks up front while the later half is of stylistically-similar but compositionally-challenged pieces that don’t seem to fit as being in the same band as they display far more of a penchant for writing complex, lengthy tracks by the third song that keeping in short, blasting tracks in the same realm doesn’t seem to make sense. That said, as an important record in the evolution of black metal in terms of how to make a produced record with the way the guitars and vocals sound here makes this an important record nonetheless, and while it may lack for the hardcore Sodom fan as there’s better material out there, this one’s still got enough of a punch to be worthwhile enough.
The early days of thrash metal antiquity were an auspicious yet confusing time, one that birthed the most vicious version of metal upon the unsuspecting world. In retrospect, the early works of Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, and the often neglected 4th forefather of black metal Sodom (mostly due to their closer association with the German thrash scene) come off as crude, under-produced fits of unfocused rage, but in their day they appalled the masses to a point often taken for granted today. The first LP out of Sodom in “Obsessed By Cruelty” is an oddity in this respect, as it showcases Angelripper and company abandoning much of their early pioneering sound for something a bit more common, but it does so in a way that makes it quite distinctive nonetheless.
This is an intense excursion into the upper reaches of speed and villainy, rivaling the 1986 releases of what has since been dubbed by some the unholy trinity (“Reign In Blood”, “Darkness Descends” and “Pleasure To Kill) but falling just a tiny bit short of them in quality and memorable moments. While it cuts through the speed of sound with similar fervor, it does so in a much sloppier manner, as if not fully leaving the blackened realm of “In The Sign Of Evil” entirely. The guitar work features a similar smattering of punk and Motorhead influences, often times blending together in redundancy, but still slicing through the listener’s soul with enough intensity to make it a worthwhile experience. The drum mix is basically where this little demon’s Persian flaw is exposed, as the snare drum blasts like a thudding golem’s stomp with rusty feet and drowns out much of the arrangement during the blasting sections.
Ironically, part of what makes this album good is its blunt candor and seeming irreverence for established musical practices. Even though Kreator and Possessed had already put noticeable death metal-like twists on the thrash vocal shout a year prior to this, Angelripper has essentially upped the ante here with something that is guttural and nasty enough to conform to said style, but also haunting and sepulchral to the point of mirroring Quorthon’s approach. In a sense, barring a greater prevalence of slower sections brought in by more orthodox Motorhead and Venom emulations on here, this album brilliantly captures the ambiguity between the three extreme metal styles that was common during the early to mid 80s, embodying that sort of primordial stew of proteins from which the infusion of differing sub-species would come about.
The biggest hurdle in approaching this album, particularly for those who come from a more mainline American thrash background, is the extremely low-fi production. Many members of the Norwegian 2nd wave of black metal have rightly pointed to Sodom as being a principle influence in the development of the grim, frostbitten, fuzzy mayhem that characterizes much said scene, and this album still has a good amount of those trappings left over from their more influential demo and “In The Sign Of Evil” era. This would change a year later when their output started to resemble the more polished yet still quite dangerous sound of Slayer, Kreator and Dark Angel.
This release is one of the most badass, under produced, grimy as fuck recordings ever. Everything about it screams testosterone filled black/thrash madness. The second you put this in you feel dirty, you feel angry, and you want to bang your head and run wild.
Tracks like Proselytism Real, Pretenders of the Throne and Obsessed By Cruelty set the standard for late 80's thrash, not to say that the whole album isn't awesome, just picking out a few examples. The vocals on this are just awesome, they sound evil and angry without being cheesy or overdone, the reverb is perfect and when combined with the awesome guitar tone it sounds great, especially in slow parts like Witchhammer.
Fast parts are frequent, blast beats and fills left and right, constant riffs, screaming vocals etc. The solo's really add a nice touch too. People who complain about the production then maybe this just isn't there thing, but i'm a guy who loves sloppy furious metal, it just adds a whole new edge to the sound that really fits the style their going for.
Their previous releases were a bit more "black metal", they've moved on to a full fledged up your ass thrash sound similar to early kreator, with added black metal. Its great, works well. The drumming especially sounds great, its really easy to bob your head to and the snare sounds fantastic. As said before the fills are constant, more extreme for the time possibly, and everything just mixes nicely.
I usually don't really care about the lyrics, but this album has pretty memorable lyrics. Very anti-Christian, satanic, pretty funny and badass. For example:
7: Obsessed by Cruelty
With a frightful weight
Demolish christian stamped bodies
Their tears and blood of
Deception and insidiousness
Doze away to the ground
Smash of imperium of
uncontroled religous expansion
Fun to sing along to, but not everything is great though. The drums at times can be overwhelming and a little too abrasive especially the snare, the production can sometimes be too messy and can be annoying especially in the guitar tone.
but still, Obsessed by Cruelty is definitly something you should pickup if you are a fan of thrash metal, or black metal. If you want a real rush of adrenaline this is something to listen to. A very good start for Sodom.
The early Sodom might have lacked the razor edged refinement of their countrymen Destruction, or the barbaric ballast of Kreator, but they made up for some of their lack of musical pedigree and production standards with a lot of heart. By heart, of course, I mean the one being ripped out of the listener's chest and stamped upon. Obsessed by Cruelty, arriving two years after their EP inauguration In the Sign of Evil, is in turn both the most lo-fi and disgusting of the 'Big Three' debut full-lengths, but its primacy would nonetheless make a mark on a scene seduced by wretched extremity on both sides of the pond. It's little more than an expansion of the EP's heavily punk driven speed/thrash metal sound, with a new guitarist (Destructor in place of Grave Violator), and its often sloppy to the point of being nearly incomprehensible, but it's quite god damned evil, and certainly lives up to its hype as an influence upon splatter-thrash, death and black metal.
You don't get a lot of precision here, the songs just seem to fall together; like "Volcanic Slut" which sounds so amateur as it creeps between oozing bass and feedback atmosphere to a storm of speed, the guitars cruising at 100mph. But it seems about as organized as an improvisational death/thrash jam, especially when the solo careens over the bridge, and especially through Tom Angelripper's gnarled vocals. "Brandish the Sceptre" goes for the artery with a tearing force that foreshadows some of their career highs like "Nuclear Winter", but some of the drums in the transitions sound a little lazy or unpracticed. Some of the slower, more traditional rocking pieces like "Deathlike Silence" and "Proselytism Real" seem to steal the thunder away from the more bewildering speed of others, but it's not because they're somehow more complex; Tom's vocals just seem to meld better where they get a chance to expand syllables over the better paced riffs. That said, there's something uncannily entertaining about the brute bursts of "Witchhammer" or "Nuctemeron", with that same loose, distraught menace that Venom once had, Hellhammer or Bathory before the Viking phase commenced.
There's some part of me which has always struggled a little with Obsessed by Cruelty. It's a hot, sticky mess, but a fun mess. It seems almost all cohesion had been thrown to the wolves in the name of slovenly sadism, and I will admit that there are few points at which the riffs are so sterile that I have become bored through the years. It's actually a very, very similar tone to Venom's first two records, except those had the benefit of superb, unforgettable songs that never stopped pounding against my skull. A few numbers here deserve their spot on a Sodom career highlight reel ("Deathlike Silence") but I'd say that both of the EPs which sandwich this album are superior, and the most critical weapon here is that of jilted, atmospheric nostalgia, and the flaws here are just a few too many to brush off entirely, no matter how much I'd like to coddle its cult classic status. It's far more raw than, say, Pleasure to Kill, but also less extreme in its execution.
For people like me, who love semi-sloppy, primal old school metal, it doesn’t get much better then ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’. Some complain about the shitty production and mixing, others complain about the band’s at-the-time lack of musical efficiency, but both of which are things that I welcome with open arms. In my eyes, I would not want this LP any other way. The guitar could be louder, but I think its lowness in the mix actually adds to the chaotic, thrashing cacophony the band was going for. Over the years, it has really grown on me, and I’m very glad it finally did and it now sits as my favorite Sodom release (with the EP coming in not too far from behind).
The complaints regarding the production mostly come from the mixing department, as the recording itself actually has a pretty clear sounds that could have been indubitably put to full use given the proper mixing job. This has grown to really not bother me though, as the music more then makes up for it, and to me, the rawness and primitive nature of it works to the band’s advantage. The vocals, although not as buried as some people may have you believe, are still fairly low in the mix, but are definitely loud enough to remain audible, no matter what was going on with the music. The guitar has only one track, which is panned to the right, while the bass is on the left. Both have pretty warm tones and aren’t as crunchy as on the preceding EP, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, as both are powerful enough to do the riffs justice. The drums hold the most power and prominence in the mix, which is actually something that tends to bother me as well as most others in a lot cases, as you may have gathered. However, here, I do not find this to be an issue, and in fact, I like it this way. So if your ears have been tainted and pussified by today’s digital, crystal clarity, then this album’s production will without a doubt irritate you to no end, but I’m perfectly okay with that, because in that case, you probably shouldn’t be listening to classics like this anyway (though I think Behemoth may suit you well).
‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ marks the band’s transition from pure, early black metal to a more relentless and ripping black/thrash-oriented sound (emphasis on the thrash part). But this new sound didn’t necessarily mean the band had completely outgrown the messy, blackened slop that helped make the ‘In The Sign of Evil’ so great. While their writing skills had developed far beyond the basic three or four riff songs that the EP saw, their playing skills had not quite caught up with that level development, making ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ a well-written yet sloppy affair. The balance between the two works out well enough to make it one of those albums where when you think about it, it just would not be the same if it were being played with high musical prowess. This comes out the most during the faster sections, where at times the drums and bass may be a tad bit ahead of the guitar, or the other way around. The guitar never ventures too far off though, as it does always find its way back home quickly after getting off track. In this sense, the guitar being low in the mix is not necessarily a bad thing, and in the end probably saves more irritation for the modern-metal kiddies who can’t handle a little sloppiness then the production already does for those who need everything polished, pristine, and squeaky clean.
By the time Sodom began recording this album, Tom Angelripper’s vocals had shifted from a much raspier, high-pitched, croak-like shriek, which was just radiating with menacing evil, to a more mid-range, semi-growled-yet-intelligible recitation that a lot of the time didn’t follow any particular rhythm. Not a bad way, though, he just sort of demonically rambles over vicious, ripping blackened thrash metal, and it works very, very well.
The riffing had certainly gone through some modifications over the two-year span between the EP and this, setting the Hellhamemer-like simplicity to the side and replacing it with, a more thrash-oriented and varied style riffing, ultimately giving it the thrashier sheen the band was going for. That is not to say the occasional ‘In the Sign’-type black metal riff doesn’t pop up every once in a while, because it does, and they actually do a great job of carrying some of that into their newfound thrash riffing. The guitar tone is relatively thin, but not overly so, and its punch is still felt through the excellent riffing. The bass is thick and ugly, and has a very deep tone, which sounds especially awesome during the slow sections (the beginning of the title track is a perfect example). I’d say Mr. Chris Witchhunter, the drummer, did a damn fine job on here. I mean, at this point he was no virtuoso by any means, but sloppily yet surely, he kept it together as he pounded and pummeled away on those poor skins of his. Like the rest of the band, he really was at his best during the slower sections, where he could add texture with well-placed fills and different snare patterns.
In my eyes, Sodom’s first LP, the almighty ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’, is a damn fine piece of black/thrash. I’d go as far as to say it’s easily one of the best albums of its kind from that era, ranking it up there with Necrodeath’s ‘Into the Macabre’ and NME’s ‘Unholy Death’. Everything from the sleeve artwork, to the broken English lyrics, to the music itself, and yes, even the production, is awesome, and all live up to the standards it takes to deem an old 80’s black/death/thrash recording a classic.
Recommended. Vinyl especially.
Sodom's debut L.P. took some time to appear. Two years after the release of In the Sign of Evil, in May 1986, Obsessed By Cruelty was finally unleashed upon the Metal underground. During those two years, some things changed for this German band. The primal Black Metal that was found on the E.P. had transformed. Though the sound was not so distant from what it had once been, there was a significant difference in the music and its execution. The vocals weren't as evil and possessed; the atmosphere wasn't as dark and wicked.
The intro may have had some people expecting more of what was heard on In the Sign of Evil. The funeral organ and demonic voices work well to set the tone for unholy Black Metal. Yet, instead of that, there exists something more related to Thrash Metal. "Deathlike Silence" erupts from the graveyard, punishing the listener with a violent pace not far removed from "Blasphemer" or "Burst Command 'Til War". The lyrics are dark, but not Satanic. Aside from the different style that is employed, one may also notice that the guitars struggle with the percussion, in vain, as the latter maintains aural dominance. This is a major complaint against the entire record, really, as drums should never overpower the music like this. Despite such grievances, the first song is still memorable, energetic and one of Sodom's best-known for a reason.
"Brandish the Scepter" bears the same anti-Christian sentiment from before, though it is bereft of any mention of Satan or Hell. It begins with a blinding flurry of riffs and vocals, but manages to slow down for a bit. It is during these slower sections that the album is most enjoyable, as there is less percussion for the guitars to contend with. The drumming on this one is, more or less, a primitive blast beat.
"Proselytism Real" begins with a slower riff that hearkens back to the E.P. The lyrical theme is still, somewhat, cryptic and occult, though not making a great deal of sense. Though the song does speed up, it never seems to reach the frenzied pace of the earlier songs. This means that the percussion is a little easier to digest, giving the guitars more room to breathe. Musically, this track wouldn't have been out of place on In the Sign of Evil, but the vocals aren't evil enough, nor are the lyrics. Nonetheless, it remains one of the better songs on this album.
A brief drum solo opens "Equinox", a straight-forward Thrash Metal song which owes quite a bit to Venom's "Witching Hour". Of course, bands like Venom and Motorhead were an influence to Sodom, so it is not surprising to hear this come through in their music. As with the rest of the album, the vocals seem to be buried a bit more than on their previous release.
"Volcanic Slut", like the last track, begins with only the drums. The bass and guitar come in to create a hellish feeling of death slowly creeping toward you. This is quickly abandoned as the song goes full blast into pure Black/Thrash.
The next song is "Obsessed By Cruelty". This one starts with an eerie intro, with twisted guitar notes giving the impression that the band is burning in the flames of the Kingdom Below. This is accentuated by the demonic vocals of Angelripper. After a couple minutes, Sodom trades a dark atmosphere for intense speed. Around this time, a lot of bands seemed overly concerned with some non-existent contest to see who could play the fastest, often sacrificing brilliant ideas for the sake of an increased velocity. There are some decent riffs and leads, but one gets the impression that the song could have been something more. Some of the riffs are quite memorable, but where the band really shines is the slower section, near the end.
"Fall of Majesty Town" begins with a nice thrash riff and a, somewhat, subdued pace. Unfortunately, within about a minute, it returns to the same generic Sodom riffs that are found all over this album. Not that the riffs are even that audible, buried so far beneath the pounding drums.
Another killer thrash riff introduces "Nectemeron", though the bloody drums overpower it once they arrive. It sounds as if this would be a passable song, if the production wasn't so atrocious. As the pace slows down, one can get more of a feel for what is going on, until the drums ruin it, once more. Really, Obsessed By Cruelty has to be one of the most abrasive albums recorded. It's difficult to sit through, with the cursed percussion drilling into your brain.
"Pretenders to the Throne" seems reminiscent of "Burst Command 'Til War". This one is fast-paced and straight-forward. It is fairly simplistic, while still retaining a good amount of energy. Much like the final song, "Witchhammer", it is more in line with the Black Metal approach of the previous release. The latter more so than the former.
Obsessed By Cruelty is adequate enough, when it comes to songwriting. Though the departure from the early Black Metal sound, in favour of Thrash Metal, is disappointing, is kind of a let down, the real problem here is the awful production. It's not that it sounds too primitive, for that would be just right for this type of music. The main complaint, to reiterate this, is that the drums are far too high in the mix and make this an annoying listening experience, at time. Obsessed By Cruelty has a lot of potential and it would be interesting to hear this in a remixed form.
Obsessed By Cruelty signs a Sodom’s musical different approach respect the primordial EP In The Sign Of Evil. Sometimes, it’s almost astonishing how a band could improve its way of playing and creating songs. Well, at the end, Sodom are never been masters of techniques and virtuosos but this is another reason for which I like them. Actually, we are always stuck in the same putrid mud with their first full length effort, but everything sounds more thrash metal, losing a bit the black/death atmosphere.
Tom’s vocals are far thrasher here and the production is less obscure and sharper even if it’s not so good and powerful. The budget at the time was a bit low and that explains this poor but thrasher production. The riffs are more mature (if we can use this term for Sodom in 1986) and pure thrash metal with the predilection of palm muting instead of open chords riffage ala Hellhammer with punk influences like in the previous EP.
“Deathlike Silence” is truly famous among the Sodom’s songs, featuring a good refrain, while “Brandish The Sceptre” is remarkable for the restless drums-guitars work and the mid paced session in the middle. This one is something new for Sodom and here the show new skills and abilities in bringing this mid paced part in a growing speed to finish again in up tempo. “Proselytism Real” shows again good tempo changes in it and the whole song seems really more mature.
The solos on these songs are nothing special, being the classic furious shreds. It’s a pity that Sodom don’t play these songs in live gigs because they are very good and catchy, like the intro to “Equinox” that is very, very similar to “Show No Mercy” song by Slayer. Seems to me that the band (Tom Angelripper) has a bit forgotten this album, maybe because it’s a sort of starter-album before Persecution Mania and it was put out after a black/death milestone as In The Sign of Evil. Anyway, it’s a pity.
“Fall Of Majesty Town” is great for the epic/thrash riff at the beginning, recreating a doom and tragic atmosphere while the last “Pretenders To The Throne”, “Witchhammer” and “Volcanic Slut” are completely on up tempo showing some of the very first death metal influences. Overall, a very good piece of raw death/thrash that, musically, is a bit far from the EP not principally for the goodness of the songs, but mostly for the production and the new band’s direction.
Sodom were, early on, one of the most notorious bands in the death metal underground. Their demos were poorly recorded, but full of vicious Satanic metal that was moe intense than anything yet heard. Even Hellhammer seemed refined and tame by comparison. Not much changed with IN THE SIGN OF EVIL, the band's debut EP, except for the inclusion of a far better production job. But with OBSESSED BY CRUELTY things became downright strange.
First off all the production, as others have mentioned, is wrong for this sort of death metal.The guitars sound buried and the whole album is washed out with too much studio ambience. But what happened is that the odd emphasis on elements like the echoing vocals and overly loud drum tracks gave the album a unique and odd presence. Also, Angelripper's voice itself wasn't truly a death metal growl, nor was it really clear or intelligible, adding another weird layer. But most of all, it seems that Sodom attempted to write material that was too complex and/or technically demanding for their own abilities. Thus songs like "Deathlike Silence," "Nuctermeron," "Witchhammer" and "Brandish The Sceptre" sound wildly out of control at times, as Sodom can barely keep pace with fury of their own songs. When they do slow down to more controlled tempos as in the title track or "Prosleytism Real" they create some very mean and formidable riffing. The lyrics are also weird, not being fully occult-driven but are nevertheless full of evil proclamations and forboding ideas.
It's also been noted that the guitarist on this album (Destructor) was thrown out of Kreator before he could record with them (his picture is on the back of the PLEASURE TO KILL album), and Sodom was equally umimpressed with his abilities. Sadly he is no longer with us to defend himself, but bear in mind that death metal was a very new form of music when this album was recorded, and few guitarists had mastered it's quirks at the time.
Sodom was very displeased in general with the album, and it seems they've always been hesitant to perform songs from it in concert (even during the time shortly after it's release). But it's strange presence and interesting material have gained it a real cult following, and I've really loved it ever since it was first issued. I've always thought a re-recorded or remixed version could be a revelation, as I feel this album was way ahead of it's time, despite being held back by the poor production and odd touches that it has. But even in it's good old raw form, OBSESSED BY CRUELTY is a unique album not only for Sodom but for death metal in general. Maybe someday Angelripper and company will give in to fan requests to perform the whole album live! If they ever do, I pray a recording of that show will be released!
"You dweller of the twilight void comes Sodom..."
By this time in '86, rumors of Sodom moving to Splitsville haven’t festered and Obsessed by Cruelty, the tentative title to their debut full-lengther, is rampant in zines around the globe, yet the sign of evil hasn't lit the night sky in nearly two years. Like I’ve said previously in other reviews i.e. Trouble, Omen, the lapse between releases, especially the initial two, played worrisome games with me. Is the shadow of disappointment lurking? Will they suddenly think they’d be better off sounding like Talas? Is Angel Ripper’s hair now fluffy blonde and he’s got the cheeks cut out of his spandex? Those images quickly die on the vine…the cover art, Angel Ripper all decked out trying to look menacing, the song titles…yeah, Sodom’s back.
With one spin of “Deathlike Silence”, the difference between In the Sign of Evil and the lp is clear as a bell. As far as the mix goes, Angel Ripper’s once up-front vocals have been partially camouflaged by the production, plus his voice itself has deepened a notch, now more guttural than throaty snarl, and some echo does sinister wonders. The guitars wage a losing battle with the percussion for audible dominance. In addition, the songwriting has ascended to grander levels, showing off the three-piece’s penchant for epic structures and choruses that the ep, a more straightforward affair, didn’t showcase extensively. Blistering paces were never a problem for the band, but now plodding gaits find stretches of time, steamrolling with all the viciousness of the past. Stick-flying Witchhunter still bewilders with off-kilter timing while Destructor (and session guitarist Uthatoor) replace Grave Violator on guitar.
After the overlong, funeral-esque intro that’s as compelling as toast crust, we find out Sodom has either hired someone else to write their lyrics or took a crash course in English grammar and prose. The same guys who wrote “we are all suicide, without brain” and “where devils make a toy” are now quill-penning it with “delivered from the chains of subjection” and “patriotic society liberate from human rubbish”, but between misspellings and the flamboyant, almost unreadable font used to print the lyric sheet, it’s all pretty moot.
More positively, "Deathlike Silence" drives through without remorse, fearless in its introduction to the adjusted Sodom sound. Even though the guitar sound gasps for breath, the rhythms are found shifting with a timeliness that keeps the track from seeming more prolonged than it is. With "Brandish the Sceptre", "Proselytism Real", and "Obsessed by Cruelty", we see the 'softer' side of the trio as those aforementioned slow, pounding beats dwell long enough to grind bones to dust. Even with its unkempt drum intro, “Equinox” is dauntless as the lion-hearted main riff sweeps into motion on an undercarriage of rolling double bass.
Demonic laughter fills the groaning din commencing the title cut, a track that marvels with rhythmic changes, sound speed shifts, and a condemning chorus. A mid-pace is the starting tempo for “Fall of Majesty Town”, but lasts only as long as the three-piece can keep from exploding with near-perpetual purebred speed that carries right over into chaos-induced “Nuctemeron”, an unstoppable, cool-riffed blaster. “Witchhammer” and “Volcanic Slut” do absolutely nothing to quell the effort’s severity, the latter track the imposing and frightful end to an lp that has mustered much molten aggression.
Top tracks could be a toss up as fist-whitening "Equinox" and orgasmic "Volcanic Slut" are both exceptionally ambitious, but I would have to go with either the title cut or imperious "Pretenders to the Throne" with its somewhat unassuming start breaking free to be overpowered by heavy-duty riffs and a chorus most intrepid.
The ’88 Steamhammer two-on-one cd of the debut ep and this lp is all screwed up, listing 19 songs when there are only 16 (the intros to “Deathlike Silence”, “Burst Command ‘til War”, and “Outbreak of Evil” are accounted for separately), meanwhile “Volcanic Slut” is listed last on the disc, but shows as track 14 in place of “After the Deluge”, which is nowhere to be found, much like the North American pressing (Metal Blade) of the lp. Good job guys.
In any case, heaving their second anchor overboard was Sodom and with these eleven tracks redoubled the devotion of their fans and most thrash fanatics, German or otherwise.
Sodom loses alot of the black metal they had on their debut EP, and go for an all-out thrasher (with one major exception, more on that later) this time, and it's safe to say that their music is alot more enjoyable this way.
The mix is much more balanced than In the Sign of Evil, which helps alot. The riffs are alot thrashier and there is alot less tremolo riffage going on. I like the drumming alot more, because along with the power and speed, there is alot more going on with the cymbals. The bass doesn't sound as fuzzy and is actually discernable in the mix, which is awesome. The solos are also alot better phrased and sound alot cooler.
Tom got his vocals down a hell of alot better on this album, too. He is more understandable and commands alot more authority.
Highlights: Deathlike Sentence has an ass-kicking solo, and Pretenders to the Throne has a rollicking intro-riff.
Low points: Equinox is a totally boring turd of a song, and sometimes the guitar seems slightly out of tune.
One odd exception to the thrash: Witchhammer is almost full-blown black metal, but it's still an awesome song!
It's still not quite as enjoyable as some of Sodom's future albums (especially Agent Orange), but this should NOT be ignored by any self-respecting fan of thrash.
This album is decent in your face thrash metal. Sodom has been known to unleash great thrash riffs, unbelievably fast drumming and kick ass growly vocals. This album has all that and then less. There is one thing about this album that sucks, and that is the production. When I first put this album on I had to take it off and make sure my speakers were'nt blown. They weren't blown, but I came to the conclusion that this album has shitty production.
This album opens up with Death Like Silence, which sort of has an intro. It starts off with a horrible guitar solo and an out of tuned bass guitar intro, then... dead like silence ( no pun intended). It seems as though it was two songs, but only one. The rest of the album continues this shitty production. The guitars and bass are muffled, and the vocals are barely recognizable. Especially on the song Witchhammer, he sings so fast that he gets out of time with the other instruments.
If you can get past the poor production you will find a decent thrash album. Okay vocals that don't change much, unlike latter Sodom albums. Cool riffs, tow of my favorites coming fom Proselytism Real and After The Deluge. Even the bass makes up for the shitty intro with its own intro to Volcanic Slut. Awsome thrash, but piss poor quaility. It's like they recorded it in their basements! Sodom shoudl remaster this album!!!